FARMINGTON — Erosion along the banks of the Sandy River can’t be stopped but it can be managed and save farmland, a university professor told selectmen Tuesday.

Tom Eastler, professor or geology at the University of Maine, shared information about the erosion site at the corner of Whittier Road and Route 156. The board has been grappling with the next step to preserve the banking and stop the potential threat to Whittier Road.

The site has been in peril before. Eastler described how a home owned by Philip Hines was located on the bank in the 1980s. His yard was losing 10 feet of land per year till eventually the bank wall was right up to the house, he said. The homeowner, the town manager and Eastler came up with a plan to move the house across the road and the town took ownership of the banking.

Regular removal of sand along the river provided winter sand for the town and was permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection until 2000. That’s when the federal government and the state changed its rules on harvesting sand along the river. No permits have been issued for harvesting over the last 11 years, Eastler said.

Showing views of the river, Eastler described how the change in practice has caused sandbars to build up, pushing the waters against the banks on the opposite side of the river. The erosion has also caused the loss of good, fertile farmlands along the river, he said.

Sites in Fairbanks and south of town are also experiencing a build-up of sandbars from sediment dropped by river movement. Erosion at one spot near Sandy River Farms has had extensive damage to farmland, he said.

The damage happens naturally but stopping the practice of taking sand out at some of these sites on a regular basis has taken its toll, he said.

As Eastler described the plight of moving Hines house across the road, he mentioned calls made to then Sen. Ed Muskie resulting in a federal fund release that helped save the house.

Selectman Ryan Morgan, acting chairman for the evening in the absence of Stephen Bunker, inquired about the town making calls to lawmakers seeking help in getting permits to remedy the problem.

“Phone calls to the congressional delegation get attention,” said Rick Jones of Jones Associates from Poland Spring. The board entered into an agreement with Jones to secure permitting and planning for the bank stabilization project.

Permits for a new process using root wads above the high water mark and sand harvesting are expected to be expedited by the DEP and accepted by the federal Army Corps of Engineers. Other methods requiring permits from the federal agency are held up as the corps works with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to preserve the Atlantic salmon spawning area.

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