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Grant covers Leeds erosion repair

The Federal Emergency Management Agency this month awarded a $332,000 grant to the city for the slope stabilization project on Roberts Meadow Brook, just downstream from the popular swimming hole off Reservoir Road in Leeds.

The grant will cover 75 percent of the $442,775 cost in the form of a reimbursement. The project calls for construction of a concrete wall connecting to the Lower Roberts Meadow Dam and extending downstream along the north side of the brook about 350 feet.

Erosion caused by the slight bend in the brook has been slowly eating away at city-owned property for years. Left unchecked, it could continue onto private property in the area, including two or three homes, DPW Director Edward S. Huntley said.

“The river is tearing up the bank on the opposite side of the parking area” at the city beach, Huntley said.

The project is in the middle of a permitting and design phase that could take as long as a year to complete, with construction expected to begin in 2015, Huntley said. The project will need to win approval from the city’s Conservation Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

Huntley said the city is still waiting to hear from FEMA on two more grant applications to help fund other long-awaited projects — a $1.6 million repair of the crumbling River Road retaining wall and a $1.2 million project to remove the Upper Roberts Meadow Dam. Both projects have been OK’d by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, but have been under review at the federal level for months.

The retaining wall work is needed because the structure is collapsing into the Mill River and threatening the road and a sewer line that services Williamsburg.

Action on the Upper Roberts dam off Chesterfield Road is necessary because the state’s Office of Dam Safety has declared the structure a “high hazard.” The DPW said earlier this year that removal of the dam has been pushed into next year to give more time to work out an environmentally safe way to remove sediment that has built up behind the structure and to secure the required permits.

The project will move ahead regardless of the FEMA grant. The city has applied for a stream restoration grant from the state Division of Ecological Restoration, and anticipates applying for a construction grant from the dam and seawall repair program. In a worst-case scenario, the city has budgeted for the project out of a water enterprise fund and will use its own money if a grant is not secured.

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