Group seeks national status for Deerfield River

  • A guide targets a fallen tree for an angler on the Deerfield River seen from Buckland on a warm November day. The Deerfield River Watershed Association is seeking support from towns in its pursuit to designate the Deerfield River and its associated tributaries as a National Wild and Scenic River. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A group of people with tubes wait for the water release at Zoar Picnic Area on the Deerfield River in Charlemont in July. The Deerfield River Watershed Association is seeking support from towns in its pursuit to designate the Deerfield River and its associated tributaries as a National Wild and Scenic River. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Arthur Samuelson throws a stick for his dog on a misty morning down by the Deerfield River in Shelburne. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The North River flows into the Deerfield River in Shelburne. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A pair of bald eagles perch in a tree overlooking the Deerfield River in Shelburne Wednesday evening. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2020 2:52:39 PM

The Greenfield-based Deerfield River Watershed Association is seeking support from area towns in its pursuit to designate the Deerfield River and its associated tributaries as a National Wild and Scenic River.

“The Deerfield River is an incredible resource and natural asset for our region and our communities,” said Chris Curtis, who sits on the watershed association’s board of directors. “It has some of the best whitewater boating and rafting in the entire Northeast, excellent trout fishing ... and it also has historic significance with the Mohawk Trail running along the length of it.”

Conway was the latest of the communities to be approached by the watershed association, according to member Patrick McCoy.

“Chris and members of the (board of directors) have been meeting with other municipalities to get initial interest in this initiative, and we’re happy to say six other towns have signed on,” McCoy said.

Those communities include Deerfield, Shelburne, Savoy, Ashfield, Colrain, and Buckland. Earlier this week, the Conway Select Board unanimously approved signing a letter of support for the initiative, making it the seventh.

The designation, Curtis explained to the Conway Select Board, would protect the eligible portions of the river from federally permitted dams and provide federal grants for community-based river restoration or improvement projects.

“(The grants) can be pretty significant,” he said.

“I worked earlier in my career on protecting the Westfield River as a National Wild and Scenic River,” Curtis continued. “That river, for example, gets about $225,000 per year in federal grant monies and it gets expended and allocated by a Wild and Scenic River Committee that’s made up of local representatives, and they do all kinds of projects with that.”

Projects could include restoring the riverbank or conducting other restoration work, creating a trail or doing water quality monitoring.

Signing onto the initiative would be at no cost to the town, he noted.

Board Chairman Bob Armstrong asked whether the designation could have an impact on the river access issues that became especially apparent this summer.

“This summer, during COVID especially, there were a lot of people looking for local access, and we had a lot of people using the section from Bardwell’s Ferry down here in Conway,” Armstrong explained.

Curtis, an active river user, said he believes the designation and associated federal grants could in fact help with managing the problem going forward.

“This planning study would help you to get the resources to address what are possible solutions for better management of the river and then the grant money, once it becomes available, could potentially fund things like making improvements to river access areas,” Curtis said. “Perhaps you want to have better parking in certain areas. … Issues like that could be addressed.”

The planning study would be the next step once the Deerfield River Watershed Association receives support from all the relevant select boards. With their support, the association could go to members of Congress to ask them to file a bill that would fund a study to “further investigate” the designation.

“It would look at things like which segments of the river are eligible for designation,” Curtis said. “We have a pretty good idea of that already, but a study would confirm this.”

He explained that two sections of the river in Conway — the main stem from Bardwell’s Ferry going downstream to Deerfield, and the South River — are already included on a list of rivers that are potentially eligible.

“Once we get (the study) going, we would set up a committee of local representatives … that would guide and oversee the work,” Curtis said.

Once the study is complete, which he said could take a few years, the watershed association would return to Congress to make the formal designation.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy