Canaan Will Hold Flood Hearing

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 17, 2017

Canaan — New culverts, spillways and even the relocation of a road near the Indian River are needed to prevent flooding in Canaan’s village, according to a newly released study.

Town officials are hopeful the study, completed by Littleton, N.H.-based Headwaters Hydrology PLLC, will provide a road map to reduce floods in Canaan’s commercial and civic center, ending years of debate.

If implemented, the study’s findings also could be a costly endeavor, with recommendations totaling anywhere between $2.1 million and $5.4 million. That’s partially why the town is holding a public hearing on Tuesday night to discuss the study.

“There’s probably 1,000 people in the village and at least 1,500 ideas of what ought to be done to flood-proof the village,” Town Administrator Mike Samson said in an interview last week.

Over the last seven years, Samson recalled at least three floods hitting the village, which is located around the intersections of Route 4 and 118. The effects have been long lasting, he said, with three buildings still in a state of disrepair from the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

“When you have that presence in the village, that impacts obviously the value of the village, but also the possibility of going forward to develop those properties,” Samson said.

Although flood prevention is a long-debated topic in Canaan, he said, emergency management officials began looking into the matter about five years ago. Eventually, they sought professional help and recruited Headwaters Hydrology for a comprehensive review.

The engineering firm looked at how flooding impacts the village from Route 4’s intersection with Gristmill Hill Road to the intersection with Highland Street. Included in that area are 31 structures that could be partially or fully inundated by flooding, according to a presentation of the firm’s findings.

Putting those buildings in danger is the Route 4 embankment itself, the study found. Because the elevation around the Indian River is higher than much of the surrounding land, flood waters often are pushed into the village, especially to the lowest points, near Canaan Village Pizza and the Route 4 bridge.

To mitigate flooding, the study suggests several construction projects along the river.

As the Northern Rail Trail crosses the river south of School Street, engineers propose construction of a new spillway and culvert to better direct water.

They also recommend similar measures eastward, as the trail crosses south of Williams Field. There, water would be diverted through a new spillway and culvert into a more manageable area that includes part of Williams Field, but not the baseball field itself.

The study also recommends two sets of twin box culverts flanking north and south of where Route 4 crosses the Indian River.

The current bridge does not “significantly constrict the channel and is in satisfactory condition,” engineers said. So, placing 20-foot culverts on either side of the bridge would be less cumbersome than replacing the road, the study said.

The east end of Graceville Road also rises about 3 to 4 feet above the Indian River, meaning traditional flood fields aren’t used often enough, the study found. To put that land back in use, engineers recommend relocating the road roughly 800 feet south, which also would better protect it from flooding.

Wood pilings that once carried a railroad over the Indian River also should be removed because they impede the water and collect debris, the study recommends.

Overall, implementing all of the recommendations could reduce the number of buildings inundated by flooding to 14 from 31, Headwaters Hydrology reported. Only about seven of those likely would be flooded.

However, that would come at a cost of $5 million, the study said. If the town instead implemented some of the recommendations, it could reduce the number of buildings inundated to 17 at a cost of $2.4 million.

“We accept that,” Samson said of the findings. “We have to figure out how to fund it, but we accept it.”

Before flood-proofing can begin, Samson said, the town first wants to hear from residents in two public hearings. The town also may ask the engineers to put together plans based on the feedback from the hearings.

As for the construction costs, Samson said, the town likely would look for grant funding.

“I think it’s an important objective for the town to try to address these issues,” he said, adding that millions of dollars in private property are at stake.

A public hearing on the study is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Canaan police station. More information about the study can be found by going to canaannh.org and clicking on “News & Alerts.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.