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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 5, 2021
Despite heavy rains, Sedgwick roadway construction aiming for timely completion

The culvert replacement project

The culvert replacement project at Snows Brook on Route 15.

Photo courtesy of Ken Woisard Photography

A slow start worried everyone involved with the culvert replacement project at Snows Brook on Route 15. The construction company Maine Earth set up and started on time, but then had to search outside of Maine for additional available pumps to handle the water levels from July’s heavy rainfalls.

“At the first week’s progress meeting for this project, much of what we talked about was water levels and rain slowing the work,” said Sedgwick selectman Michael Sheehan in a press release from Maine Coast Heritage Trust, one of the project partners.

Most construction projects in Maine that involve in-stream work are required to be constructed within a limited window, between July 15 and October 1, according to Robert Blunt, project engineer for VHB, the engineering firm that designed the project. “That means that around the state, many other culvert and bridge projects are all being constructed in that short time period,” Blunt said. “July’s record rainfall in Maine’s coastal towns added the complication of dealing with high water to many of these projects, including this one.”

While there has been great local support for this project, the town of Sedgwick, Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Coast Heritage Trust have all also been hearing complaints about the detour, and are aware of the impacts on residents, commuters, transporters and businesses.

The possible construction delay and the detour’s inconvenience brought the Sedgwick Select Board, contractors and MCHT together to work on figuring out ways to get back on schedule without compromising the project. Despite early setbacks due to the rainiest July in over 100 years, hard work, increased crew sizes and working weekends have helped Maine Earth get back on schedule.

“We understood that this project would impact people right in the height of summer and designed it to balance safety and speed of construction,” said Blunt. “The timing of any highway culvert replacement is inconveniently in the summer months because of the instream work window and paving requirements, and this project is no exception. Closing the road and detouring traffic likely cut the project duration in half and reduced costs.”

“This project will stabilize and improve a main roadway in our town, and would have required state tax dollars to rehabilitate an aging and undersized culvert, if the organizations who cared about its other role, the passing of fish, hadn’t stepped up and brought the grant funding to the table,” said Sheehan.

John Devin, Region Engineer for the MDOT, added, “Transportation infrastructure in Maine and across the country is aging, and maintenance and improvements have been underfunded for a long time. This Municipal Partnership Initiative project was a great way to partner to save taxpayers money on a transportation infrastructure project that needed to get done.”

While important for traffic safety, this project is also about fish passage, and is one of the priorities identified by the peninsula’s Three Town Alewife Committee, working for the past few years with a set of partner organizations and agencies on restoring fish passage throughout the watershed including the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and The Nature Conservancy of Maine. Funding for this project comes from three grant sources.