Montague Selectboard prioritizes repair of collapsed riverbank

  • A bank of the Connecticut River near Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls has collapsed. The area is considered unstable and unsafe to explore. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2020 1:27:29 PM

MONTAGUE — The bank of the Connecticut River has collapsed in the area of Millers Falls Road, leaving a sheer cliff about 80 feet wide that town officials fear could collapse even further.

Remediation is now considered a major priority by members of the Selectboard, who discussed the issue on Monday, but the extent of the problem and the cost of the work are not yet known.

The area is between 89 and 103 Millers Falls Road, and has been blocked off with orange fencing and caution tape. It is considered unstable and unsafe to explore, the Selectboard and Department of Public Works emphasized.

This is the third time in seven years that a bank of the Connecticut River has collapsed in Montague, according to Town Planner Walter Ramsey. At this point, he said, the town considers bank failure to be an ongoing issue and a growing concern.

The cause of the collapse is not totally clear yet, said Public Works Superintendent Tom Bergeron. However, he noted that the ground in that area is all sand, and would be susceptible to erosion. It is suspected that an old pipe may have rotted and that leaking water may have eroded the inside of the bank. Bergeron said rain this spring and summer likely worsened any problems.

“It’s all sand. There’s nothing holding it up,” he said. “When we got the rain, the rain soaked the sand, and it just collapsed on itself.”

Problems were first noticed in December, though it was not as severe then, Bergeron said. It collapsed further this spring and summer.

Some sort of engineering solution to stabilize the area is now being discussed with an engineering firm, Ramsey said. The extent of the work and a price estimate are expected to be known later this week, after the engineers’ site assessment, he said.

For the Selectboard, stabilization is an urgent priority.

“We really can’t wait, or we’ll be talking about a washout that’s made its way as far as Millers Falls Road,” Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said during Monday’s meeting. “This is a major problem, to put it mildly.”

Although the land is owned by the FirstLight power company, Bergeron said the liability is likely the town’s, as it is suspected that a rotting pipe contributed to the problems. Ramsey said expenses are probably eligible to be covered by the state’s contributions to Montague’s yearly budget.

In the long term, the issue of ongoing erosion around the Connecticut River should be investigated further, said Town Administrator Steve Ellis. He suggested that the town develop a map of liabilities, and that potential funding sources for such a project be investigated.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-930-4231.


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