BELFAST — After severe storms in other parts of the country caused major flooding events, two members of the Climate Crisis Committee put together a report on the potential for floods in Belfast — shortly afterward, the city had a flooding event of its own.
Fred Bowers, a member of the committee, stated that most of the report examines the current water retention system and culvert infrastructure within the city. He also recommends upgrading it as necessary. Bowers and Jerry Brand, a fellow member of the committee, drafted this report.
Bowers stated that much of the drainage infrastructure was constructed many years ago. The committee doesn’t have any design records about the type of storms they were designed to withstand. The city’s storm systems could be overwhelmed in the future, given that more frequent intense storms are predicted. The report advises the city to evaluate the infrastructure’s ability to withstand an increase of intense storms.
The area between Route 3 and Lincolnville Avenue, where H&R Block, Dunkin’, McDonalds and many other businesses are located, is a region of concern because of its relatively low position compared to its surroundings, Bowers said. Areas with more roof runoff and pavement tend to have more runoff.
Belfast received 5 to 6 inches of rain in six hours, just after the report was completed. He said that some parts of the city were flooded, including an area around Route 1 and Lincolnville Avenue. One section of Route 1 was flooded on the west side Memorial Bridge. It is not clear why. Sometimes, flooding can occur when drains become clogged with debris.
“When we saw that had happened, that was exactly the kind of unexpected inundation we were worried about, and we still don’t know why that happens,” Bowers said.
He stated that the committee wants to work with Public Works Department to address flooding issues and identify problem areas. They use storms to rake drains, and clean up areas washed out.
He stated that the report also calls for inspections at overflow pump stations as well as culverts. This is especially important for stormwater delivery to the bay. Low-lying culverts that drain into the bay could cause water back up in parts of the city when there are storm surges.
The committee found that there was a 20%-24% increase in storm severity in Waldo County between 1961 and 2008. This was according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The committee concluded that storm severity has been increasing since 2008, despite not having hard data.
The Passagassawakeag River’s 76.7-square-mile watershed is not listed in the report as a potential source of flooding from intense storms. It is steeply channeled, with floodplains that don’t densely built. The committee recommends more analysis to assess the danger. It suggests that the river be included as a potential source to tidal floods.
Because of unevaluated risks, the report doesn’t consider the Little River and Goose River watersheds. The Little River dams are older and it is not clear if they can withstand a major flood surge. The city is advised to review safety records and engineering studies for each river.
The report was prompted partly by severe storms that struck the country in recent weeks.
Mike Hurley, City Councilor of the City, asked the committee to investigate possible issues if the city experiences significant precipitation such as rain that is 3 inches per hour or 17 in one day. Accordingly to the report.
Late this summer in New Brunswick, New Jersey — Hurley’s home state, Hurricane Ida brought devastating floods with a record rainfall causing the Raritan River to flood and kill several people, according to an NPR article. It was the state’s second-deadliest storm on record, according to a New York Times story.
Bower stated that the city has been fixing stormwater system whenever sewers from wastewater treatment systems need to be replaced. Bower recommended that the city identify problems and apply for federal and state grants to help cover the cost of stormwater drainage system upgrades.