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Brasher prepares hazard mitigation plans for three areas of concern

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BRASHER FALLS - Brasher officials have completed and submitted to St. Lawrence County officials their hazard mitigation plan for three areas of concern.

The plans would cover the Maple Ridge Road, bordering the St. Regis River, because of erosion concerns; St. Regis River ice jam and flooding; and the Small Road because of the potential for flooding.

“We finished up dong the same hazard mitigation plan submission to the county, that will help us become eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money down the road,” said Councilman Mark Peets, who has been working on the plan for the town.

One of the areas addressed is the Maple Ridge Road, which borders the St. Regis River. Mr. Peets said that, because of the water course direction, severe erosion has occurred over time.

“This erosion has destabilized the existing river bank to the point that the road surface nearest the river is beginning to destabilize also,” he said. “This area of destabilization runs approximately 3,000 feet total, with several places being the most serious. There’s about 3,000 feet eating away. There are serious issues with the road.”

If they were to take action - which Mr. Peets said is questionable given the projected estimated cost of $1.3 to $1.5 million - they would need to involve the Department of Environmental Conservation in the permitting process because of the St. Regis River. An engineering firm would also need to provide a remediation plan that would be acceptable to both the DEC and town officials.

“We could move that road or build another road or buy up some houses and not have people live there anymore,” he said.

But neither of those options appeared feasible, according to the councilman.

“True mitigation of moving the road or buying property to avoid road use is not practical because of the location of many homes along the existing right-of-way. At this point, people have lived there such a long time,” he said.

Without moving the road, Mr. Peets said, they could bring in material to stabilize the road.

But the cost could make the project difficult to do, he said. The plan calls for the use of town highway equipment and personnel, as well as the use of county engineer and St. Lawrence County Planning Department to assist in design and implementation.

Mr. Peets said CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) money could be used, “but it would take years to fund a project of this nature. This would mean not being able to do any other road projects for an extended period of time. A tax increase to fund this project would be prohibitive.”

By pointing out the problem, however, “It kind of puts us on the map for FEMA money and grant money,” he said.

“It would save a dangerous road washout,” he said.

A second project to address ice jamming and flooding on the St. Regis River would come with a smaller price tag of $50,000 to $700,000. Mr. Peets said no local funding would be available, but grants and mitigation funds, if they were available, would be used.

He said they’ve had ice jams that caused a backup of water in three out of 10 years. That water backup has flooded the Riverside Campground and several homes on the Congress Street Extension, according to the councilman.

“It affects quite a few properties. We have our own sewer plant to think about,” he said.

Mr. Peets noted that during one “extreme flooding” several years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers from New Jersey assessed the situation and said little could be done because of the river topography.

“The local fire departments were called upon to sandbag to prevent flooding of homes,” he said.

Since the Army Corps of Engineers could not come up with a solution to alleviate the flow, Mr. Peets said building a retaining wall may be their best option. It would be built in the northeast section to hold back flood waters from the homes on Congress Street.

The third project would address potential flooding issues on the Small Road because vegetation growth and beaver intrusion over time.

Mr. Peets said they estimate it would cost $500,000 to rehabilitate existing drainage ditches. That action, he said, would benefit contiguous landowners because the land is extremely flat.

“It would provide an opportunity for farmers and landowners to greatly improve their productivity by providing an outlet for tile drainage or lateral draining ditches. The reason that it has not been done to date is due to lack of local funds to initiate this project.

Mr. Peets said the town of Massena would need to be involved in a study of the drainage capabilities of the Earls Creek drainage system since that falls under their jurisdiction.

By completing the plan, Mr. Peets reiterated that they could be in line for funding from FEMA.

“There’s money out there. This whole project makes us eligible,” he said.

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