By Terry Karkos

NEWRY – Approximately $210,000 worth of erosion control work to try to prevent future high flows in two Newry rivers from gobbling riverbanks and roads was completed on Tuesday.

Now, its a matter of waiting for Mother Nature to flush test the experimentally-engineered and strategically-placed rock vanes and cabled-together woody debris.

According to Newry river projects consultant Jeff Stern, the boulders and timber should deflect flows back into the main channel and away from fragile riverbanks. The woody debris is also expected to help restore trout habitat.

“Right after we installed the project on Sunday River, it rained really intensely heavy on Thursday and I went back on Friday morning and everything was fine,” Stern said by phone on Tuesday afternoon. “But the real test will come next spring during runoff or maybe this fall.”

The Sunday River Outward Bound Project, which was funded by a $90,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a $30,000 local match, involved installation of six rock vanes that stick out from the bank into the river pointing upstream. It is expected to prevent the river from undermining Sunday River Road at the intersection with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound Road.

Stern said the vanes will deflect flows away from the eroding bank, while the woody debris, which was anchored to boulders and a tree buried almost 20 feet down, would provide extra protection.

“It’s really more natural than dumping a bunch of riprap up there. Riprap has a tendency to transfer problems downriver,” Stern said.

The Bear River Lone Pine Project cost $75,000 to build and will be paid entirely by Newry. Voters at town meeting in March OK’d money for the project. Not included in the amount was about $15,000 in engineering costs. The project was named after Lone Pine Road, which the Bear River was threatening to take out about a half mile in off Route 2 on Route 26. There, four rock vanes and three debris jams were added.

Both sites were identified in watershed surveys in 2000 as high priorities for erosion control.

“The annual erosion rate is about 180 tons of soil per year. This phenomenal amount of erosion smothers fish spawning beds, diminishes aquatic habitat and destabilizes riverbanks downstream,” Stern said.

After money was found to do the work, necessary state, town and federal permits had to be obtained before it could commence, because an excavator would be used in the river to move boulders and debris into place.

Stern said these included permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, shoreland zoning from Newry planners, and floodplain from Newry’s code enforcement officer.

The state even required Stern to have archaeological surveys done of both sites.

Design engineering was done by Newry’s town engineer, Jim Sysko, and John Field of Field Geology Services of Farmington. Newry then hired Caribou Springs LLC owned by Jay Milot of Gilead, which in turn hired Cross Excavation of Bethel to complete the excavator work.

“This was the first time that anything like this has been done in a town in Maine,” Stern said.

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