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Guilford, Conn., Officials Get Funds to Make Dam Repairs, Road Renovations

Wed September 13, 2023 - Northeast Edition #21
CT Examiner

The Board of Selectmen in Guilford, Conn., unanimously approved a resolution Aug. 21 to receive $3.5 million in grant money from the state to fund repairs to Lake Quonnipaug Dam and renovate the roadway that runs over the culvert that the dam spills into, connecting Conn. Highway 77/Durham Road with Hoop Pole Road and Lake Drive.

The dam sits at the south end of the lake, where spillover water from the lake flows through the culvert and into the West River, ultimately leading to Guilford Harbor.

Janice Plaziak, the town engineer, said that stones in the Lake Quonnipaug Dam are shifting, causing water to overflow and wash over nearby roads.

"The downstream culverts are severely undersized," she told CT Examiner.

Renovation of the area will include refurbishing the dam with new stonework and a metal barrier, she explained, as well as replacing the three 36-in. diameter culverts that run under where Hoop Pole Road and Lake Drive cross.

Plaziak added that building the dam higher to retain a 100-year flood is not feasible.

"It would cause a backup of water and flood upstream properties," she said. "We have to control the overflow during high storm events and make sure it doesn't erode and spill into the culverts."

With its current culverts being so small, Guilford wants to replace them with three box culverts, Plaziak told the local news source. Their exact size has not yet been determined, but she said they will be "significantly bigger than 36-in. pipes."

Roadway Intersection Also Needs Redesign

The town's improvement project expands beyond just restoring the dam and the culverts.

It also includes reworking the entire crossing of Hoop Pole Road and Lake Drive so that it becomes a perpendicular intersection crossing the West River. Currently, the two roads create an "X" pattern attaching to Durham Road in separate locations and at acute angles.

In order to do the necessary road work, the Guilford bought adjoining property in front of the dam on Durham Road for $225,000.

"The town purchased this parcel about a year and a half ago before it went into foreclosure because we were planning for this project," Plaziak said. "There's a house there, and we found out it has some historical significance."

She added that Guilford is planning to work with Connecticut's State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the project's impact on the house while making the interconnecting roads safer and less prone to flooding.

"We're trying to take these two skewed-leg intersections and combine them into one, so it's a little safer and more direct," Plaziak noted. "These intersections with [Durham Road] aren't ideal as [drivers] have to look over [their] shoulder."

She added, "Part of the mitigation for preventing the roads from flooding is not just reorienting the horizontal alignment of the road, but also elevating the road so it does not flood on a regular basis."

Plaziak and her fellow engineers will likely also have to rebuild and raise a section of Durham Road so that it does not flood as well.

Plans Call for $3.5M Project to Start in 2025

The overall budget for the dam and road project is $3.5 million, which the grant would cover, but Plaziak said the town has allocated $300,000 for engineering and design costs which started before the grant money was received, as well as the cost for the property along Durham Road.

Town officials are hoping to break ground on the dam repairs and road upgrades in 2025, a project that will likely take up that year's construction season from April to October.

The next phase of the project is speaking with consultants from both the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) and the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Plaziak said, the latter of which administered the grant and has oversight over dams in the state.

"We have to run all that through them," she explained to CT Examiner. "Once we've met with the two state agencies, we'll be doing some public outreach to inform [folks about] the project [and] what our preliminary plan is, along with taking public input to make the project even better."

To do so, Guilford officials will be reaching out to community groups like Friends of Lake Quonnipaug, which is active in the area. These public information events should happen within the next six months, according to Plaziak.

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