Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
NEW BOSTON — Portsmouth Wastewater Director Richard Duncan paid a special visit to New Boston Village Council during their regular meeting on Tuesday, to give the village an update on the city’s floodwall certification and sewer maintenance progress that also affects the village.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced their new certification requirement in 2010 to cities and communities across the United States. Because the New Boston and Portsmouth floodwall is connected, they are evaluated as one system. If either New Boston or Portsmouth fail to pass certification, they both would fail. Neither New Boston nor Portsmouth completed their repairs before the FEMA deadline in April 2011.
New Boston announced in November 2012 that their end of the work was complete and ready for certification, but Portsmouth was still working on its upgrades. The delay could jeopardize both communities. The city originally contracted the work with Howerton Engineering, but later switched to AMEC Engineering — whom the village also used. Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas told the Daily Times in May that the two engineering firms were trying to agree on a report to deliver to FEMA.
Duncan came to New Boston Village Council on Tuesday to deliver a report from the city.
“AMEC is doing some second opinion work on our levee. Fortunately they are the same firm that New Boston used to certify your floodwall. They have been on site and they’re going to be there tomorrow (Wednesday) doing some drilling to do some test holes and install some pressure gauges. They should be all done with their survey work by the week of July 8. By the week of Aug. 2, they plan to complete the analysis of their samples and prepare plans and specifications and submit those to the Corps. of Engineers for their approval. We hope to receive approval from the Corps. of Engineers within four weeks. That would be early September. Then we’ll bid the project out. Then in early October we’ll open bids, and we hope to complete construction by mid-November,” Duncan said.
He said the city is installing two wells to relieve pressure beneath the levee, for a cost of about $200,000.
“During this process, we’re going to be getting with the other engineers (Howerton) and trying to coordinate the final report that we will make to FEMA. Our plan is, when the construction work is complete on these relief wells, we’ll be able to certify the whole levee at one time and we will present that to FEMA sometime in November,” Duncan said. “I know your levee is already ready to be certified and we’ll be able to submit that jointly and have the whole thing certified at that time.”
He said it was “unfortunate” that the city was “holding up” the village certification, but assured council that FEMA has not yet begun its decertification process — which will take 18-24 months while FEMA draws and distributes new flood maps. If the floodwall is de-certified on those new maps, flood insurance for residents in New Boston and Portsmouth would sharply increase. Duncan said he believes the city will be complete by November, long before those new maps are released, to avoid the rate increase.
“If we are able to keep to our schedule, which I’m sure we will, we will complete our certification well before de-certification can take place on the levee,” Duncan said.
New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton said the decertification process actually did already begin last year, but FEMA is backed-up and has not yet gotten to the city and village system. Duncan said the city has not received any communication from FEMA indicating that decertification has begun.
After discussing the floodwall, Duncan switched topics to the Portsmouth and New Boston sewers.
The village is currently working on a $4.3 million sewer project to eliminate sewer overflows into the river, and come into compliance with state and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. During a village council meeting on May 7, Hamilton mentioned one problem adding to the backups is a blockage in a city sewer line on U.S. 52 that causes flooding on portions of Gallia Street in New Boston. Hamilton said the city was made aware of the problem more than two years ago, and still has not fixed it.
Hamilton’s comments at that May meeting are what brought Duncan to the council meeting on Tuesday to address the village’s concerns.
“That storm line is blocked with a lot of debris. When this was brought to my attention back in May after not having gotten it resolved before, I did some research and we sent a city crew up there to try to clean that line out and see what the condition of that line was. We spent several days with a vacuum truck and we cleaned it down to here,” Duncan said, pointing to an area on a map of sewers.
Duncan said the city will install a bar screen to stop gravel and litter from getting into the line. He and Hamilton agreed to work together to keep it running clean from both the city and village ends of the line.
“If he puts that bar screen in there to stop that gravel, and we still clean it out, I think that will be good. That will stop the water from going on onto (U.S.) 52,” Hamilton said.
Council thanked Duncan for coming to the meeting to discuss these issues with the village.
The New Boston Village Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The next meeting will be 7 p.m. July 2, beginning with a public hearing to discuss the 2014 village budget before council gives its final reading. Before the meeting on July 2, the village will host another public meeting at the village community center at 5 p.m. to discuss their proposed sewer plan.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.