SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen Tuesday night voted 5-0 to accept $88,649 in grant money from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the Whitten Brook watershed restoration project.

The money is a performance partnership grant generated through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to change the flow of storm water into the brook from upper Madison Avenue. The grant also will be used to improve the appearance of the town’s conservation area on Russell Road.

The goal is to reduce or eliminate pollutants, such as petroleum products, pet waste, road salt and lawn fertilizers that collect from storm water drains on Madison Avenue and flow into the headwaters of Whitten Brook. The plan is to reroute storm water from Madison Avenue, U.S. Route 201, while encouraging land and business owners to install grass and other vegetation to naturally filter water run off.

“They are looking at doing some demonstration projects on how homeowners and business owners can handle run off on their properties to reduce the pollutants coming from those areas,” said Jeff Hewitt, Skowhegan’s director of Economic and Community Development.

Whitten Brook flows from Russell Road through neighborhoods, under town streets and backyards, and finally winds it way into the Kennebec River near the main offices of Skowhegan Savings Bank on Elm Street.

It is one of only two or three urban wild brook trout streams in the state and is considered to be an “urban impaired” stream, according to a study begun in December 2010.

Hewitt said the town will match the grant money with $14,233 of in-kind work by his office doing the administration of the project, the finance office doing the accounting and the highway department doing the field-work administration.

Cash match from the town will come in the amount of $2,400 from the Conservation Commission’s capital reserve fund for loam, hay mulch and wildflower seed at the Russell Road site. Outside matching funds and work are to come from the state Department of Transportation, Somerset Soil and Water, the University of Maine Extension Service, from labor by young inmates at the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston and other organizations.

The Whitten Brook watershed covers about 300 acres, or about half a square mile, from Coburn Avenue to the state fairgrounds, then down Madison Avenue to Pleasant Street and finally to the river. A Whitten Brook Conservation Area was established on Russell Road a decade ago and is maintained as a nature preserve and recreation area.

Hewitt said another project in the area also will finally get some attention — an old oil spill that is filtering into the brook. Money for that project will come from a separate funding source, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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