FARMINGTON — The Sandy River bank stabilization project affecting the Whittier Road took two years to resolve. After just over two weeks of work, the job is nearly finished.

The work should be completed by Monday, Town Manager Richard Davis said Thursday. A tentative date of Oct. 7 is set for reopening the lower portion of Whittier Road which closed during the work.

The road will be reduced to one lane for short periods but not closed during a planting phase and some paving repair work, he said.

“This is the first project of this magnitude in Maine,” Davis said of the design using root wads, rocks, timber pilings and cribbing.

There was a project on the Sunday River in Newry that used root wads but did not include the other components, he said.

Designers Corinne Marzullo and Brian Bair, both from the U.S. Forest Service, have been at the site overseeing the work done by E.L. Vining & Son, Inc. of Farmington with help from the town’s Public Works crew.

“The project has gone extremely well,” Davis said.  “The entire operation has been a great example of folks pulling together to achieve a goal.”

It’s the first time Vining’s crew has worked on a project such as this but it’s gone well, no issues, Adam Cote, project manager for Vining, said at the site.

After completing the bank work, there’s some cleanup and plantings on the bank to finish, Cote said.

“The project was very well engineered,” Denis Castonguay, public works director said. He joined Davis and Cote in their impressions of the work done by Marzullo and Bair, which the town contracted to do.

Bids for the original plan came in lower than expected which allowed the work to extend farther along the bank, Castonguay said. 

The work site is 400 feet along the bank but the pilings extend farther out into the river to give back all the eroded bank, he said. There will be a slope developed from the height of the Whittier Road down to the water and plantings done on the bank, he said. The road created to do the work on the bank will be removed.

The project has used about 375 root wads, large timbers with roots attached, and about 375 timber pilings.

At this point, the project is on target budget-wise, Castonguay said. Members of his crew have hauled in materials which has helped the budget, he said.

The total cost is not available yet, Davis said. Vining’s contract was $258,947 and is on budget with no changes. The town will receive a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant of $297,416.24 with additional costs covered under the town’s match. 

“The town’s portion is in excess of $100,000 at this point,” Davis said. “That is still much less than if the town had to fund the project entirely on its own.”

A neighbor to the project, Bill Moloney, is retired and kayaks the river almost daily. 

He wasn’t convinced that the proposed plan of root wads and stone would work, he said Thursday at the site. He thought riprap might have sufficed but he’s convinced now.

“The quality of the work is amazing,” Moloney said.

Watching Vining’s crew handle the large equipment, picking up those long logs with roots attached and using the bucket to pound logs into the soil has been quite a sight, he said.

Moloney is also impressed with the coordination of the town employees, the Vining crew and the execution of Marzullo and Bair’s plans.

“It’s an amazing thing to see people work together,” he said.

Residents near the site will be happy to get the road open again. For those so close to Route 156 but still north of the road closure, a trip east of the river has meant an extra 12 miles of travel, he said.

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