No Notice to Neighbors: Sewer Rocks Into Kedron Brook

The Town of Woodstock Selectboard last week approved proposed work to protect Village sewer pipes in the Kedron Brook. The work involves putting in layers of rock covering over the location of the sewer pipe to protect it. At that meeting, Preston Bristow commented that the Town takes very seriously protection and maintenance of our sewer system. Duly noted.

We see that work is being done today right under the Mechanic to High Street walkway. While we understand the need to protect the sewer system, what we don’t understand is the lack of communication to abutters to the Kedron Brook whose property may be affected by the change in the stream. (This includes Woodstock Early Bird’s).

As the upcoming anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene approaches property owners along the brook can say and recount  with certainty both to environmentalists and to engineers how the stream reacts in flood situations.

We, (that is, Woodstock Early Bird,  who does have a vested interest in this topic) and others along the Kedron Brook can say with certainty that the banks will flood and that a previous rock bed put over the same sewer pipe ended up backing up the stream enough with branches and debris to the extent that more bank upstream was torn away than might otherwise have happened.  First the dam acted as a dam, then it overflowed and did considerable damage downstream. We think that — at the least — abutters should be part of the hearing process with environmental engineers about potential impacts to their property of  putting a rock dam into the brook in order to protect the sewer line. Neighbors received no written notice.

We asked workers at the site today about the situation and we found out there is an indeed a perfectly legitimate State of Vermont permit to alter the stream (shown to the left) with approval of a plan from Stantec Engineers out of South Burlington.  And, of course, the Selectboard approved the project.  So on one level, it’s all good.

However, the only way Woodstock Early Bird knew about it was that we happened to attend last week’s Town Selectboard meeting which, of course, Villagers might not be that handles Village and Town sewer issues.

We wonder if any studies were done either statistically or anecdotally to address potential responses of the stream to this built up dam? If so, it would be nice for neighbors to be informed of the study results. While it might not mean any change in a necessary pipep protection plan, at least neighbors can be aware of the situation.

Also, since the Town is so loose with informing people about its projects (and this is not the only one, we might note), we hope it doesn’t mind — if the need arises — that we present the Town with bills for damages done to our properties due to erosion, flooding and the like as a result of the Kedron Brook Dam.

We all need a sewer line, no doubt about it, but we property owners have a right to know of upcoming Town activities and the  impacts to our lands with written notice. This did not happen.

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Corwin Sharp on August 14, 2012 at 13:54

    Why am I not surprised at this? Folks on the south side of town are “expendable.”

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  2. Posted by Jennifer Morin on August 15, 2012 at 11:26

    I attended a fascinating informal talk at the Trek to Taste this year about this very topic. Suffice it to say that any alteration in the stream bed or the banks of the stream has potential to alter the give and take of sediments, erosion, and course of the stream. Using a sand and water table, it was easily demonstrated how narrowing a stream, adding a rock embankment at a curve, changing the bottom of the stream bed or adding a dam (among many other scenarios), created significant downstream changes, especially when flow rate and volume was increased. You are already aware of this from your past experiences! I would be shocked to hear that the town did not at least notify the abuttors but I am more cynical i.e. realistic now that I have lived here for 6 years. Perhaps consider contacting the Dept of Natural Resources? It is very hard for me to imagine that the town did not have to notify property owners by law. And laws aside, what has happened to common deceny and common courtesy? Perhaps there were no other options to protect the sewer pipe, but you deserved the chance to be involved in the discussion phase.

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    • Jennifer,

      Thanks for the additional info and understanding of the issue!

      I have spoken with Town Manager Phil Swanson since the post and have learned from him that technically/legally — with regards to stream and water issues — he was not required to inform abutters to the property. I believe this is because waterways “belong” to the State of Vermont. However, as part of the permit, it asks the State Environmental people to sign off that the stream adjustments will do no harm to the riparian areas along the bank. We’ve seen first-hand that that can happen.

      In the case of my property (shared with a condominium association) along the Kedron Brook, we actually consulted with State of Vermont’s Todd Menees for guidance on stream bank protection in order to mitigate future flood damage. With his permit in hand, we embarked on what turned into a 5K project to shore up the bank with rip-rap and to clean up dead branches and debris from the area so the stream might flow more smoothly through the area. It is a great ironic twist now that after that advice and expenditure Todd Menees’ signature is on the very permit that allowed a pile of rocks to be dumped into the Kedron Brook stream at the edge of the property.

      Overall the pile of rocks will probably do what it is meant to do: protect the pipe. It does not go across the entire length of the brook — at this point — so we’ll just live with it. However, as you say, notice is the right thing to do — even if not legally required!

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  3. Common courtesy is always appreciated. Perhaps our elected officials could take note.

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