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Gorham homeowners get protection from raging river

Special to the Union Leader

October 17. 2012 12:19AM
Couture Constuction works on the river bank stabilization project on the Peabody River in Gorham on Oct. 11. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX)
GORHAM - Several homeowners who live along the Peabody River and lost land during Tropical Storm Irene are now better protected against the next high-water, high-velocity flooding, thanks to the Natural Resources Conservation Services' Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program projects that have shored up the riverbank behind their homes.

The program provides technical and financial assistance 'These are river stabilization projects,' Gorham town manager Robin Frost said Tuesday. She said some property owners lost up to 15 feet off their backyards from the flooding. The properties affected were on White Birch Lane and Glen Road (Route 16).

Frost said Couture Construction, the contractor performing the work, has brought in a lot more material to the already very rocky river. Frost said that for some of the work Couture was using a bin-type of stabilization to prevent further erosion at the sites.

The town is the applicant for the EWP program. The preliminary figures for the three projects put the total cost of the work at almost $400,000, with the Natural Resources Conservation Services program paying 75 percent, and the homeowners responsible for the rest.

'We sign an agreement with them,' Frost said, 'and they owe the town 25 percent.'

Taking part in the projects are Richard Orsillo of 4 White Birch Lane, Stephen and Carol Romano of 121 Glen Road, and Bernard and Rena Keenan, 127 Glen Road. Among the three, they will owe the town over $130,000 for the work done to protect their properties. Each lot is under two acres, so the work also protects their homes.

Sections of White Birch Lane washed out when the waters breached a berm and jumped the bank, rushing down the road in front of, and in some cases into, the houses. The road was reconstructed earlier this year, and the berm replaced, with the town using funds from FEMA to pay for most of the work.

On the EWP project, Frost said NRCS staff, in particular engineers Ed Hansalik and Jeff Tenley, did a tremendous amount of the legwork, and that an NRCS engineer inspects the work daily. 'They've been great,' she said. NRCS procured the wetlands permits necessary for the project.

The Peabody River starts high up in the Presidential Range, and drains the Great Gulf Wilderness. Several of its tributaries start above 5,000 feet, and by the time the river reaches the residential sections of Gorham, it has dropped 4,000 feet in elevation.

The EWP program is not for individuals, but is meant to help groups, with the projects sponsored by local or state government entities.

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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at

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