Work under way to restore post-Irene river damage
HAWLEY — Work to rectify the Chickley River began last Thursday — just a day after the town and the contractor reached a settlement agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection to correct emergency repairs made to the flooded river after Tropical Storm Irene.
“We started the day after the agreement was signed,” said Kenneth Straney,” vice president of E.T. & L. Corp. “We’re working with the town hand-in-hand with these access permits and notifying people that we’re coming on to their properties.”
Streambed stabilization is the part of the agreed to restoration plan that began last week, in which the highest layers of gravel that were scooped out from the riverbed and placed along its banks will be returned to the streambed. In addition, boulders that were taken from the streambed and wood will be placed in ways to create meandering pools and habitat for fish and marine life.
Town Administrator Virginia Gabert says the 28 landowners, whose properties abut damaged portions of the river, will be notified before workers come on their land. She said the streambed stabilization work is scheduled to be finished by January, weather permitting.
“Yesterday, there were two (state) Fish and Wildlife representatives there, and there are two DEP representatives up there today,” Gabert said Friday. “So (the work) is being very closely monitored by officials. It’s a project that’s being closely overseen.”
After the streambed is stabilized, work on any corrective actions that are determined by DEP officials would have to be taken care of between this spring and spring 2015.
Monitoring the river is to start this spring and continue through December 2017, said Gabert.
She said tree plantings along the bank would take place between next fall and the fall of 2017.
The restoration plan, valued at $400,000, was agreed upon to correct emergency repairs to the river that DEP described as “man-made channelization of the river.”
Besides the restoration plan, E.T.& L. was fined $175,000 for making river repairs that exceeded what was allowed under an emergency permit. But $66,000 of that will be suspended if the restoration complies with the settlement agreement.
Also, Gabert pointed out that the town is not paying $75,000 toward E.T. & L.’s fine, as earlier reported, but is paying for part of the restoration work itself.
“The town is not being fined,” she said.
“Thanks to pleas made by town officials, residents, and legislators, the town was not assessed a fine. Instead, we were able to use the funds to go toward the river in the form of the escrow, to cover future monitoring and planting, so there will be a visible benefit to the town and to the environment.”