While town engineers say the proposed Intervale Road drainage project won't increase the amount of water flowing into the Noroton River, the residents on Park Lane feel differently.
During a public hearing of the Environmental Protection Commission on Aug. 7, Chairman Vicki Riccardo said that only the application concerning the proposed box culvert at 95 Rose Lane was within its jurisdiction. This, however, did not stop residents from addressing their concerns.
"From our interaction with the public, we learned that there is a great misconception about the project," said Darren Oustafine, assistant director of public works. "A lot of people misunderstand the project and believe it will be the cause of increased flooding for properties along the Noroton River. That's simply not true."
Oustafine explained that a single drop of water landing at the top of the watershed would take "a very long time" to get all the way down the river into Darien's portion of the watershed.
The plan, which will widen pipes and install more catch basins and a 2-by-6-foot cement box culvert at 95 Rose Lane, is designed to alleviate draining issues along several roads. The wider drainage pipes will allow the water to flow faster toward the final desired location in the Noroton River. The project will cost an estimated $1.5 million and take approximately seven to nine months to complete, according to Oustafine.
The project is an outgrowth of the 2010 Noroton Watershed Study, which examined drainage problems in the Abbey and Intervale roads area, according to Bob Steeger, director of public works.
After several residents expressed concerns about increased erosion of the riverbanks and the potential impact to the area surrounding the river, Oustafine expressed his apologies.
"It's natural," Oustafine said. "It's what they do. Rivers change. That's river living. You can either fight it or accept it."
According to Joe Canas, the design engineer, the project is intended to improve the drainage system, not decrease the flooding issues.
"In 1981, that area was mapped as a flood plain," Canas said. "It's a flood plain now. That's not going to change."
Two residents who live on Park Lane brought up concerns about the project's potential impact to the wetlands.
"Right now, all that water is dumping into a bowl," said Matt Abourezk, who lives at 20 Park Lane.
Stephen Petri, of 6 Park Lan,e told the commission that he was "taken aback" by how quickly the project appeared to be moving forward.
"I would like to see alternate thinking about ways to try and decrease the runoff," Petri said.
Petri told the commission that during major storms, the Noroton River "roars" past his backyard.
The drainage outlet will be behind Park Lane and will discharge into the Noroton River.
The project falls within the Noroton River Watershed. The Intervale drainage project accounts for just 46 of the 7,065 acres that make up the entire Noroton River Watershed.
Steeger said he needs to obtain several permanent or temporary construction easements from the affected homeowners.
He told the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 5 that the project's estimated completion date is May 1.
Selectman David Bayne asked if the project would remediate the drainage issues.
"I am reluctant to use the word totally remediate," Steeger said. "It will remediate. History has shown us that even the most ambitious and extensive flood mitigation projects or drainage projects fail in terms of carrying capacity."
Steeger added that no matter what is done, there could be days with flooding, though it will be less likely after the project.
"It will be better than in the past," Steeger said.
No action was taken by the EPC following the public hearing.
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