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Clean up efforts begin in Bennington, Southern VT

August 29, 2011

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON – Southern Vermont awoke to receding flood waters Monday but damage from raging rivers caused by Irene’s rains on Sunday is widespread. President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont Monday because of the statewide devastation.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Michael Dubie are scheduled to tour the region by helicopter today.

The Roaring Branch in Bennington was about 25 feet wider Monday morning, cutting into the north side of the river near the Brooklyn Bridge. Highway crews worked Sunday to stabilize a floodwall on the south side where two large sink holes emerged, threatening its integrity.

Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said the emergency declaration by the president will allow the town to seek 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government. Hurd said work on the flood wall will likely exceed $2 million. Cleaning up the river and shoring up the banks will require “months or longer,” he said.

Necessary road work will have “an incredible impact on this year’s budgets,” Hurd said. “The highway budget will probably suffer dramatically, initially,” he said.

The town of Bennington was tapping a 3 million gallon water tank on Chapel Road for water after the mainline from the water filtration plant in Woodford snapped under a collapsed bridge on Route 9. The tank, and Morgan Springs, is expected to provide water for about two days. A temporary water line may be possible across the remaining parts of the bridge, according to Hurd.

He said Bennington residents should conserve as much water as possible. There is no need to boil water, however.

Town officials were consulting state agency of transportation officials about the possibility of a temporary span over the Roaring Branch in Woodford. The road is a major artery in and out of Benningtonon on the east side of the town.

Several other bridges remained closed Monday, including Park Street, Silk Road and the Brooklyn Bridge. Engineers will need to assess their integrity before they can be reopened, Hurd said.

All of the area’s covered bridged survived the high waters. The Silk Road Bridge sustained water about two feet up its side, according to Hurd.

Stores were beginning to reopen. The Price Chopper was open Monday morning, and the Hannaford grocery store was in the process of reopening. Officials were also working to close down a Red Cross shelter at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School that housed 190 people at its peak, Hurd said.

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