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Working on the Chickley River. December 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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The Chickley river in Hawley took a massive hit from Tropical Storm Irene over a year ago, and has since been cleared of storm debris and redirected into a channel which doesn’t threaten Route 8A.

But the clearing left the river looking more like a canal than a wild river; Hawley’s head of public works had all obstructions removed, and deepened and straightened the channel. Locals protested, but up here in the Hilltowns, there are plenty of people in positions of power who don’t give a crap about girly stuff like fish habitat and letting Nature be Nature.

Thankfully, several State agencies stepped in and imposed a program of re-naturalizing the river, rebuilding it to where it might not only return to being a viable hatchery for native species, but might also stand a chance of surviving future floods.

Here, an ET&L excavator is replacing boulders previously removed from the riverbed and adding contours to the banks to slow seasonal run-off:


The banks are still a mess, and I expect the raw spots to be colonized by fast-growing invasives like Japanese knot-weed, which was taking hold here before the flood and will likely take advantage of the open space afforded it.

But at least there will be trout habitat, and something in the channel to slow the Spring floods:


This work is nearing its end, and the sad turbidity of the worked-in water will give way to the clarity of winter, only to be followed by Spring’s reworking of what Man has done.

I feel bad for the people of Hawley, many of whom objected to the inappropriate channelization of the river, and all of whom (and their children and grandchildren) will be paying for the bond needed to fix this avoidable mess.

Seldom Scene. April 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I took a walk yesterday, perhaps better characterized as a bushwack/hike, up the Cold river, away from Route 2 and out of view of the road.

In fact, it’s a place which very rarely sees human traffic; there are no paths beyond faint game trails.  I got there by forty minutes of traversing steep slopes and wading through rocky shallows.

The river was a magical mix of centuries of gradual change and the cataclysm of tropical storm Irene.  The steep valley had been scoured by the floods, with the outside of every bend eaten back to bedrock to a height of perhaps thirty feet above the current river level.

Still, time will heal this; it already looks somewhat normalized:

Along the way I found pools which will remain deep and cool in the heat of summer, with sandy, beach-like banks:

They’ll be wonderful to visit in the Dog Days, especially if I can get some adventurous others to join me there.

A Road Rebuilt. December 15, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Route 2, the main east-west corridor along Massachusetts’ Northern Tier, has been closed through Savoy and Florida since Tropical Storm Irene took her pound of flesh from it this past August.

While local state highway engineers proclaimed this road closed for the next five years, I insisted that it had to be open before winter, and suffered their snide, derisive laughter.  After all, I was just a hired surveyor.

Today, December 15th, 2011, Route 2 reopened, thanks not to me (though I helped) but to the resolve of our Governor Duval Patrick, who demanded that it be so and unleashed all of the resources at his command to see that it would  be so.

The long washout which I previously posted, with its guardrails hanging in space, is now a finished roadway:

The bridge between Savoy and Florida has been patched up, though it will be substantially rebuilt in the coming year:

There’s a lot more work to be done, and in fact it’s on-going, but meanwhile the road is passable.

As National Scenic Byways go, it’s presently butt-ugly, but that will change with time, if the repairs hold up.

And therein lies the caveat:  the rush to reopen meant that “right” was subjugated to “right now.”  Plans were cobbed together, general principles were employed where specific circumstances should have informed, and problems were glossed over in service of moving forward at any cost.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see much of this work destroyed by Mother Nature in the next year or two, though I’m hoping to be proved wrong.

Time will tell.

In the meanwhile, kudos to the common folks who did the work, three shifts a day, seven days a week, from then until now.

Dunbar Brook, After The Flood. November 20, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Dunbar Brook comes down from the high country of Monroe, spilling into the Deerfield river.

This past summer season it swallowed all Tropical Storm Irene offered it and transformed into a raging torrent, eating its banks, sucking in miles of forested terrain and clogging the culvert at River Road, then finding a way around, blowing out the road and stranding the little community of Monroe Bridge.

They weren’t entirely cut off, as the road over the hills through Rowe survived, but were nonetheless cut off from the south in an impressive display of the power of Nature Scorned.

I hiked up the Dunbar Brook trail on Saturday, cataloging the devastation in my mind but leaving my camera tucked away.  Innumerable stretches of the river were laced with a thick cloak of fallen trees, the water below barely visible.  Without some fiduciary incentive to removing this mess, I expect it will stay in place until it rots.

And I’m not entirely decrying that outcome; Irene was an Act Of Nature, even if our carbon-spewing civilization contributed to the mix.  It’s just that I’m mourning the transformed visage of a stream which had come to grips with its surroundings, settled down, grew moss in all of it’s damp niches and smoothed the rough edges to produce the landscape I’ve  been rediscovering through my photographic eye these past few years.

I hiked an hour upstream past snags of uprooted trees and unfamiliar gravel bars until I came to a place where some semblance of my old stomping grounds sat knee-deep in the flow of the present, and for old time’s sake, snapped these two photos off.

Dunbar Brook, just about like it used to be:

…but with the addition of a tiny cairn atop the prominent pointed rock in the background.

Hey, Life Sucks, And Then You Die, unless you leave a mark.  So I’m good with that little cairn.

A bit upstream, the flow was a bit less braided, tumbling through a narrow channel to produce this view:

It’s difficult to imagine this little stream doing the damage it wrought downstream, but as we move farther from the norm of the past, we had better get used to it and be prepared to deal with it.

That’s all for now.  Good night, my faithful visitors.