FARMINGTON — While construction has not started on the project to stabilize the eroding riverbank along Whittier Road, town officials said they have already spent all they can afford on the project.

Town Manager Richard Davis told selectmen tonight that the project to fix the bank of the Sandy River near Whittier Road is estimated to cost between $262,000 and $371,000. The town is required to pay 25 percent of the project in order to get the remaining 75 percent through a matching grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Davis said that the town already spent around $76,000 and he said would be forced to call a special town meeting and ask the town for up to an additional $8,000, if the final project cost is much higher than $300,000.

“We’ve reached our maximum level of frustration with this project,” said Davis. “I’ve said repeatedly that we’ve already committed around $76,000 and that we have no more money to give.”

The town will not know the final cost for several weeks, until after a bid is accepted on the project.

An environmental consulting group estimated earlier in the year that the stabilization project will cost between $280,000 and $320,000.

Davis said there is no set date for construction to begin, but he estimates it will start late August and take 10 days to complete. The board expects to review and accept a contracting big at the next board of selectmen meeting Aug. 13.

The original project timeline from U.S. Forest Service, which is overseeing the project, estimated construction would take place July 29 and last to Aug. 9.

Davis said the estimated construction start date has continued to be pushed back while the town and the federal agencies involved negotiated a project design.

The town can build along the riverbank only between July 15 and Sept. 15, so as not to disrupt the endangered Atlantic salmon, which use the river as spawning ground.

He said all agencies involved are still confident they will complete the project this construction season.

Town officials have been eager to make progress on the project because there is an increased likelihood the river will swell and collapse the road or at least damage it enough for the town to close the section as a precautionary measure. The town has been trying to stabilize the bank, which has eroded to 30 feet from the road, since August 2011 when a storm caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long chunk of earth to fall into the river.

The bank had eroded to 30 feet from the road, and the stakes placed at the base of the road for stabilization have been washed away. He said every time the river rises and then recedes, it pulls more material from the bank and continues to destabilize it.

The town adopted a project that uses interwoven logs with the root base attached and boulders to create a strong base that would effectively remove the risk of the road collapsing from erosion. The project eventually will amass debris floating downstream and naturally add more material to the stabilized embankment.

Davis said a local contractor should be able to build the structure and the forest service would oversee the project.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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