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Cmr. Bald, Supervisor Wagner meet with local officials

September 14, 2011
GORHAM — The collaborative effort between the U. S. Forest Service and state agencies to ensure that the impact of Tropical Storm Irene is minimized for businesses during the upcoming foliage season was described on Wednesday at an area meeting for Androscoggin Valley municipalities.

Commissioner George Bald of Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner, each accompanied by key supporting personnel, said they had jointly decided to close state parks and the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) in advance of the storms.

The restoration, repair and cleanup efforts are also being scheduled collaboratively in an effort to attract individual leaf-peepers as well as those on foliage tour bus trips.

Lori Harnois, who heads up DRED's Division of Travel and Tourism, was on hand to say that not only was work going forward to ready northern New Hampshire to welcome tourists but that the state agency was also spreading the word so those who had read about the storm's effect on roads and bridges would understand that the Granite State is eager to put out the welcome mat. September, October, and November make up the state's second largest tourist season, Harnois explained. "We're reaching out with Vermont and Maine to send out a consistent message," she said.

Four state roads that cross the WMNF — Route 16, Rte. 302, the Kancamagus Highway, and Route 49 in the Waterville Valley — were heavily damaged.

Chad Miller, Gorham's Emergency Management Director, used a PowerPoint presentation to show the kind of damage that the Peabody and Moose Rivers caused in Gorham and the Unincorporated Place of Green's Grant. Supervisor Wagner said that about 14 inches of rain had fallen on the north-facing slopes of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, turning boney brooks and rivers into raging torrents.

After outlining for town officials and businesses how to go about listing themselves as potential recipients of federal aid, Mike Waddell of Gorham explained that he was concerned that the underlying problems that led to flooding would not be addressed. Maintaining deep channels for sufficient clearance under key bridges on Routes 16 and 2 has been neglected, Waddell said.

Forest Supervisor Wagner said that the USFS would work with the town and the state Department of Environmental Services to expedite any needed work in the rivers themselves. Waddell explained that in the past putting heavy dredging machinery in the river has often been denied in the interest of fish habitat. But, he pointed out, bank erosion and flooding leaves thick layers of silt on streambed rocks that, in the long run, is far worse than the short-term use of backhoes and front-end loaders.

Officials from Berlin, Gorham, Shelburne, and Randolph were on hand. Chuck Henderson, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's North Country representative, was also present.

Varney Smith
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