Collapsed bank fix in Montague set for next week; long-term plan unclear

  • The Connecticut River’s bank has collapsed in the area between 89 and 103 Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls, leaving a sheer cliff about 80 feet wide. In the short term, the town expects to stabilize the collapse by filling it with rocks. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Connecticut River’s bank has collapsed in the area between 89 and 103 Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls, leaving a sheer cliff about 80 feet wide. In the short term, the town expects to stabilize the collapse by filling it with rocks. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Connecticut River’s bank has collapsed in the area between 89 and 103 Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls, leaving a sheer cliff about 80 feet wide. In the short term, the town expects to stabilize the collapse by filling it with rocks. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/3/2020 2:05:58 PM

MONTAGUE — A collapsed riverbank that is creeping toward Millers Falls Road is expected to get a temporary fix as early as next week, while a more permanent solution that will be implemented later is being prepared by an engineering firm.

In the short term, the town expects to stabilize the collapse by filling it with rocks. Work could begin next week if funding can be accessed as expected, and will probably take two weeks, said Montague Public Works Superintendent Tom Bergeron.

In the last eight months the Connecticut River’s bank has collapsed in the area between 89 and 103 Millers Falls Road, leaving a sheer cliff about 80 feet wide. The area is now blocked with orange fencing and caution tape, and is considered to be unstable and unsafe for pedestrians, town officials have said.

It is suspected that an old underground pipe in the bank may have rotted, and that water leaking from it eroded the inside of the bank to create fractures. However, a definite cause hasn’t been determined.

Problems were first noticed in December, Bergeron said. The issue became much worse with the rain this spring and summer.

And it’s still getting worse. With the rain last weekend, another 5 feet of the bank collapsed, Bergeron said.

“If we don’t get going on this A.S.A.P. ...” he said.

Considering how quickly the problem has developed, the Selectboard has expressed concern that it could reach Millers Falls Road, which not only connects Turners Falls to Millers Falls and Erving, but also accesses an industrial business district that includes the Turners Falls Municipal Airport, the Franklin County Technical School and several private businesses.

Stopping the collapse has become a major priority. Emergency legal provisions cited by Town Administrator Steve Ellis will allow the town to use state aid money for the remediation, and to bypass the bidding process normally required for municipal projects and instead negotiate directly with engineering and construction firms.

Even the temporary fix that is expected in the next few weeks is something of an emergency strategy.

“We simply do not have the time to wait for a fully engineered solution,” Ellis said. “We’re rounding the corner out of summer into fall, and things happen quickly at this time of year.”

To move quickly, Bergeron said the town has outlined a two-phase plan — stabilize the area as soon as possible so it can get through the winter without sustaining further damage, and engage an engineering firm to prepare a long-term solution that will be implemented probably in the spring or summer.

An engineering firm has been contacted, but did not have a proposal that could be presented to the Selectboard this week, said Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

“They are actively working on it,” he said. “But it’s a big project.”

Cost estimates were not yet available for either phase.

Although the land is owned by the FirstLight power company, Bergeron said because the collapse seems to have been caused by a failure of town equipment, it is expected to be the town’s liability.

Negotiations between Montague and FirstLight are expected to result in the town agreeing to provide the engineering solution and maintain responsibility for the final installation, according to Ellis. FirstLight will likely be legally absolved of potential claims by the town.

“They’re not looking to create roadblocks. They’re just taking what I would view as the reasonable precautions that the town would also take in this situation,” Ellis said. “I would actually say that’s very appropriate.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2020 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy