On November 10, 2021

Chittenden debates future of Wildcat Road, how to mitigate flooding

By Brett Yates

As Chittenden officials aim to determine whether the town must take major steps to deal with recurring flooding on Wildcat Road, a Nov. 8 Select Board meeting showed some disagreement among locals about the cause and extent of the problem, as well as resistance to the two potential solutions presented thus far.

“This project goes back to 2015,” Emergency Management Director Jan Sotirakis explained. “The reason we’re talking about it is because we have failing culverts, we have a road that isn’t built to standard, we have a road that’s not wide enough for traffic control, we have hydro segments that are causing pollution in the water, and we just have general concerns about what happens when that area floods. That road is the first road that the highway crew looks at when we have heavy rain events.”

In 2019, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission used a $35,000 grant from the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water Initiative to hire consultants to study Wildcat Road, at no cost to the town of Chittenden. Earlier this year, Enman Kesselring Consulting Engineers, in partnership with Fitzgerald Environmental Associates, finished their analysis, proposing two possible courses of action: raising the road or relocating it.

One segment of the existing road has “a 50% chance of flooding in any given year,” engineer Nicole Kesselring noted. “The culverts are all undersized in that area. In some places, where culverts should be, they’re missing altogether. And almost all of them are plugged to such a degree that they’re really hindering movement of water from one side of the road to the other.”

Larger culverts would require raising a portion of the roadway more than 4 feet above its existing elevation. If the town shifted its location instead, smaller culverts might do the job, and the local ecosystem could also benefit from a reconnection of what Kesselring termed “a segregated wetland with a road running in the middle.” But to establish a new right-of-way, the town would have to purchase adjacent land from the U.S. Forest Service and a private property owner.

Sotirakis emphasized that Chittenden would have to take some kind of action if it wanted to save Wildcat Road. “We have to decide whether we’re going to fix the road or let it fail,” she summarized.

But not everyone appeared to share her sense of urgency. Along with his sister, Ken Smith co-owns 50 acres on either side of Wildcat Road, which, by his account, he uses weekly to access an old sugar shack that he’s in the process of rebuilding into a cabin. He declared that he would likely oppose a plan to reroute the road onto his land.

“My grandfather purchased the land in 1935. The road there now is better than it’s ever been. I see much less flooding than I used to see,” he said. “I’m just not seeing the big issue and the need for putting all this money into this road. I kind of don’t get it.”

The town hasn’t yet ascertained how much money, exactly, it might spend on Wildcat Road.

“At this stage, we have nothing to spend for this project,” Sotirakis acknowledged. “Our current roadway budget would not be able to support the amount of money that you’re going to need to be able to do this. The only way you’re going to be able to do this is through a grant.”

Vermont Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) could fund up to 75% of the scoping and planning processes that would yield a final design for an improved Wildcat Road that would meet FEMA’s standards, according to Sotirakis. Subsequently, Chittenden would have to find yet another grant to help pay for the construction, which would take place possibly in 2023.

A Wildcat Road resident bristled at the 25% local match required by the HMGP grant. “Chittenden should not pay one dime,” he contended. “The federal government has created this problem.”

In his view, significant flooding began with the U.S. Forest Service’s 2010 reconstruction of the dam at nearby Lefferts Pond, which caused an explosion in the local population of beavers, who’ve in turn constructed dams of their own, flooding the wetland around Wildcat Road.

“The water has backed up in there and allowed the beavers to get up in there and multiply,” the resident observed. “I’ve lived in this town since 1960. This area never used to flood like this.”

“What I want to say is that people up on Wildcat Road do not want the road raised. We do not want the road relocated,” he said. “The simple solution is to relocate the beavers.”

The resident’s conclusion clashed with that of engineer, who had presented raising or relocating the road as the only two feasible solutions. “One or the other has to happen to improve the situation out there,” Kesselring stated.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Robert Hecker appointed to Killington Select Board

May 15, 2024
By Curt Peterson Robert Hecker has been appointed to take Steve Finneron’s seat on the Killington Select Board. The announcement came after an executive session Monday night May 13. The position lasts until next Town Meeting Day vote, when voters will choose the person to fulfill the remaining year of Finneron’s term.  Hecker was one…

Town resolves eminent domain 

May 15, 2024
Deal with landowner called ‘win-win’ By Polly Mikula The town of Killington will not pursue an eminent domain hearing scheduled for May 20, having recently resolved the case with the landowner.  Eva Nagymihaly and her sister, Theresa Rust, own land on the east side at the base of Killington Road to the intersection with Route…

Logging company fined for wetland and water quality impacts in Bridgewater, Thetford

May 15, 2024
The Agency of Natural Resources Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) announced May 8 that Thomson Timber Harvesting and Trucking LLC (Thompson Timber), a company that performs logging activities in Vermont, was fined $32,550 for violating the Vermont Wetland Rules and failing to follow acceptable management practices (AMPs) for…

Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum celebrates expansion

May 15, 2024
By Polly Mikula Saturday, May 11, Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum held a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Merchants Row downtown. While the museum relocated to its current location (66 Merchants Row) last spring, this was the first time the organization has celebrated that expansion. The move allowed Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum to tripled in size with new…