June 23, 2018
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Officials decide on plan to save Farmington road, slow Sandy River erosion

By Ann Bryant, Sun Journal

FARMINGTON, Maine — Town, federal and state agencies agreed Friday to pursue a “hybrid” plan that incorporates logs and rocks to stop erosion along the Sandy River that threatens Whittier Road.

With a goal of starting construction of about 10 log structures on the bank by July 15, the start of the river’s annual low-water window, agency representatives met Friday — first at the site and later at the town office — to hammer out what needs to take place to reach the goal. Working together, they came closer to a final solution to the erosion issue fueled by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Years ago, before erosion started cutting away the riverbank, the site had a house with a long driveway and a barn with land behind it, Tom Eastler, geologist at the University of Maine at Farmington told the gathering. The house was moved across the road but the erosion continued and is now just feet from the road.

The town was considering a large boulder and root ball system but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested a timber solution as a less expensive alternative and more friendly to the Atlantic salmon corridor along the river. The service needs to agree for the town to secure permitting and a Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation grant for the project.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials invited consultants from the West Coast, Brian Bair of Washington and Mike North of Arizona, from a division of the U.S. Forest Service, along with Carl Schwartz of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from New York to come to Farmington on Thursday to study the banking, according to Jed Wright of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Each has extensive experience working on similar river issues, he said.

They endorse the timber and rock approach to meet the goals of saving the road, reducing costs, providing a long-term solution and providing a fish-friendly corridor, Bair said.

Along with preserving the road, the town is concerned about continued erosion affecting homes on the other side of the road, people’s lives and properties, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Another objective considered was not harming anyone downstream, Schwartz said.

Bair likened the longevity of the wooden structures to log bridge abutments that have lasted in water for hundreds of years, he said. The aesthetics will look like a log jam along the banking but he expects the costs to be reduced by about one-third.

They also considered a meandering cutoff, changing the course of the river, across land owned by James Meader but realized it would take extensive study and funding. It’s something they recommended for consideration in the future, along with creating a river management plan, but realized the necessity of fixing the Whittier Road before the end of low water in September.

The town will consider a proposal this week for Bair to work with the town’s consultant, Rick Jones, of Jones Associates on the construction plan. His work will be paid for by the federal grant.

A biological opinion is needed and the biological assessment completed last year needs amending to receive the necessary permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The town will also pursue contractor bids for the project, which they expect to release the first week of June.

Representatives from FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine and Franklin County Emergency Management agencies and town officials participated in the meetings.

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