EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 12, 2013

Study points to more work for Pelham on flooding issue

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — A study of flooding in the Beaver Brook watershed is giving town officials a lot to consider.

It could lead to how bridges are constructed or rebuilt in the future, what building regulations are imposed in the watershed, floodplain revisions affecting homeowner insurance and even relations with neighboring Dracut.

But more study could be ahead, too.

That was a recommendation of consultant Matt Kennedy of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., which reviewed the watershed and longstanding flood problems in Pelham.

“This was a good first step,” Kennedy told selectmen recently.

Resident Mike Sherman, who has experienced flooding in his neighborhood, asked selectmen to build on the study.

“It has to be the beginning,” Sherman said.

The study highlighted how four bridges in Pelham and one in Dracut contribute to the problem.

Sherman said projects are planned involving two of the Pelham bridges.

“It has to be planned out,” he said. “It has to be done the right way or you’re going to hurt a lot of people who are on the brook.”

Planning Director Jeff Gowan said Kennedy’s presentation to selectmen was intended to make sure they at least had the high points of the study.

“This will require some chewing on,” Selectman William McDevitt said.

Selectmen’s Chairman Ed Gleason agreed with Sherman that the study can’t collect dust at Town Hall.

“I personally don’t want it to go into hiatus for a year,” Gleason said.

Gowan sees the key in future bridge work.

“How we approach that is really important,” he said.

Gleason is concerned that finances and politics could impede the effort, especially if Pelham has to deal with Dracut across the state border.

“I just don’t see that as a feasible approach,” he said.

But McDevitt cautioned against dismissing that possibility.

Selectman Robert Haverty said officials must be mindful of how updating floodplain maps could affect insurance expenses for homeowners in the watershed.

“We ought to be prepared to understand what that means to some residents,” Haverty said.

Sherman commended selectmen, Gowan and Town Administrator Tom Gaydos for launching a committee that included residents that led to the study.

Sherman said officials got a federal grant so local taxpayers didn’t have to carry the cost.

He said Pelham officials had helped to get something started to deal with the flooding problem.