hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 20, 2013

Flood wall improvements set to begin

The city is about to raise the downtown flood wall by two feet — a project aimed at preventing the Merrimack River from jumping its banks in a worst-case storm, and also protecting property owners from big hikes in their insurance.

The federal government has ordered the $6 million project, which will allow 35 property owners along the waterway to continue paying for flood insurance at current rates.

But before work on the flood wall can begin, the city must obtain permission from four property owners to access their property for construction. Tonight, City Council will consider agreements with the following: Riverside Place Condominium Realty Development Trust, 70 Washington St.; Alosky Realty Trust, 191 Essex St.; Kifor Development, 151-153 Essex St.; and MBTA for a stretch of railroad track near Little River.

The city would pay $4,000 for the permanent right to access land near the Riverside Place condos parking garage and a $1,000 licensing fee to the MBTA. There is no cost to the city for the other two temporary construction easements, according to paperwork filed with City Council.

In November, the council approved the mayor’s request to borrow up to $6 million for flood wall improvements, depending on whether the city receives any state or federal grants to help with the cost.

Improving the 2,200-foot-long flood wall is critical because federal officials have warned they will decertify the 76-year-old structure if the work isn’t done soon, city officials have said.

In a prior interview, Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said that would increase flood insurance rates for about 35 privately owned properties along the downtown stretch of the waterway by an estimated $250,000 in total per year.

Repairing the flood wall will also allow the city to remain in a program through which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would pay to restore the wall if it is damaged in a natural disaster such as a severe flood or an earthquake.

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