Officials discuss challenges to end Routes 5&10 flooding in Deerfield

  • Deerfield Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough, center, gestures across the road from Richardson’s Candy Kitchen on Monday to where the stream that drains the area has risen due to debris. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The stream across Routes 5 and 10 from Richardson’s Candy Kitchen is running just below the level of the highway in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Local and state officials meet with business and property owners in the parking lot of Richardson’s Candy Kitchen in Deerfield on Monday to discuss solutions to the repeated flooding in the area. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Deerfield Police Chief John Paciorek Jr., center, addresses those gathered at Richardson’s Candy Kitchen on Monday to discuss flooding in the area. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The catch basin at Richardson’s Candy Kitchen is below the level of the stream across the highway it is supposed to drain on Routes 5 and 10 in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2021 8:48:52 PM

DEERFIELD — Town and state officials met with state Department of Transportation engineers Monday to begin discussions about long-term fixes for flooding on Routes 5 and 10.

Deerfield Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. and Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough led the group, explaining that recent heavy rainstorms deposited 3 feet of debris in the streambed on the west side of Routes 5 and 10, which caused flooding as the culvert is unable to flow.

The town will begin maintenance on the culverts around the road, but a long-term fix will need to be discussed.

Deerfield must navigate a web of private, business, town and state-owned land to undertake any sort of repair work around Routes 5 and 10. The Franklin Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization, also owns land in the area. The debris-filled streambed is also protected land, which requires more permits for any work.

Paciorek said towns need more “latitude” in the legislation to avoid going through an exhaustive and expensive permit process to perform maintenance. Currently, an emergency must be declared to expedite paperwork.

“How do we affect legislative change?” Paciorek said. “Our current environmental laws are restrictive when it comes to maintenance.”

He added that any sort of project needs to be “minimally invasive” and officials will have to be creative to face these “massive events,” which are becoming more common.

“We all love our ecosystem,” Paciorek said. “We have to be very innovative. … Everyone across the state will be facing this.”

The initial plan is to clear out debris in the streambed and then flush the culverts to mitigate any further flooding. Paciorek said this is only a band-aid and a long-term plan needs to be developed.

“This is not a be-all, end-all fix,” he said. “This is the start.”

Scarborough said towns like Deerfield need to be able to maintain protected land without jumping through so many hoops.

“We need to have some ability to maintain what we have,” Scarborough said. “You’re tying our hands.”

Scarborough said the permit process and regulations need more “common sense” and the town is going beyond its responsibilities to try to fix flooding issues.

“We’re trying to get in there with the least amount of impact. … Nothing is being removed,” Scarborough said. “We are stepping up to the plate. … We’re going well outside our limits.”

Selectboard member Trevor McDaniel said even though the state owns the land, flooding is impacting Deerfield businesses.

“It’s not town property,” McDaniel said, “but it affects state and town property.”

Paciorek said organizing the meeting with multiple state officials is the “most important” step to getting any project like this done.

“Getting everyone on the same page allows things to progress in an expedient manner,” Paciorek said after the meeting. “When you go at it alone, you’re met with a fractured response.”

Paciorek noted these problems are not limited to the area in front of Richardson’s Candy Kitchen, but also farther south down Routes 5 and 10.

Deerfield Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness suggested turning the land back into farmland.

“We could do a long-term farmland reclamation project. … That’d be huge,” Shores Ness said after the meeting. “It’s a long-term fix people could buy into.”

Among the attendees were Deerfield Selectboard members McDaniel and Shores Ness; Deerfield Town Administrator Kayce Warren; state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton; state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland; Jose Delgado, director of the governor’s Western Massachusetts office ; Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diana Szynal; and several local business and homeowners directly affected by the flooding.

Blais said the next step is to bring the discussion to Boston.

“The first step is for us to be having this conversation at the state level,” Blais said. “It will ensure that we can get folks to pay attention.”

Delgado said he appreciated the invite from Blais and Comerford and he will bring the conversation back to his office.

“I’m trying to come in and listen and bring feedback to our team,” Delgado said. “(I’m) listening, hearing it out and going from there.”

Richardson’s Candy Kitchen, which has experienced the brunt of the flooding, had to temporarily close. The business’ owner, Kathie Williams, said flooding issues began 10 years ago with Hurricane Irene and they are “excited” that work will begin to mitigate further water damage.

“This is the first time everyone has come together,” Williams said. “This is the worst it’s been.”




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