WHITEFIELD — Commuters and residents who live on Route 194 may have to take some serious detours next summer.

Eleven bridge and culvert sites are slated for rehabilitation around the state; one is a twin 48-inch-by-112-foot culvert running below the road halfway between Jewett and Fowles roads.

The project is expected to shut down Route 194 to all through traffic between Whitefield Center and Head Tide.

The metal culvert pipes, which the Maine Department of Transportation fears may be deteriorating, will be replaced by a 10-foot-wide, eight-foot-high concrete canal box spanning 114 feet below the road. Workers will have to either dig 4 feet deeper than the existing culvert — or raise the road to accommodate the difference.

The change is to facilitate water flow from nearby fresh-water wetlands to the Sheepscot River, according to a public notice issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lead agency on the project.

While many of the 11 proposed sites raised environmental concerns regarding essential fish habitats for Atlantic salmon, all sites were evaluated and approved.

Matt Dunlap, a former secretary of state and former interim director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said it’s unknown whether the Sheepscot holds breeding salmon, as most Atlantic salmon are found in coastal rivers, streams and tributaries in the eastern half of the state.

Dunlap said chemical runoff would be harmful to the short-nosed sturgeon which have been frequently spotted in the Kennebec and Sheepscot rivers.

While the project most likely will not irritate the fish population in the Sheepscot, it almost certainly will provide ample irritation for local residents.

According to Philip Russell, who lives almost adjacent to the site, residents on the north side of the dig will have to drive to Whitefield Center and then back down Route 218 to simply get to Alna, 3 miles away, and points south.

Those living on the south side of the project will have to add up to 10 miles to any commute north.

“They’ll have to go all the way around the horn,” said Russell.

While the approval permit allows up to five years to complete the project, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Latti said a full project plan and timeline will be in place to begin the project soon after it is funded.

John Burbank is a Kennebec Journal correspondent who lives in Jefferson.

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