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SNOWE, COLLINS, MICHAUD ASK FOR SPEEDY FIX TO ROAD IN FARMINGTON
WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins and Congressman Mike Michaud today asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to move quickly to approve funds that will be used to stabilize Whittier Road and nearby Sandy River in Farmington. In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Snowe, Collins and Michaud highlighted that Tropical Storm Irene, in August 2011, caused extensive damage to the area which should be reinforced and improved to prevent further erosion and possible road collapse.
The text of the letter is below.
Dear Administrator Fugate:
We write to request that you expedite the steps necessary to approve the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding for the Whittier Road project in Farmington, Maine. The primary goal of the HMGP program is to reduce the loss of life and property with the benefit of reducing future federal spending by mitigating obvious hazards. We believe immediate measures to protect Whittier Road will accomplish these goals and result in long term savings to the taxpayer.
Whittier Road is a major thoroughfare in Farmington. Following Tropical Storm Irene on August 27 and 28, 2011, a section of the riverbank approximately 50 feet wide by 300 feet opposite the Pillsbury Sand Bar sloughed into the Sandy River. Exacerbated by rains in May and June of this year, the bank has eroded by an additional 33 feet and is now only 36 feet from Whittier Road.
The Town of Farmington is currently engaged in efforts to stabilize the riverbank on the Sandy River along Whittier Road. The town is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to receive approval for the HMGP project, and FEMA is currently in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on this stabilization project. We are gravely concerned that significant negative consequences for the area and for American taxpayers will result if the approval is not expedited.
As part of the requirements for awarding federal funding for Farmington’s Hazard Mitigation grant application, FEMA must complete an Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation with the FWS. Last week, FEMA determined that a Biological Assessment would have to be conducted under Section 7 of the ESA in order to determine the impact of the project on the Sandy River’s salmon habitat. The bank stabilization project can only be completed within the annual low water window between July 15 and September 30, 2012. If the assessment is not completed immediately, the added delays will likely cause the project to be pushed back until next year. We urge that you work with FWS to complete all required and appropriate environmental assessments as quickly as is practically feasible.
The bank is in danger of failure by collapse and the roadway may be unsafe for use by early spring unless action is taken soon. Although you are authorized to recommend an emergency consultation to allow the project to move forward immediately this action has not yet been taken and we request that you do so. We are concerned that FEMA’s decision does not address the significant impact that a road collapse will have on the community and that the agency cannot speed the approval process to prevent the loss of community infrastructure and put the town’s residents at risk.
The bank stabilization project is anticipated to cost $227,000, but, if the road collapses, the costs to the town and the taxpayers are likely to be three times that amount. Traffic would have to be diverted in order to access schools and businesses, and trucking routes for businesses that use Whittier road would have to use a detour. Ambulances and services to Franklin Memorial Hospital would be delayed, and emergency responses could be threatened. The consequences of delays are real and serious. Furthermore, the environmental impacts will be far worse if Whittier Road is allowed to collapse.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
OLYMPIA J. SNOWE
SUSAN M. COLLINS
MICHAEL H. MICHAUD