FARMINGTON —  Work on a large retention pond nears completion as part of the Front Street drainage pipe replacement project.

The work is on hold until July 15 to coincide with the start of a low water period, July 15-Sept 15. It is the only time when the federal Department of Environmental Protection will allow work at the river site, Town Manager Richard Davis, said.

The area for discharge into the Sandy River is identified as being in a prime salmon spawning habitat area.

The retention pond, built near Prescott Field, was not part of the original drainage project.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service required a better design and accepted the retention pond to protect any potential salmon in order for the town to receive permitting for the project, Davis said. 

After a large downpour in the downtown Farmington area, the first flush of storm water picks up and carries a lot of pollutants from road surfaces, oil and antifreeze, and washes down the storm drains. It travels through piping across Prescott Field to the river. Water, now arriving through a four-foot pipe, will filter through stones and vegetation before it is discharged in to the river, he said.

The water will move around the rocks to an area of wetland vegetation, yet to be planted, Randy Butler of Dirigo Engineering, said. There are some wetland species that are capable of absorbing some pollutants before the water travels through a six-inch pipe to the river, a distance about 200-feet away. The river site is also in a small inlet near the former train trestle trail.

An E.L. Vining & Son crew has installed piping from the retention pond to Front Street and prepared it for connection after July 15. One section of rip-rap was left off an area of the pond for installation of the river discharge pipe, he said.

Storm water will likely not fill the pond. Butler, who designed the project, expects it to drain from the pond within a 24-hour period.

After paving near the Front Street Exchange building collapsed twice during the summer of 2014, heavy rains were suspected as a cause of the sinkholes. 

The poor condition of the drainage outfall pipe made it unable to handle sudden large amounts of water from heavy storms, Davis said at the time.

The town sought options to protect the road which was rebuilt a couple years before.

The problem was considered in 2006 during a drainage project on Broadway but funding was not available.

Voters appropriated use of $300,000 from the Unassigned Fund Balance for the new drainage system at the 2015 town meeting. Some of that funding went for engineering, soil testing and consideration of how to deal with the salmon issue, Davis said.  

The budget was looking tight so voters were asked during this year’s meeting to appropriate another $60,000 to cover the project, he said.  With a $42,000 retention pond to include in the project, every bit of that $360,000 will likely be used and may run over, he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service wanted it but unfortunately they do not provide any funding to help the town, he said.

The new drainage is expected to provide a big improvement but the trail itself has also been improved by the work, Davis said.  Poison ivy along the trail has been removed and the appearance improved. 

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