Breach near beaver dam floods Route 15 in Orrington

A police cruiser blocks Route 15 in Orrington as water flows over the road on Friday, March 23, 2012. A dam on Swetts Pond broke, sending flood waters rushing down Swetts Pond Road and flowing over Route 15.
A police cruiser blocks Route 15 in Orrington as water flows over the road on Friday, March 23, 2012. A dam on Swetts Pond broke, sending flood waters rushing down Swetts Pond Road and flowing over Route 15.
Posted March 23, 2012, at 9:04 p.m.
Last modified March 23, 2012, at 10:06 p.m.
Flood water from a beaver dam flowage impoundment area that was breached about 6:30 p.m. Friday covers a section of Route 15 in south Orrington. The water made it as far as the Pan Am Railways train tracks before it began to recede shortly 9 p.m. County and local officials plan to assess the damage Saturday morning.
Courtesy of Floyd Severance
Flood water from a beaver dam flowage impoundment area that was breached about 6:30 p.m. Friday covers a section of Route 15 in south Orrington. The water made it as far as the Pan Am Railways train tracks before it began to recede shortly 9 p.m. County and local officials plan to assess the damage Saturday morning.

ORRINGTON, Maine — It was a case of deja vu in in south Orrington on Friday night as water from a beaver dam caused roads to flood and prompted the evacuation of at least five households.

The flooding was reported about 6:30 p.m., a dispatcher at the Penobscot Regional Communications Center confirmed.

First to be affected was Swetts Pond Road, parts of which reportedly washed out, according to a resident of that road. Settlers Way also was affected by flooding.

Within about half an hour, the floodwaters had made their way to Route 15, which was closed shortly after 7 p.m.

Orrington resident Floyd Severance, who works at the Bangor Daily News printing plant in Hampden, was among the motorists who were detoured because of the road closure. By his estimation, the water was several feet deep in spots.

The water also reached the Pan Am Railways track running along Route 15, Town Manager Paul White said Friday night from a command post set up at the town’s fire station.

The flooding occurred when a beaver dam flowage impoundment area was breached, White said.

The water was beginning to recede shortly before 9 p.m., White said. He said town officials and likely others planned to begin surveying the damage early Saturday morning.

“An emergency action plan has been put into play,” he said. Among those on hand were town staff, firefighters, patrol officers, public works employees and officials from the Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency.

The Maine Department of Transportation and the railroad were notified Friday night, White said.

White said Center Drive School was opened up as an emergency shelter for residents unable to get to their homes. He said motel rooms would be made available to those who needed them.

The flooding Friday night was in the same area that washed out on May 23, 2001, when a beaver dam failure caused an estimated $1.2 million in damage.

The 2001 flood washed out a half-mile stretch of Swetts Pond Road and created a gully at least 10 feet deep at the entrance of Cemetery Road.

The raging water also temporarily submerged a section of Route 15, closing it for several hours, and washed away a section of the Springfield Terminal railroad bed before making its way into the Penobscot River.

The beaver dam is in a largely undeveloped area between the Swetts Pond and Hoxie Hill roads. Town maps created in the 1970s showed the pond created by the dam to be between 15 and 20 acres in area, though locals and others familiar with the area estimated in 2001 that it could have grown to three times that size.

Three households — two on the lower end of Swetts Pond Road and one on the Cemetery Road, were left virtually landlocked. Deep chasms were left where driveways and culverts once were.

While no one was stranded or injured and no homes were destroyed, it could be some time before residents can leave their properties with their vehicles.

In 2001, longtime residents said the beaver dam failure marked the second time in recent history that Swetts Pond Road, freshly repaved the previous summer, had washed out.

“Back in 1954 or ’55, we had a hurricane come through that washed out that road,” Gilbert Betts, 75, said at that time. “It’s surprising how far [the water contained by the dam] came down.”

BDN photographer Kevin Bennett contributed to this report.

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