United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Royal River Yarmouth, ME §206 Aquatic Restoration Project Updates
From Nat Tupper’s (Yarmouth Town Manager) Notes on Meeting with USACE. Present: Jane Cote (USACE Project Manager), Nat Tupper, Karin Orenstein (Yarmouth Town Council)
1. Ben Loyd (USACE) collected Royal River sediment samples the week of October 2 and those have been sent to the lab for analysis—about 30 days for test results. The Town requested a map of actual sampling locations be sent as well.
2. The town requested a video session (with public engagement) for the Corps to share findings on this aspect of the work in progress in the week of November 27- Dec 1 if findings are ready and the schedule permits; or early December if more time is needed.
3. A meeting between the 206 Project Delivery Team (PDT) and the ERDC [U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center] had been held this week and plans were being formulated and schedules coordinated for the ERDC to do its site visit in early November. The ERDC will look further at issues and data related to physical sediment and river conditions as well as adjoining tributaries.
4. The Corps is preparing a request for the Town to do additional probing of material/river conditions just upstream of the Elm Street dam to confirm or correct assumptions and understandings of the amounts and locations of fine-grained sediment as well as large cobble, gravel, or ledge bottom. This will help with cost estimating for removal and upland disposal of sediment before any work is done.
5. Janet will check back with Tom M [Tom Mihlbachler, USACE H&H Engineer] for a status update regarding the completion of the H&H modeling, subject to QA/QC review and verification.
6. Nat reported on findings related to ownership of the penstock with the mill owner and adjoining property owner.
7. The Town has contracted for engineering work to understand what action may be required regarding the granite block retaining wall at Grist Mill Park. It is understood that work on the dam(s) or fish ladder(s) upstream would have no impact on the wall and is not part of the 206 or Army Corps work. But the Town needed to have a structural assessment completed for public safety.
8. The group revisited and reaffirmed a prior understanding that in addition to dam removal (or not) options, that partial removal or modification of either or both dams and/or fish ladders could be considered if such option are effective at achieving habitat/aquatic restoration results, but all options are subject to determinations on a host of other important considerations including, but not limited to engineering/structural concerns, costs, aesthetics, historic references/preservation, public safety, impacts on and preferences of abutters, wetland and aquifer impacts, flooding and scouring concerns, recreational values, etc. The feasibility study is intended to identify and evaluate best options.
9. The Coordinated Site Visit of review agencies is still to be rescheduled- probably in November when more agencies can attend, and, in particular the NMFS [National Marine Fisheries] and the USFW [US Fish and Wildlife] staff.
10. We confirmed through Janet that the Aquatic Restoration (206) Study is maintaining close contact with the navigation division so that whatever action may be taken (if any) for restoration may be anticipated and coordinated with navigational maintenance.
11. Janet had sent a quarterly financial statement (federal and local funds drawdown statement) on the feasibility study to date and will provide us a future cash flow estimate soon.
From Nat Tupper’s Notes on Meeting with USACE. Present: Jane Cote, Nat Tupper, Karin Orenstein (Yarmouth Town Council), Heather Abbott (Yarmouth Town Council)
1. Janet Cote reported that Ben Loyd will visit next week to get sediment samples to test for pollutants in the Royal River. An updated sediment testing plan/map will be provided to the town. Janet’s expectation is that getting sample test results back from the labs generally requires about 30 days and thereafter Ben will need some time to review and consider those lab findings.
2. The ERDC (USACE Engineer Research Development Center) will be providing an assessment of sediment mobilization issues. No date was provided for when the assessment will be done.
3. Donnie Faughnan will lead a Coordinated Site Visit team (representatives of review and advisory agencies) to familiarize them with the sites.
4. The Corps’ Public Affairs Office staff will take the lead on scheduling, planning and moderating a public informational session which will be in the evening and by remote access. But not during Thanksgiving week.
From Nat Tupper’s Notes on Meeting with USACE. Present: Janet Cote, Nat Tupper, Karin Orenstein (Yarmouth Town Council), Heather Abbott (Yarmouth Town Council):
1. Members of the Project Delivery Team (PDT) visited Yarmouth on the morning of Sept. 6 and walked to view the East Elm Street dam, fishway, History Center, and St Lawrence and Atlantic trestle, Middle Falls, Beth Condon pedestrian bridge, Route 1 bridge, Bridge Street dam and fishway. The team drove to Grist Mill Park to view the falls and crossings, and then to the Harbor, MCRR trestle at Sligo Road, and finally Baston Park in North Yarmouth (at Route 9). USACE Team:Janet Cote – Project Manager/Planning, Parker Murray – Economics, Donnie Faughnan – Environmental, Grace Moses – Environmental, Tom Mihlbachler – H&H Engineering, Matt Fleming – Geotechnical Engineering, Marc Paiva – Cultural Resources, Kevin Hebard – Civil Engineering, and Mike Andryuk – Structural Engineering TOWN: Nat Tupper, Karin Orenstein, Clark Baston (North Yarmouth DPW)
2. A Coordinated Site Visit of the team is being scheduled for late October or early Nov. A public informational session is penciled in for early November if Ben Loyd has sediment sampling results analyzed by then.
3. Janet will provide some cash flow/drawdown projections for future planning. Nat will inquire if any additional benthic survey data for the upper reaches of the impoundment has been done (in addition to the Stantec findings).
From Nat Tupper’s Notes on Meeting with USACE. Janet Cote (Project Manager for the USACE) and Nat Tupper (Town Manager) meeting:
1. A virtual Agency Coordination Site Visit will be held Wed., August 29. Several State/Federal agencies are anticipated to check in, including USFWS, NMFS, USEPA, MEDOT, ME Dept. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Historic Preservation Offices (3), Native American Tribes/Nations (5).
2. Janet confirmed that sediment sampling will be discrete (not aggregated) samples, and to the extent that there is layering of sediment in the samples (cores), separate analysis will be done for the various layers. Janet reported the Corps’ determination that additional sampling in the impoundments is not necessary based on the amount of testing and analysis conducted [are reported] in prior studies, and because of the high degree of transport of suspended fines over the dam (Bridge St). Except for areas immediately upstream of the Elm Street dam, additional testing above Elm Street is not needed. Sediment transported downstream to areas immediately upstream of the dam will indicate contamination, if any. She will send a map of proposed sampling locations.
3. Janet will check back with Tom M (H/H Modeler) to give us a status update on completion of the draft model. Janet thought he may be only needing QA/QC review now, but she was not sure and will reach out to him. She was reminded that we are interested in five study findings related to the H/H model including: Scour, Flooding, Recreational Impacts, Archaeologic and Historic Resources, and Sediment Transport/Removal.
4. Post Meeting Addendum Note from Janet Cote: “I spoke with Tom about your questions on the H&H modeling. The model will be finalized when we develop the Tentatively Selected Plan (winter 2024). With regard to the considerations below, the H&H model will help to inform Tom and other members of the team on the impacts of the alternative on these topics. And they will be addressed in the feasibility report. For example, #4 archeological/historical sites. The H&H model will provide a predicted level of draw down on the river at different flow levels for each alternative that we are considering. Marc will take that information, and with the data provided from the Maine SHPO, will describe the impacts of each alternative on those resources.”
5. A stakeholder’s note of inquiry was forwarded to the Corps on August 18 includes a comment about ledge or other barriers to fish passage (other than the dams). That inquiry was acknowledged; the question is not new, and the Corps is aware of prior identification and projects associated with ledges and barriers (granite blocks). But the question was referred back to Donald Faughnan and the Project Team for consideration.
6. We confirmed our intention to wait for sediment sampling test results and analysis to schedule a public virtual meeting to share the still early findings and work to date.
7. Nat asked about removal of the penstock pipe which blocks access to the block retaining wall at 80 Bridge Street. We would like to determine if removal of the penstock can be incorporated into the project construction when/if any construction occurs which involves dam removal or alteration. Janet will review with the structural engineering and real estate team members. It is possible that it may have to be a 100% local sponsor project element, depending on whether or not its removal is deemed essential to the project scope.
From Nat Tupper’s Notes on Meeting with USACE. New USACE project manager Janet Cote has been hired for the Royal River Restoration project (FID 206) Mr. Rupp’s (USACE interim project manager) understanding was that the sediment sampling and analysis was not part of Phase 1 but would be a part of a subsequent phase. However, since there is no Project Management Plan in place yet, the question is largely academic as there is no disagreement as to the need for the work to be done. The essential difference is whether or not the Town’s initial payment was intended to cover the local cost share or not. Mr. Rupp could not determine from the files how Kristine Reed (original Project Manager) had arrived at her cost estimates and in which phase of the study the various tasks were to be accomplished. The Cost-Sharing Agreement between the Town and the Corps does establish the total estimated project cost and local vs federal shares. We agreed that a detailed Project Management Plan (PMP) would have been helpful to clarify the steps, sequences, tasks, schedules and projected costs, and is the customary way that the Corps approaches these studies. END
Byron Rupp (interim project manager) advises TM Nat Tupper (Town Manager) that data for the H/H model has been collected, they are moving forward with modeling, and he will have an update in mid-January.