Commission prepares to begin work on levee

Flood Control Commission Chairman Albert G. Giguere, Jr. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS PHOTO)

WESTFIELD – Reading a report from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) at the Flood Control Commission meeting on June 20, Commission Chair Albert G. Giguere, Jr. said it was evident that Westfield fared much better than surrounding cities and towns during the rain storms and high waters. He said the Westfield River did reach a minimum flood stage of 13.83 feet before it started to recede.
Westfield Emergency Management Director Steve Malochleb said Westfield was very lucky compared to surrounding communities, many of which declared emergencies due to road closures and washouts. He said MEMA is trying to assess the damages in the region, and that anyone who suffered basement flooding or flood-related damages may contact him at [email protected] or by leaving a message at 413-568-1222.
Malochleb also said he plans to set up a meeting to see what equipment the city has if flooding does occur. “We need to get prepared. We may not get so lucky next time around,” he said.
Giguere spoke about work that is about to begin on the Little River Levee, which he said was also up from the rains over the culverts. He said a lot of the debris that the FCC was looking to remove has been washed downstream. He also noted that there is 22.8 billion gallons of water sitting in Cobble Mountain reservoir over Westfield, and the Little River Levee is the city’s only hedge against it.
Giguere said he has been working with Conservation Coordinator Meredith Borenstein on the seven trees which have to be removed on the levee and the 9,000 feet that has to be maintained.
At the meeting, he said the simplest way to get the project moving was for him to go down and mark off the 9,000 square-feet work area himself, and have Borenstein approve it. Then the city contractor can come in and put in wattles for erosion control, before the FCC contractor Lubelczyk & Son begins their work to remove trees in the next couple of weeks. He said no tree roots will be removed.
Commissioner Mark Goodniss said he would join Giguere on the levee to mark off the area, as did Casey Berube, Public Works deputy superintendent.
Giguere also said the mayor requested an appropriation of nearly $120,000 for the taking of real estate by right of eminent domain for the Little River Levee. He said a portion of the levee was not acquired by the city after its construction was completed in 1956, and the FCC is working to correct this long standing program. The six parcels of property were identified through a survey requested by the FCC.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said the appropriation was sent to the Finance sub-committee for review. The Council next meets in August, and the appropriation will require two votes, taking approval to September, he said.

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