FEMA offers advice for Popple Dungeon Road
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | February 12,2013
CHESTER — FEMA may have the solution to fix a nagging problem on Popple Dungeon Road: Realign the road to prevent it from further deterioration. According to Town Manager David Pisha, the suggestion was welcome news.
“I know people on Popple Dungeon who are thrilled that the road will be stabilized to a much greater extent than is has been,” Pisha said. “We hope it will be there for decades into the future.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency released a draft environmental impact statement on Monday. The impact statement gave the town suggestions to fix an embankment that has been a source of constant trouble. The embankment is located on the south branch of the Williams River, according to the impact statement. Pisha said the town had been in talks with FEMA prior to Tropical Storm Irene about finding a solution to fix the embankment. Then Tropical Storm Irene arrived on Aug. 28, 2011 and caused significant damage to the section of the road.
After the storm, Popple Dungeon Road became a number one priority, according to Pisha.
“It’s been a long term project on behalf of the town,” he said. “There’s some portions of the road that are close to the river bed. It keeps crumbling and crumbling and Mother Nature always wins those battles. It’s only a matter of time if we don’t move it over, there will be parts of the road missing.”
According to the assessment, erosion had made both road and embankment unstable. Tropical Storm Irene made the situation much worse, according to the assessment.
FEMA proposed three options to fix the embankment: they can leave the embankment as is, realign the road or stabilize the embankment. FEMA suggested the town’s best option was to realign the road.
“I think the location has to do with why it’s susceptible to damages. If you drive up along it, you are close to the river. It looks pretty benign in the spring and summer, but during Irene, it was a raging torrent. It can really cause problems in a hurry,” Pisha said.
According to the impact statement, the plan would realign 990 feet of existing road, replace five culverts and install a new ditch system. Leaving the embankment and the section of road as-is or stabilizing the embankment as solutions would negatively impact biological, cultural and socioeconomic resources.
According to Pisha, realigning the road would have a minimal impact on the local environment and benefit Popple Dungeon Road residents.
“Let’s say the lower end of the road, down by Grafton is washed out. You’d have to go on a long route to get back to where you’d like to go. From that standpoint, fixing that lower end is a very important thing to get done,” Pisha said.
In order to obtain approval, the impact statement must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires public feedback.
Residents have until Feb. 25 to submit comments on the impact statement. Send all comments to Jack Sullivan, Regional Environmental Officer at FEMA Region 1, 99 High St. 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02110, by email at Jack.Sullivan@fema.dhs.gov or by fax at 617-956-7574.
The impact statement can be accessed at www.chester.govoffice.com, www.vem.vermont.gov, or www.chestertelegraph.com.