Flooding is nothing new to Winchester. “In the past two decades, Winchester has suffered several devastating flood events totaling in over $25 million in economic losses,” Jake San Antonio of VHB said at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, September 23. “None of the floods in the past decades have been 100-year flood events.” There are currently 424 national flood insurance policies in Winchester not including commercial or private supplemental flood insurance.
“Following the ’96 and ’98 flood events, the town funded their first study of the Aberjona River to evaluate what could be done to prevent flooding and lessen it’s impact. In 2003, they started the MEPA process,” San Antonio said. “The EIR studies began in 2004, which finished in April of 2010.” From there, the town was granted the ability to draw up and move forward on any projects related to flood mitigation.
The Aberjona Flood Mitigation Project is made up of 11 individual projects. The Mount Vernon Street Bridge is currently being expanded to allow for more water flow away from the High School and the nearby homes. The Skilling’s Field Culvert project is scheduled to being soon, which includes adding a supplemental 7’ by 15’ box to the existing 7’ by 15’ culverts.
The design for this project is complete and the final design and permitting are the next steps in the foreseeable future. The next project on Swanton Street involves replacing the 16-foot open span bridge with a 25-foot open span bridge. The final project is the railroad crossing near Mauraco School by adding to the culverts.
100-year flood plain in Winchester affects 273 buildings, but FEMA is in the process of weeding out the reduced insurance rates many residents acquired through grandfathering. Residents currently pay a rate of $300,000 annually in premiums. Resident’s rates will gradually increase, and within five years, rates will be over five million in premiums. After the new mitigation plan there should be a 50 percent reduction in houses affected, removing 145 buildings from the flood plain area. This could potentially save residents of Winchester $400,000 annually.
Many projects have staggered completion dates. There are plenty of details and FAQ’s on the Town’s website.