Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fundraising may help save Colchester Causeway

From Burlington Free Press:
Two fishermen pick their way past a badly damaged part of the Colchester Causeway on Saturday. Record spring flood´ing severely eroded the recreation path.

COLCHESTER — The future of the badly damaged Colchester Causeway is in doubt after two months of punishing Lake Champlain floods and waves, but efforts are starting to rebuild the popular recreation trail.
The causeway is a former railroad bed extending into Lake Champlain from Colchester 2.75 miles toward South Hero. Another half-mile section is on the other side of a short stretch of open water in South Hero.

The long-lasting, record lake flood this spring has severely eroded the causeway. Cost estimates for repairs are not available yet, and nobody is sure from where the money will come to fix it. The causeway will remain closed for most, if not all, of the summer and fall, bike advocates said.

The causeway is owned by the town of Colchester and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. The state and town are seeking money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Causeway Repairs.

Vermont is seeking a disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for extensive flooding on rivers and Lake Champlain that started in April and continued through May. FEMA officials toured the causeway two weeks ago as they inspected flood damage in Vermont.
If FEMA comes through with repair money, Colchester and the state would likely have to come up with local matching funds, said Chapin Spencer, director of Local Motion, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group that has been extensively involved in development and promotion of the causeway.

Spencer said he hopes to meet with Colchester and state officials this week to discuss starting a charitable fundraising drive to help the town and state produce any matching funds FEMA requires. He said he hopes to plot strategy even before the lake flood fully recedes.

“For Fish and Wildlife and Colchester, this is an unanticipated expense. We might be able to substantially close the gap on the local match,” Spencer said.

The destruction on the causeway is extensive.

Saturday, a few people ventured out onto the badly damaged causeway, despite signs warning people away. The first 200 yards or so of the causeway had relatively minor damage, but after that, waves had taken large bites out of the gravel path. In some places, waves eroded the entire path away. Remaining sections were littered with thousands of jagged rocks the size of golf balls and baseballs.
More here.

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