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1927, 2023, and a Project Update


From North Walpole NH looking across the Connecticut River to Bellows Falls VT

The flood of November 3-4, 1927, still stands as the greatest natural disaster in Vermont history. Devastation occurred throughout the state, with 1,285 bridges lost, countless homes and buildings destroyed, and hundreds of miles of roads and railroad tracks swept away. VT. Lt. Governor S. Hollister Jackson died in the flood, one of 84 people who lost their lives.


The Mills and Power Station, November 1927

As a result of the statewide devastation caused by the flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built three flood retention reservoirs and accompanying dams in the Winooski River basin at East Barre, Wrightsville, and Waterbury to mitigate the effects of further flooding. In 1949, the Union Village reservoir and dam on the Ompompanoosuc River were completed.






By the early 1960s, four additional

reservoirs/dams had been completed in the Connecticut River basin: the Ottaquechee River at North Hartland, the Black River at North Springfield, and the West River at Ball Mountain (Jamaica) and Townshend.



96 Years Later: The Floods of July 2023

In July 2023, flood damage in some areas of Vermont exceeded that brought by Tropical Storm Irene in late August 2011. Montpelier, Barre, and Ludlow were some of the hardest-hit areas in the state. These communities face a long and challenging recovery.


The Bellows Falls area fared better. As Matthew Cole, Great River Hydro's director of community relations, told us, “The Bellows Falls Dam worked as intended during the high-water event on July 10 and 11. There was additional capacity to move more water if the situation warranted. The restoration work went as intended and planned during August 2-4.”


Curious, we asked Matt about the item shown in the photograph below that was hung up on the rocks below the Bellows Falls Station after the water level receded in July. His response: “It looks like a swamp mat used to get equipment like an excavator across a wetland spot to work.” Great River Hydro expects to remove the mat in the near future.



Is the Depot Street Bridge Project Delayed?

You may have read recently in the Brattleboro Reformer that the project to replace the Depot Street Bridge over the Bellows Falls Canal with separate vehicular and pedestrian bridges--the one we've been reporting on--has been delayed by a year.


We checked in with the Vermont Agency of Transportation on the accuracy of this report. While the federal environmental review process that precedes construction is progressing somewhat slower than expected due to the complexity of the project and the historical significance of the Canal Street and Bellows Falls Island areas, the project team is actively working on developing the project with the objective of minimizing or eliminating the risk of delay.


We will keep you up to date on progress with the environmental review and the project in general and if a delay is expected, you will be among the first to know!


Questions?

You can email us at any time with questions about the Depot Street Bridge replacement project, either directly at developmentassist@rockbf.org or via the blog, and we'll respond. You can also send us information on the history of the area, which we'll be happy to share with the community through this blog,


Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for the next post!


Betsy Thurston

Executive Director of the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance

and Rockingham Development Assistant

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