December 17, 2012

Consultants claim Farmington's Whittier Road stabilization project will not harm salmon

$277,170 plan to use tree roots to stop Sandy River erosion must pass US Fish and Wildlife Service muster

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- Environmental consultants say moving forward on a riverbank stabilization project on Whittier Road will not harm an Atlantic salmon spawning ground.

click image to enlarge

Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, in back, Public Works Director Denis Castonguay, left, and Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy monitor the rising Sandy River in Farmington on Oct. 30, at the site of erosion of a steep bank beside the Whittier Road.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

"Our results have found that there would be no negative effect," said environmental consultant Rick Jones.

The town has been trying to stabilize the bank since August 2011 when tropical storm Irene caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long chunk of the bank to fall into the Sandy River. The ground between the riverbank and the road has been eroding since, threatening to collapse the road into the river.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency put the town's bank stabilization project on hold because of concerns that it could have a harmful impact on the endangered Atlantic salmon, which use the river as a spawning ground.

The proposed $277,170 project would shore up the bank using rootwads, which are tree bottoms driven into the bank with their intact root balls facing outward to catch silt and hold the soil. Town Manager Richard Davis has said that the relatively new stabilization process is environmentally friendly.

Jones said he would submit the report to the agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the next few weeks. The service will consider the findings and weigh in on the project. Before it can approve the project, the agency undertakes a process that includes considering whether it violates any of a long list of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act.

Whittier Road was closed briefly in November, but after complaints from those who used the road, it was reopened. As a safety precaution, traffic has been limited to the lane farthest from the river.

Kaitlin Schroeder -- 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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