MANCHESTER — Officials are working to fight Mother Nature.
At least, they are striving to stave off the effects of flooding, especially in the area adjacent to Sawmill Brook.
For years, residents have experienced frequent flooding in the downtown area of town where Sawmill Brook connects with the inner harbor.
The work is part of a $4.5 million federal grant issued to fight flooding from Sawmill Brook, next to the Central Street Bridge. The work is aimed at replacing the existing culvert in the area, according to Manchester Town Administrator Gregory Federspiel.
Federspiel said the plan will focus on strategies to protect the village core area from floods due to more intense storms and seal level rise.
“Preliminary results will be presented in a couple of months,” said Federspiel. “(The) project wrap-up is planned for the end of June.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced earlier this fall the $4,484,673 “Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC)” grant to pay for part of the cost of replacing and upgrading the existing Central Street Bridge.
“It’s to enlarge the culvert so that Sawmill Brook will drain better and not be prone to flooding,” said Federspiel. “It needs to be rebuilt because of its very weak condition.”
Problems with flooding have been nagging Manchester for years.
“Residents and businesses greatly value the town’s coastal community identity and do not want to lose the iconic Manchester-by-the-Sea character due to sea level rise and storm surge or flooding,” reads a posting on the “Coastal Vulnerability Action Plan” on the town’s website.
The town has hired consulting engineers Fuss & O’Neill of Boston and the Woods Hole Group to assist in developing the plan. A steering committee made-up of representatives of different town boards and committee will guide the work.
Coastal Vulnerability Action Plan
Mike Nelson, an associate for Fuss & O’Neill, said last week his firm is starting to collect data for the “Coastal Vulnerability Action Plan.”
“We are very interested in community engagement and community feedback,” he said.
Nelson said the Woods Hole Group will place “tide gauges” in Manchester’s Inner Harbor, to quantify tide surge. Data gathering will inform the “Massachusetts Coast Flood Risk Model,” he said.
Nelson pointed to the storm surge Dec. 30 that flooded the Manchester’s parking lot adjacent to the police and fire stations.
“The idea is you will be able to predict storm surge and its impacts to the inner harbor and the downtown area,” said Nelson. “The purpose of the project is to come up with conceptual strategies that can be vetted and moved into design.”
As many as three public hearings on the matter are set to take place over the next several months, Nelson said. He said the meetings will “…define the problems, discuss possible solutions and then we’ll be looking to develop our recommended plan.”
The grant for the project has a deadline of June 30, he said.
Limiting flood risks
The Coastal Vulnerability Action Plan is aimed at providing a roadmap to reduce coastal flood risks and increase coastal resilience in the town.
Building on past studies, the plan will also develop a phased approach to establishing alternatives for neighborhoods. Plus, it will offer “site-specific mitigation measures” to increase the resilience of the downtown area and the inner harbor.
The efforts will gather information, via public hearings, conduct an assessment of existing conditions, issue an assessment of different vulnerabilities, present an analysis of possible alternatives, then draft a recommended “action plan” before the final “coastal vulnerability action plan” is put in place.
Those interested in the project may offer comment through a number of public forums to be held between now and the end of June when the project is expected to be completed.
Comments may also be offered through the project’s website, accessible by means of the town’s website: www.manchester.ma.us.
Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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