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The Mad River is awash with heavy equipment as town employees and contractors remove gravel in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s flooding.

 

 

The Mad River upstream and downstream of the Waitsfield covered bridge has been the scene of a lot of work, as has the Mad River near Tremblay Road and the Mad River south of the Lareau Farm. Gravel has also been removed from the Mad River in an area immediately south of Mad River Massage.

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The Waitsfield Select Board, working with Vermont Agency of Natural Resources stream alteration engineer Patrick Ross, is removing gravel and repairing stream banks in the area of Bridge Street. So much gravel has come out that it won’t fit at the town garage or at the town’s gravel pit – which was damaged by the flooding. The excess gravel is being stored at the town- owned Tardy parcel across the street from the Purple Moon Pub and Easy Street.

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The gravel that is being extracted cannot be sold and must be used for the public good, Ross said. He said that allowing homeowners whose driveways have been washed away by Irene flooding to use the reclaimed gravel was allowable as well as using it to fix public roads damaged by flooding or to maintain roads in the future.

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There has been some public grumbling about the extent of the gravel extraction and some concern about the gravel extraction creating a danger of worse flooding in the future. The select board, at its weekly meeting on September 26, reiterated that the work is being done at the direction of the state and in coordination with the state.

One difficult issue the town is tackling right now, according to select board chair Kate Williams, is the issue of how and whether the town can help property owners whose houses and lives are endangered by rivers that changed courses.

There are five homes on North Fayston Road currently endangered by the new course of Shephard’s Brook. That brook changed its course and destroyed one home in that area. Several driveways were completely washed away and instream work is necessary to return the river to its normal course.

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“Those Shephard’s Brook people are in serious jeopardy. It is a very dangerous situation. The river has agraded; it has risen. The material is higher than the banks and the land around it in some cases. Something has to be done,” Ross said.

He said he felt that the town had made stabilization and restoration of the river around Bridge Street a priority because of the public infrastructure there as well as pressure from business owners.

“As I understand it, the town is using taxpayer money to pay for these activities. The town could help the other areas as well I think,” he said.

Kate Williams is less sure that the select board can spend taxpayer money to fix the stream problem on Shephard’s Brook, or to fix the Mad River south of Riverside Condominiums where it carved a new course and is heading directly at the condos.

“We are very concerned about the Shephard’s Brook and Riverside Condo situations. We’re exploring other avenues to find the funds to fix those situations, and we’re trying to figure out our role in this situation,” Williams said.

Generally, property owners are responsible for damage and repairs to their property from flooding. In a catastrophic event such as Hurricane Irene where rivers and streams change course, creating public safety and health hazards, there may need to be different solutions, she said.

“We’re looking hard at this. There may be other ways where the town could legitimately have a role. We don’t yet know if we can make the decision to spend taxpayer  money when there isn’t clear municipal property involved. We are talking to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns about the issue. The select board is the town’s board of health and one area of that responsibility is that if there are residents at some level of risk, there is the potential for the town to step in,” Williams added.

 

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