Aberjona River Widening Project Set to Begin in Winchester
The Board of Selectmen have decided to move forward with the project, which is set to begin next month.
Last spring Pat Gill saw his neighbor scuba diving.
During that same time, David Taylor had his foundation blow up because of water rushing into his home from the Aberjona River.
And after 15 years of floods, Joeseph Lucherini is no longer insurable.
"There are many safety issues when water fills your house faster than you can get out," Gill said.
After holding a public comment on the Aberjona River-Widening Project Monday night, the Board of Selectmen decided to move forward with the construction, which is set to commence in the beginning of August.
The project is expected to be completed by October and will widen the river by 15 feet, which would limit the amount of flooding from the Aberjona. Construction needs to take place during the river’s low-flow period, which is between July and October.
"The ultimate goal has and always will be flood mitigation," said Selectman Jim Johnson. "We want to prevent flooding and save lives."
"We've been flooding since 1978," said Tremont Street resident, Frank Vozzella. "Everyone is talking about trees, but it's integral we take care of the flooding. We need to get this project on the road and get it going. But people are more interested in saving trees than homes."
While trees and the beautification of the area was a concern, other residents said that the 45-degree slope that would be located next to the sidewalk along Mystic Valley Parkway, across from Manchester Field is still a concern. The slope is along the sidewalk, separated by a guardrail. The slope leads directly down to the river.
"A double black diamond ski slop is 25 degrees and this is 30 percent deeper," said Adam Olenn of Nelson Street. "This is bigger than trees and ascetics. In a 45-degree slope, someone can slip and slide to their death. It allows them no way to get out until they get to Mystic Lake. It's a betrayal of common sense to think no child is going to step over that guardrail."
According to Jake Sanantonio, one of the engineers in charge of building the project, the new slope to the river is the same as the current one. Sanantonio went on to say that this new slope would be safer because there would be more shrubbery, which would slow down a person's fall to the river.
However, Sanantonio said that his comment about the slope's safety does not take into consideration how close the new slope would be to the sidewalk.
Other residents brought up their concern regarding the removal of trees and shrubbery. According to Lance Grenzeback, chair of the Planning Board, these changes to ascetics would not hinder the project, but would only happen once the flood mitigation is complete.
"The Planning Board endorses the plan, and thinks that it;s critically important," Grenzeback said. "We're talking about improving the landscape after the project is completed. This has been aggressively managed from the beginning to minimize public input. We have been told numerous times to come back next week and when we do we're told it's too early or it's too later. At the last moment we're now forced into this position."
Grenzeback also said that he wanted to know what the Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) tradeoff would be if the town eliminated the sidewalk along the river, for safety concerns.
According to Selectman Roger Berman, the DCR considers the sidewalk "an important element to the plan" and that it's "important to provide convenient and accessible use of our parkland for all our users."
But for Susan Carney, who's been flooded six times, it's time for the town to fix this problem.
"There have been times where we couldn't get out of our home," Carney said. "We've had six-feet of water in our house. The water flooded our high school and caused them to miss four days of school. We've lost belongings and our homes, and that water carries bacteria. It's dangerous to everybody, and something needs to be done."
In less than four weeks Winchester residents can expect to see pipes, heavy machinery and police details along Mystic Valley Parkway and the Aberjona River as the river-widening project begins.