GUILFORD – The Board of Selectmen, Monday morning, unanimously approved the resolution to receive $3.5 million in grant money from the state to fund repairs to Lake Quonnipaug Dam and renovate the roadway that runs over the culvert the dam spills into, connecting Durham Road, or Route 77, with Hoop Pole and Lake roads.
The dam sits at the south end of the lake, where spillover water from the lake flows through the culvert and into the West River, which ultimately leads into Guilford Harbor.
Janice Plaziak, the town engineer, said Tuesday that stones in the Lake Quonnipaug Dam are shifting, and causing water to overflow, overwashing nearby roads.
“The downstream culverts are severely undersized,” Plaziak said. “Knowing the condition of the culverts and the dam has had some shifting of the stones.”
Renovation of the area will include refurbishing the dam with new stone work and a metal barrier, she said, as well as replacing the three 36-inch diameter culverts that run under where Hoop Pole and Lake roads cross.
She said that building the dam higher to retain a 100-year flood isn’t feasible.
“It would cause a backup of water and flood upstream properties,” she said. “We have to control the overflow during high storm events and make sure it doesn’t erode and spill into the culverts.”
The current culverts, she said, are really small.
“We’re looking to replace them with three box culverts,” she said. The exact size of the new culverts aren’t confirmed yet, but she said they’re “significantly bigger than 36-inch pipes.”
The project expands beyond just restoring the dam and replacing the culverts. It includes reworking the entire crossing of Hoop Pole and Lake roads so that it becomes a perpendicular intersection crossing West River. Currently the two roads create an “X” pattern attaching to Route 77 in different locations and at acute angles.
In order to do the necessary road work, the town purchased adjoining property in front of the dam at 3431 Durham Road for $225,711.
“The town purchased this parcel about a year and a half ago before it went into foreclosure because we were planning for this project,” Plaziak said. “There’s a house there. We found out it has some historical significance.”
She said the town is going to work with the State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the impact on the house while making the interconnecting roads safer and less prone to flooding.
“We’re trying to take these two skewed leg intersections and combine them into one, so it’s a little safer and more direct,” she said. “These intersections with Route 77 aren’t ideal as you have to look over your shoulder.”
“Part of the mitigation for preventing the roads from flooding,” she said, “is not just reorienting the horizontal alignment of the road, but we’re also going to have to elevate the road so as not to flood it on a regular frequency.”
She said the town will also likely have to rebuild a section of Route 77 so it doesn’t flood, elevating the road.
“We hope to clean it up a little bit for safety,” she said. “We’re trying to control it so it doesn’t flood the road.”
The overall budget for the project is $3.5 million, which the grant would cover, but she said the town has allocated $300,000 for engineering and design costs which started before the grant money was received, as well as the $225,711 for the purchase of the property at 3431 Durham Road.
“It’s been a bit of a slow go,” she said.
Plaziak said they’re hoping to break ground in 2025 and will likely be a project that will take up the construction season of that year from about April to around October.
The next phase of the project is speaking with consultants from the state’s Department of Transportation and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, who administered the grant and has oversight over the dams in the state.
“We have to run all that through them,” Plaziak said. “Once we’ve met with the two state agencies, we’ll be doing some public outreach to inform them of the project of what our preliminary plan is, and take public input to make the project even better.”
She said the town will be reaching out to community groups like Friends of Lake Quonnipaug, who are active in the neighborhood.
Public information events to inform the public as to how the project is going and getting feedback from them, she said, should happen within the next six months.
“I have to see where we’re at with the consultants,” she said.