LINCOLN – Recently installed erosion control measures at the Whipple-Cullen development seem to be doing their job as intended, preventing another deluge of water and debris from escaping the construction zone and flowing downhill into abutting properties.
The town and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management have been involved with the 55-and-older condo development across from Town Hall since July when heavy rains washed silt and debris into Quinnville.
The developer agreed to install new erosion controls, expand retention basins, and help repair the damage.
David D’Amico, who was retained as a third-party engineer to help oversee the development on Old River Road, updated the Planning Board Aug. 31 on the status of the improved systems and the work to this point.
In July, he said, the town saw three or four inches of rain, placing the systems at around the 10-year storm level of rain intensity.
“That’s right at the limit that we essentially have to design our temporary soil erosion system,” he said, meaning the unexpected rainfall levels pushed the town and DEM-approved system over its limits.
Though D’Amico said the RIDEM “goes through soil erosion plans with a fine-tooth comb,” the plans may not have accurately predicted how the water would flow once the trees were cleared from the top of the hill.
He said the developer, Ken Bock, responded quickly to all issues raised. The developer has increased the size of the retention basins on-site, increasing their capacity from handling a 10-year storm to a 100-year storm.
“It looked really solid,” D’Amico said, adding that the last storm brought about an inch and a half of rainfall with essentially no impact to the system.
“The way it’s set up right now, everything should be able to be contained,’’ he said.
Planning Board Chairman Ken Bostic said the goal is to move forward successfully, asking D’Amico to return to the board every three months for project updates.
“We don’t want to go backwards. We want you to be able to hang your hat on this thing,” he said. “You’re the second set of eyes making sure everything’s going the way it’s supposed to.”
Bostic mentioned that the area was set for “about a month’s worth of rain” last Thursday as a result of Hurricane Ida.
“Are you confident that the neighbors over in Quinnville won’t get flooding like they did?” he asked. “Should we be doing something else there?”
D’Amico indicated that the updated soil erosion plan with upgraded catch basins and silt fencing would be able to handle the rain. He said he couldn’t definitively predict whether water might someday overflow the system, but didn’t anticipate it happening.
“I really think he’s trying to do as much as he can at this point to prevent what happened in July,” he said.
Town Engineer Leslie Quish noted that Hurricane Ida would be the ultimate test to see whether the new controls will work.
John “Zachary” Fenner, who lives downhill from the Whipple-Cullen development, told The Breeze this week that they’ve seen improvements.
Fenner and his next-door neighbor endured the bulk of the damage when heavy water and debris pushed down from the Whipple-Cullen development this summer.
“It seems that the new basin they installed, which is enormous, is definitely doing its job,” he said. Aside from the usual flow of water expected during large storms, he said they haven’t had another experience like they did in July. The water seems to be finding new paths through the woods and around homes, he said.
“It’s not coming through our yard, which is good, he said.
Crews came to his property last week, working from the top of the hill downward to clear sand and debris. Fenner said he’s happy that the parties involved followed through on their promises to make it right.
D’Amico said his firm has been conducting “sporadic” inspections of the overall project in conjunction with the engineer of record, essentially double-checking that the work is done as planned and following proper construction procedures.
“I do want to say, based on going out there personally and my inspector, a retired Department of Transportation inspector who is very keen on these types of projects, that we feel the work is quality work and following the standards applicable,” he said.