GRANTS: Fairfield, City win funding

Transportation, environmental issues addressed

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

The Facts

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FAIRFIELD – The Town of Fairfield was awarded $300,000 in federal funding Tuesday to construct a salt shed near the Fairfield River, a tributary of Black Creek, in order to reduce impairments to water quality.

St. Albans City also received part of the $2.2 million in federal funds awarded to municipal grant projects under the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP). The city was granted $300,000 to construct safety improvements for pedestrians and vehicles at the intersection of Lake, Federal and Catherine Streets.

Fairfield and St. Albans City also will contribute to $75,000 each, amounting to 20 percent of the overall funds of $375,000 a piece.

In Fairfield, the sand and salt used on the town roads during the winter lies in exposed piles 100 feet away from the Fairfield River. Whenever it rains, some portion of the sand and salt gets washed away, flowing into the river.

According to Fairfield’s Town Clerk Amanda Forbes, any mound of salt within 50 feet of a water body must be covered. Therefore grants were given automatically to municipalities that fell under this requirement, Forbes said.

“Because ours was a little farther away, we have to make a case that it was affecting our water quality,” Forbes explained.

With help from the Missiquoi River Basin Association (MRBA) and the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, the town applied for a grant in October.

Brian Jerose, a part-time MRBA technical advisor, explained how the salt and sand impaired the water quality of the Fairfield River.

“Common impairments are nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen,” Jerose said.

Jerose said sediments also can be harmful because they carry nutrients, increase the water temperature and can fill in pools where fish and aquatic animals typically inhabit.

Whatever flows into the Fairfield River eventually enters Black Creek, which flows into the Missiquoi River Basin and ends up in Lake Champlain’s waters. Fairfield River is located within the area between Chester A. Arthur Road and Route 36.

“Improving this site will no doubt be an asset to the community,” he said.

In St. Albans City the $300,000 grant, which requires a $75,000 local contribution, will be part of a $1.2 million upgrade to the intersection of Lake, Catherine and Federal streets, which will shift Federal Street’s lanes to the west, bringing them into alignment with Catherine Street, with dedicated turn lanes on Federal Street and Lake Street westbound.

The project will create a four-way stop with clearly demarcated crosswalks. It also includes the addition of sidewalk in front of the former Giroux Furniture store, upgrades to the Catherine and Stebbins streets intersection to make it easier for trucks to navigate, and improvements to Market Street.

Funding for the project is coming from previously approved tax increment financing bonds, and state and federal grants.

Replacement of water and wastewater lines at the intersection will be paid for with reserve funds.

The TA Program provides funding for a range of activities related to transportation including the construction of infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists, community improvement projects and environmental mitigation.

Of the $2.2 million, half was set aside “exclusively for storm water mitigation from highway runoff,” according to the Shumlin Administration. The other half went to St. Albans City and  other municipalities for pedestrian, cycling and other alternative transportation improvements.

“I’m very pleased that we had enough applications to fully fund the storm water mitigation set aside and that we are able to utilize federal funds in our water quality efforts,” Transportation Secretary Chris Cole wrote.