By STEVE SMITH, HARTFORD COURANT
WINDSOR LOCKS — Windsor Locks residents had an opportunity to express their concerns about the recent erosion study, regarding the town’s brooks and streams, at a public hearing on Sept. 22.
The study was conducted by the environmental engineering firm of Fuss and O’Neill, and was presented to the Board of Selectmen in early September. Fuss and O’Neill representatives recapped the study and took questions from selectmen and residents. The town is also asking the firm’s help in securing a grant from the USDA, a Natural Resources Conservation Service PL-566 grant which would pay 100 percent of the costs, which are estimated to be $10 million or more.
Engineer James Otis said the deposits of sand and sediment in Windsor Locks Canal are one of the concerns. The six main streams all begin at the west end of town, and empty into the river or the canal. The firm representatives walked the brooks and noted erosion and sediments, among other issues.
Tools to remediate the problems include measures to stabilize soil, landscaping to reduce flooding areas, as well as potential realignment of roads and driveways.
Dean Audet, the firm’s vice president, said he’s done approximately 100 of these surveys, and the problem in Windsor Locks is among the worst he’s seen.
“I’ve seen a lot of problems over the years,” Audet said. “I’ve seen erosion like this, certainly… the fact that there is so much of it – the scale of it – I have not seen that in New England.”
Resident Eric Marsh asked if the citizens in town could be asking for certain things in the Plan of Conservation and Development, which will be up for public hearing in coming weeks.
“What kinds of things should the public be advocating for?” Marsh asked.
Otis said there are land use regulations that could be modified, and that conservation areas near the streams should be maintained. New ones could also be created.
“Other areas could be converted to conservation areas, to reduce the amount of future development,” Otis said, adding that green infrastructure and low-impact design could be encouraged for future development.
Resident Doug Glazier said he was concerned about the Windsor Locks Lions Ambulance Corps plans to build a new facility near Kettle Brook.
“I’m just wondering of there is going to be any prediction of serious erosion along that stream, by where the ambulance site will have a new building,” Glazier said.
Otis said he didn’t have specific photos of that area, but his best guess is that the plot would likely not be affected, because it is some distance from the stream, but town officials should look at it carefully before construction begins.
“The closer you get to the brook, the greater the risk,” Audet added.
Resident Mark Whitten said he was concerned about Paper Mill Brook and the grade near his home, as well as standing water in his neighbor’s yard, and basement flooding in his home, both of which have increased in recent years.
“In this area, it seems like it’s getting worse,” Whitten said.
Otis said the most likely cause is a drainage issue in the area, possibly because of damming.
“There could be a dam. It could be that the sediment from upstream areas is causing a blockage downstream that’s building up in that area,” Otis said.
Kervick said the next steps in the process of applying for the grant will be for firm to finalize it’s report and start specific recommendations, and for the town to identify specific priority areas.
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Audet said his firm has helped three municipalities get the grant so far, and that the firm should speak to USDA representatives in Connecticut and present the town’s case.
“It’s slow. The first step is to approve a watershed plan,” Audet said. “It’s a slow, long process. At the end of the day…. it then needs to be approved by a committee in Congress, which takes a lot of time.”
Audet said construction might not begin for five years, but the savings to the town would be well worth the wait.
“I’d like to be extremely aggressive in pursuing this grant,” Kervick said. “We don’t really have a choice.”
For more information, visit www.windsorlocksct.org.
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