COVENTRY — It’s been seven years since Rhode Island was pummeled with historic amounts of rainfall that left cities and towns with millions of dollars in damage to their infrastructure. The Great Flood of 2010 wreaked havoc on the Pawtuxet River, the southern end of which runs through Coventry, and left behind severe bank erosion and weakened foundations for the buildings sitting along the waterway.
The town of Coventry is being recognized this month by the American Public Works Association (APWA) for its contributions to the Pawtuxet River Stabilization Project, an effort to restore infrastructure along the river in Coventry that was severely damaged by the heavy flooding.
The project was wrapped up in 2016 and involved building a “micropile and tieback system” for the Anthony Mill clock tower to protect it from scour in the river. The project also involved the implementation of stone arch weirs and stream barbs to control elevation changes and direct erosive velocities away from the infrastructure and toward the center of the river. The buildings are now essentially connected to the bedrock below the river to prevent issues caused by scouring, but after the storm there was severe bank erosion that threatened the foundations of the mills.
Scouring, or the swift movement of water, can move sediment around and cause holes around the base of structures. As part of the two-tiered system to control issues with scour, articulated concrete mats were placed and overlain with river stone filled with soil. The matting serves as additional protection against the river’s sometimes extreme conditions.
According to APWA, these efforts have made the river more prepared to sustain damage from adverse weather conditions in the future and will benefit many by improving local infrastructure. The repairs involved temporarily stabilizing the riverbank and the Anthony Mill’s foundation to allow crews to pump about 40 yards of concrete for the foundation of the tower and to install a cable anchoring system for the tower. They also placed concrete blocks to prevent the collapse of the banks.
The award, received as part of APWA’s Small Cities/Rural Communities – Disaster/Emergency category, honors “agencies representing cities and communities with a population of 75,000 or less that include the techniques and timing for safety, community relations, environmental protection, adverse conditions and additional considerations.”
In the spring of 2010 the river was subject to more than eight inches of rain on the watershed, combined with 11.3 inches of rain having fallen over the previous 35 days which led to what was later classified as a historic flooding event for areas with many impervious surfaces. Anthony Mill and Concordia Fibers sustained substantial damage. Both buildings are considered historic, with Anthony Mills being constructed in 1873 and the Concordia building in 1900. The damage to the Concordia building was so bad at the time that part of the structure actually fell into the river.
“On the Pawtuxet River, this flooding exceeded the previous flood stage record of 14.5 feet by about 6.3 feet, which caused substantial flooding and damage throughout the Pawtuxet River,” according to the APWA.
“The town is extremely pleased to be recognized for its efforts,” said Coventry Town Manager Graham Waters. “While the restoration was a team effort, the project was spearheaded on the town side by retired Planning Director Paul Sprague. Paul should be proud of his legacy and the tremendous improvement it brings to the town.”
Coventry DPW Director Kevin McGee will accept the award on behalf of the town at an annual conference (the APWA’s 2017 Public Works Expo) which will take place in Orlando, Florida between August 27 and August 30.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the managing agency for the Pawtuxet River Stabilization Project, will also be recognized for their contributions to the project, as well as Cardi Corporation, the primary contractor, and Fuss & O’Neill, Inc., the primary consultant.
APWA presents awards for public works projects that will “have a profound impact on the community,” based on how much care is paid to safety, community relations and the environment, among other things.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided $3.3 million in funding for repairs. The project cost about $3,653,945 in total.
The APWA is a nonprofit, international organization with nearly 30,000 members involved in public works throughout the country. The organization is headquartered in Kanas City, Missouri and has 63 chapters in North America.
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