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Easthampton fish ladder funded

CAROL LOLLIS
 Jon Bartolini, an employees of CRC out of Quincy,  perpares the surface for the precast concrete slab being lowered by crane for the Fish Ladder at the Manhan river in Easthampton.

CAROL LOLLIS Jon Bartolini, an employees of CRC out of Quincy, perpares the surface for the precast concrete slab being lowered by crane for the Fish Ladder at the Manhan river in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »

New England Infrastructure Inc. was the lowest bidder for the project in December, but the bid, which had been extended by 14 days on the city’s request, would have expired Thursday. That would have required the city to seek bids all over again, delaying the project that must be completed by the end of the year, when its federal funding expires.

“We probably would have missed this construction season,” Tautznik said. “And everything expires at the end of this year.”

The final phase of the project, now a little more than half finished, will bring the total cost to over $1.27 million.

Tautznik said he is looking forward to seeing the project begin in late spring or early summer, “during the slowest flow” of the river.

The project started in 2010 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received $750,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to partner with the city to build it. But a few months into construction, the contractor discovered wooden timbers buried in the river bottom that needed to be removed. That would have driven project costs to over $1.2 million, so the work stopped due to a lack of funds. The project is more than half finished, Tautznik said.

Since then, the city and Fish and Wildlife have considered numerous options for funding and completing the project, including contracting with the Army Corps of Engineers. In 2012, the service informed Tautznik that it had identified additional sources of money for the project, including $140,000 from a settlement between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department, which admitted releasing coal tar into the Connecticut River. The city sought bids, but could not sign the contract with the lowest bidder until the funding was officially awarded last week.

New England Infrastructure originally bid $465,000 for the project, but the city decided not to include two options on the fish ladder structure — handrails and grating — that will save $71,400 and keep the project within the budget.

Tautznik said he is confident the project will be completed without additional problems because the contractor is fully aware of the troublesome timbers. “They’ll have to take out some of them,” he said.

While some research, including a recent study by UMass professors, suggests that fish ladders are not effective at helping fish scale dams, Tautznik said he stands behind the project. “I agree with Fish and Wildlife that this is a project that should be completed,” he said.

He’s also mentioned it as one of the projects that he wanted to wrap up before leaving office at the end of the year. “It’s one of the loose ends, and I’m happy to tie it up,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY, PURE AND SIMPLE!

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