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Hampshire Franklin Daily Voice serves Amherst, Easthampton, Hadley, Northampton & South Hadley

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Time Is Running Out To Save Route 5/10 Native American Site From New Construction

An old map shows the intersection (in red) where the roundabout is proposed for construction. Photo Credit: MassDOT
Aerial view of the intersection slated for reconstruction into a roundabout on Routes 5/10 in Northampton Photo Credit: MassDOT
This map shows the proposed roundabout construction and, in blue, the area of Native American significance Photo Credit: MassDOT

A campaign to stop the construction of a roundabout on suspected Native American land has just one week left to raise objections.

In mid-December, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) finished a review of a proposed roundabout construction site at the congested intersection of Routes 5/10 in Northampton. So far, items that have been recovered from the area include a “moderate density of artifacts” including flake and hammerstone. Of particular note was the discovery of a pre-historic tool that was previously only found in arctic areas. 

The state determined that although the “Skibiski” site may be historically significant there is no way to construct a roundabout in the area without disturbing it.

Meanwhile, the Aquinnah Wampanoag and Narragansett Native American tribes disagree that the site is not worth preservation and are calling for the site to remain intact and undisturbed.

The time for public comment on the project ends on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Organizers of the campaign to stop construction/save the Skibiski site include the nearby River Valley Co-op. The grocery store is asking people to appeal to the state under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), which protects archeological resources.

River Valley Co-op has prepared a sample letter for interested people to send to MEPA.

For its part, Massachusetts has offered to develop an archaeological data recovery program for the site and inform tribal leaders and state officials if unidentified archaeological resources or human remains are discovered during construction, according to MassDOT’s environmental notification form, a necessary step in the construction process.

If objections are not raised, MassDOT plans to start construction in the spring and finish the project in the summer of 2023. Construction is expected to disturb about 1.3 acres.

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