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Army Corps Rejects Spruces' Request for Flood Project
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
11:34AM / Tuesday, April 02, 2013
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The flood control chute in North Adams looking west toward Williamstown on the day Tropical Storm Irene struck. The Army Corps of Engineers, which built the chutes, has rejected a request to study ways to mitigate flooding at the Spruces.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Any chance of the Army Corps of Engineers addressing flooding concerns at Spruces Mobile Home Park ended Monday.

In a letter to the Selectmen dated March 29, Thomas J. Hodson, chief of the Plan Formulation Branch of the Corps' New York District Office, said the continual flooding of the park was a "single owner problem" that could not be recommended for federal investment. The park is still owned by Morgan Management, which rents the lots.

"The Corps will not recommend adoption of a federal project, or include as a separable element in a recommended structural project plan, flood control improvements which would soley benefit the private property of a single owner," Hodson wrote.

The Selectmen had queried the Corps in January on behalf of residents at Spruces who are facing the loss of their homes in the park in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. Irene, in August 2011, caused massive flooding that severely damaged or destroyed two-thirds of the manufactured homes.

The town has been awarded a $6 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to buy the park, demolish it and relocate the residents. The plan has run into opposition from park residents and neighbors of the relocation property.

Representatives of the Save The Spruces group believe that two streams running across Main Street are primarily responsible for the flooding; town officials consistently stated the Hoosic River overflowed its banks. The river registered the third-highest crest on record (13.75 feet, or nearly 5 feet over flood level) the day of Irene, and flooded areas upstream and downstream from the park as well.

The possibility of the Corps investigating and, perhaps, improving flood control along the river — it's not clear how it would have addressed streams on the other side — had been raised repeatedly since the flooding.

The Corps built the massive flood control channels in both Adams and North Adams some 60 years ago but they did not extend into Williamstown.

While the Corps could not recommend a project, it could do a watershed study of the area. But Hodson said no funding is available for such a study.

"To date, however, no federal funds have been provided to this office that would allow us to initiate such a study," he wrote.

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