February 23, 2013

Your Town: Keene

KEENE — Federal funding will pay to restore the weir on the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene that held back water for the town beach.

The weir, a kind of dam made of spruce and hemlock logs and planks, was destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded about $190,000 to the town, Supervisor Bill Ferebee said Friday.

At a meeting earlier this month, he told the Town Council that he sent out some letters of interest to engineering firms that might bid on the project and applied to FEMA for a time extension. 

Once replies start coming in, Ferebee told the Press-Republican, “I’ll put a little committee together, hire an engineer and move forward.”

There wasn’t much of a swimming hole at the spot across from Marcy Field after the storm ripped through, he said.

The water is normally more than 6 feet deep, but, without the weir, it dropped to about 2 feet. It’s a popular location for both residents and those passing through Keene, he noted.

“It’s a nice little picnic area, as well.”

FEMA directed the town to replace the weir as it was before, with wood construction, but that may change, the supervisor said.

Feedback from such groups as Trout Unlimited and the Ausable River Association prompted the idea of using rock for the weir, which would still hold back water for swimming but would also include a passage for fish.

“We didn’t have that before,” he said.

Ferebee believes FEMA would allow the alteration, he said, “as long as it’s designed properly.”

The supervisor said, either way, he doesn’t expect the project to cost the full $190,000 — “not in my wildest dreams.”

The town is eager to start the work, too, because the shattered remains of the weir, he said, make for “an eyesore.”

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