JAY — A culvert planned for Haselton Road here will not only repair storm damage but ward off future washouts — and be more wildlife friendly.
The new culvert will be a three-sided structure with a natural stream bottom, Essex County Public Works Superintendant Anthony Lavigne said.
It is the first of 19 pilot projects in the state to rebuild infrastructure to withstand severe weather events expected with climate change.
The critical role of the structures — essentially big pipes or concrete boxes carrying streams beneath roads — was demonstrated dramatically when, in 2011, tropical storms Irene and Lee washed out roads throughout mountains of New York and New England.
Culverts, among them many in the North Country, were not designed for such enormous volumes of water and were overwhelmed.
The Town of Jay was hit hard by those storms.
Lavigne said he is still awaiting authorization from the New York State Office of Emergency Management for the roughly $400,000 needed to complete the construction of the new Haselton Road culvert.
“It’s coming a little slower than I expected.”
That could be due to the damage Hurricane Sandy caused in New York, Lavigne said.
In addition to the culvert, at least five bridges in Jay that were damaged by Tropical Storm Irene need to be rebuilt, he said.
Haselton Road was closed until some funding came through, Lavigne said.
“They paid for the emergency opening of the bridge but not complete replacement.”
Poorly designed culverts create barriers to wildlife; replacement, either due to storm damage or aging, gives ecologists a rare opportunity.
“We’ve been exploring using culverts as a way to alleviate flooding and protect human safety, as well as helping fish and wildlife,” said Connie Prickett, of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
“It’s a big-bang-for-your-buck conservation strategy.”