While the three-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene inches closer, the riverbank has continued to erode eastward, toward three more houses, as well as the municipal fire station. In response, the town is applying for a $425,000 Community Development Block Disaster Relief Grant (CDGB-DR2) to pay for the fortification of the riverbank on both the north and south sides. The CDGB-DR2 requires the town to pay a 10% match ($42,500), and the town plans to hold an informational session on July 9, at 7 pm, at the Readsboro Central School, to explain the scope of the project.
The town is looking to dig into a section of the river bank 45 feet high by 350 feet wide, create a safe slope, and stabilize the bank with both rocks and vegetation. The project scope will also cover the fortification of the south side of the bank, which sits below the American Legion, in order to create a safe river channel. With the final house demolition completed in March, the town returned the land to green space, and a chain link fence provides protection from an approximately 70-foot-drop to the river.
“There are still remnants of this damage,” said town administrator Mark Shea. “We’re not fully recovered from the storm yet, and this is a need in our designated village section of town. Right now three families are still at risk of having their homes destroyed. The engineering data determines there is a need to fortify the toe of this river, and reduce the chance of another disaster in the future.”
In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the town, the respective homeowners, and FEMA took part in a Hazard Mitigation Grant Buyout Program, which saw the homeowners reimbursed for the value of their homes before the storm, with the town taking over ownership of the properties. It took 26 months for the buyout and demolition of 40 and 60 School Street to be completed, and another five months for the buyout of 42 School Street, after a bank foreclosure threatened to derail the deal.
The public meeting will be held to fulfill obligations of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development application process. Shea said that the low-to-moderate income of the neighborhood would help the town accrue points in its pursuit of the grant.
“We have three options,” said Shea. “We could do nothing, we could make an improvement that lasts an intermediate amount of time, or do what’s practical, and perform a thorough job for the future.”
According to Shea, the project could begin next spring at the earliest.