By: Peter Ryner, Director of Community Development
Town of Peterborough, NH
Some of the best hazard mitigation I have seen has involved a partnership of two or more groups or individuals. Let me give you several examples from Peterborough's Project Impact program.
1. We are working with the State Department of Transportation on a retaining wall in the downtown area. This wall supports a portion of interstate Route 202. The retaining wall, constructed in the late 1890's, is increasingly vulnerable to river ice, flooding, or an earthquake. DOT is spending $100,000 and Project Impact is providing $50,000 to establish a design to stabilize this critical transportation facility. The town could not do it on its own, and the State was focusing on other priorities. Together the mitigation will take place.
2. The Peters Oil Company has several bulk fuel oil storage tanks on the edge of the Contoocook River (within 5 feet of the river's edge). These tanks are vulnerable to flooding and river ice, and thus put at risk a substantial portion of the Town's public water supply. To move the tanks away from the river, a zoning change was needed. The Office of Community Development (Project Impact Coordinator) worked with the company to obtain the necessary zoning change and a $25,000 grant from the New Hampshire Office of Emergency Management. In return the company has spent more than $200,000 to construct new tanks away from the river's edge and will remove the existing tanks this fall.
3. Our local electricity provider, PSNH, wanted to undertake a major power line clearing program (in the range of $200,000 worth of work). However, many of the trees needing to be trimmed or removed are on roads designated as "scenic", which requires town approval before tree cutting can take place. Project Impact asked the town Conservation Commission and the Planning Board for assistance. After a public hearing the Planning Board approved the mitigation effort, and the Conservation Commission assisted PSNH in developing a specific clearing program that was acceptable to property owners.
4. Our downtown historic area is vulnerable to flooding. Depot Square Partnership is one of our Project Impact partners. Over the past two years they have spent in excess of $100,000 to flood proof utilities, while also improving the visual appearance of the downtown. In return, the Town provided $25,000 and worked in partnership on the often complicated steps necessary to change various utility systems.
5. Project Impact is now assisting a family to construct an elevated residential home, the first in Peterborough. It has taken two years of effort, including trying to convince the banks to finance what appears to them as an unconventional building, but the home is now under construction.
Hazard mitigation is not a single event, but rather an on-going process,which evolves over time and is best done in partnership. With every project that I am now involved with, I find myself asking if there is an opportunity for mitigation; either to reduce existing hazards or to avoid them through new approaches. Often essential mitigation can be done as part of on-going maintenance, with little or no additional cost.