Crews work on the culvert replacement project on Route 15 in Sedgwick. PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN WOISARD

Sedgwick culvert project back on track after rain delays

SEDGWICK — A project to replace a culvert on Route 15 to improve safety and restore alewife passage at Snows Brook is on track to be finished in two weeks, according to Maine Coast Heritage Trust officials.

A slow start worried everyone involved with the culvert replacement project, trust officials said in a press release.

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.

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

Strong Brewing Co., located at 7 Rope Ferry Road in Sedgwick, directly across from the end of the Mines Road, has been affected with reduced business.

“We need people to please take the extra few minutes and miles the detour adds to get to us to still come and support us,” said Mia Strong, who owns the business with husband Al, who is head brewer. Strong’s is open daily from noon to 7 p.m. There are food trucks on site daily.

The potential construction delay and the detour’s inconvenience brought the Board of Selectmen, contractors and Maine Coast Heritage Trust together to work on figuring out ways to get back on schedule without compromising the project. Increased crew sizes and working weekends helped Maine Earth get back on track despite the rain.

“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.

“Most construction projects in Maine that involve in-stream work are required to be constructed within a limited window, between July 15 and October 1st,” said 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. 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.”

“We understood that this project would impact people right in the height of summer and designed it to balance safety and speed of construction,” Blunt said. “The timing of any highway culvert replacement is inconveniently in the summer months because of 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,” Sheehan said.

John Devin, region engineer for Maine DOT, said, “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.

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