WILLIAMSTOWN -- Director of Public Works Timothy Kaiser explained just how dire The Spruces Mobile Home Park's flooding potential is at this week's Affordable Housing Committee meeting.
"I don't believe there's a legal, technically feasible, financially feasible way to provide a level of protection that would be safe enough so people can continue to live there," Kaiser told the committee.
Kaiser used a United States Geological Survey map from 1984 to demonstrate how over two thirds of the park would lie under four to six feet of water in a 100-year storm. Black lines outlined the floodway, representing that the river would grow over five times wider.
Under normal conditions, Kaiser said, the river flows at 100 cubic feet per second (cfs). During Irene, the peak flow was 12,900 cfs. A 100-year storm, Kaiser explained, the river could reach as much as 30,000 cfs.
Kaiser said the idea of building a flood-control chute, as the Army Corps of Engineers did in Adams and North Adams in the 1950s, would never be allowed.
"You're talking about the wholesale destruction of the entire riverbed, which can't be done," he said at Tuesday's meeting. "It's not permissible under today's regulations."
In addition, Kaiser said such a project would be expensive -- he estimated it would require up to $20 million in concrete alone, and funding it would be difficult.
"Anytime you deal with people who have the money to fund a project like that, you need to demonstrate the benefit outweighs the cost," he explained. The homes' value don't come close to the tens of millions of dollars needed for constructing flood chutes, he said.
The meeting also featured two engineers from Guntlow & Associates, who presented a site concept for an affordable housing neighborhood on the Lowry property. Julie Sniezek and Charles LaBatt presented a 40-unit site plan taking up roughly a third of the 30.6 acre property, with access granted by a 50-foot-wide piece of land off of Stratton Road. The plan, which Sniezek stressed was purely conceptual, would leave about 12 acres of open land and eight acres of wooded area remaining.
"It certainly offers an ability to have a trail network, and allows agricultural activities to continue," Sniezek said. "It's hidden and tucked away from the adjacent residences as much as possible."
In other business, the committee accepted Development Cycle's bid for $8,500 for a housing needs assessment. The Affordable Housing Trust will pay $1,650, the amount needed to assess the Lowry Property.
Yamamoto updated the committee on contamination at the PhoTech and old town garage sites. Mass Development has approved further assessment of an area of interest on the riverbank at the PhoTech site, she said. An area of interest is one where there is some substance they think should be removed.
Yamamoto said that contaminant in this case is silver.
"Since the contamination was found, we're obligated to clean it up," Yamamoto said.
Soil sample testing at the old town garage site on 59 Water St. was completed on Nov. 30, Yamamoto said, and the committee is waiting for laboratory results. The next meeting of the Affordable Housing Committee is Wednesday, Jan. 2.
To reach Edward Damon, email