FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday discussed building a new section of road in case the town does not get federal funding soon to stabilize the Sandy River riverbank near Whittier Road.
Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc on the riverbank last August, and rains this past spring eroded it to just 36 feet from the road.
Selectmen recently posted that section of road to a limit of 23,000 pounds. Further erosion could close a portion of road and reroute emergency vehicles and school buses.
Selectmen considered building a new section of road on a wood road connecting Whittier with Route 156 west of the present intersection, bypassing the erosion site.
The riverbank stabilization work needs to be completed during the annual low water window of July 15 to Sept. 30. The town needs Federal Emergency Management Agency approval by mid- to late-August in order to complete the work this year.
Last week, FEMA requested a biological assessment as part of the review for funding, which is also subject to review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Town Manager Richard Davis said.
The town needs to hire a consultant to complete the assessment, which could take six to 12 weeks, and Davis could not estimate the potential cost.
Because FEMA doesn't see the project as an emergency, Davis and selectmen sent a letter requesting help from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Rep. Michael Michaud. They responded quickly with a letter to FEMA asking to expedite the steps for funding review to help with the estimated $227,000 project.
It's not a matter of if but when Whittier Road collapses, Davis said, anticipating the potential for more weather damage before next June.
Selectman Ryan Morgan said while vehicles such as oil trucks and school buses are exempt from the road posting, some oil companies have already banned their trucks from traveling the road.
Davis proposed circumventing Whittier Road, using a wood road just north of the erosion area and possibly connecting it to Route 156 just west of the present intersection. The road runs in back of a few homes near the intersection, creating a need to seek easements from property owners.