NORTHAMPTON – On Sept. 27, representatives from the Department of Public Works and the Board of Public Works Conference Committee met with the public to discuss new federal mandates affecting the city’s outdated stormwater and flood control infrastructure. The mandates call for more than $4 million in repairs over the next three years.
City Council President Bill Dwight said the city lacks the funds to address these deficiencies and must reach out to the public for input. “This is the first of perhaps several meetings…we have a number of critical choices that are facing us,” he said.
Terry Culhane, Chair of the Board of Public Works, gave a presentation describing the inner workings of the current infrastructure. The city uses a system of levees to protect the lower sections of Northampton from river flooding and a stormwater drainage system designed to steer runoff water away from roads, houses and businesses.
Culhane summarized the federal mandates. Regarding flood control, the city must increase maintenance on levee system, optimize the system’s pumping station, and conduct tests to assure stability. For stormwater drainage, the city must increase maintenance on drains, conduct inspections and extensive reporting, and test water outfalls for contaminants.
Department of Public Works Director Edward S. Huntley explained the consequences of ignoring the new mandates. He estimated $200 million in land and property damages if the system fails to work. Property owners living in high-risk areas will face diminishing property values and may be forced to purchase flood insurance. The city will have to pay fines escalating to $50,000 per day under the Clean Water Act.
“No one’s asking us to expand them or make them fancy, they are just making us maintain them and keep them in working order… I have to say it seems like a reasonable request,” says Huntley. He proposes the city set aside about $250,000 each year to fund projects needed to meet the EPA’s standards.
Photo courtesy Emram Kassim via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.