ENOSBURG FALLS — The Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative held its second community forum here Thursday night to address how local flood risks might be addressed.
The projects proposed are designed to mitigate the high water risks to the town garage, Route 105, farmland, town roads, private homes and driveways, power and communications installations, and future homes and businesses.
Initial estimates made available before the meeting suggested that the costs per project wouldn’t reach much higher than $200,000. However, Roy Schiff of Milone & MacBroom, Inc., of Waterbury, which has done the research on the ground here, said projects such as improving local roads and alterations or replacement of the bridge on Boston Post Road could cost upwards of $2 million.
Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Commissioner Noelle MacKay and her associated bought to the residents of Enosburg 14 proposed projects, of which they considered four to be the highest priority:
- Remove the berm along the Missisquoi River, a mile west of the intersection of 118 and 105;
- Conserve land along Tyler Branch upstream of Boston Post Road;
- Improve Hayes Farm Road and Davis Road, which are in serious need of repairs,
- And, install an overflow bridge on Boston Post Road at the Missisquoi River and elevate low spots along Route 105.
Some of the 14 proposed projects are considered easy to implement, such as stabilizing utility poles in and along the river corridor, and were not focused on during the meeting. Those projects were discussed afterwards, when residents and business owners had the chance for an open discussion with MacKay and the others in attendance from the state.
The initiative, sponsored by VDHCD and its partners, was an opportunity for business owners to provide input on proposed flood control projects in the town. The session was held in Emergency Services Building.
The meeting’s main focus was the four priority projects that would lower risks along the Tyler’s Branch and Missisquoi River.
After Vermont experienced the damage caused by Hurricane Irene in August 2011, it became a government priority to understand what needed to be done to insure such devastation wouldn’t occur again.
MacKay and her team looked at Irene’s damage, but also looked back through the years, and saw where the damage from flooding had been and was most likely.
At the end of their study, which took a year and cost $500,000 (which the team received through a grant), five communities were selected to receive the majority of their focus. Enosburgh was among them, joined by Barre Town, Brandon, Brattleboro, and Woodstock.
Though it got through the Irene mostly unscathed, it was determined that Enosburg could benefit from the team’s research, and was brought under the team’s microscope.
Several business owners and concerned citizens were in attendance last night, bringing their concerns and intimate knowledge of the area to the meeting. There were moments where residents’ experiences of high waters in the area, spanning as any as 50 years, contrasted sharply with the assessments made by MacKay and her team.
After the two-hour meeting, those in attendance had the opportunity to examine the 14 proposed projects and give their individual perspective on what projects should receive the town and village’s immediate attention.
“[These projects] are all things we hope you will consider,” said MacKay. She said the next steps are up to the community in terms of what it might want to tackle first.
Enosburgh Selectboard Chair Larry Gervais said the interaction between the residents and those presenting the projects were cordial and productive.
“I think it was one of the better meetings we’ve had in Enosburgh,” said Gervais. “I’m looking forward to possibly avoiding flood damages like what happened with Irene. This is really proactive, and I like that aspect of it.”
Gervais said that regardless of how or when the projects are to done and financed, it’s important to at least have a plan in place for the future.
“Even if we can’t get the funding for these projects right now, we can at least have a plan, and be able to plan for them ahead of time,” said Gervais.