Preserving New Hampshire History In Disaster Recovery

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Release date: 
August 2, 2007
Release Number: 

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - State and local officials must look to the past as well as to the future when using federal disaster funds to help in recovery and rebuilding after April's flooding.

The ferocity of April's nor'easter washed out roads and damaged culverts throughout New Hampshire. Stone culverts have become of particular interest to state historic preservationists. The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has provisionally declared all surviving stone culverts to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

State Architectural Historian James L. Garvin said these stone structures give character to New Hampshire's cultural landscape. The majority of stone culverts date from the nineteenth century, but some may have been built in the 1700s. Most are box shaped, but some of the more uncommon arched design culverts still remain, their careful dry stone construction weathering hundreds of years.

A rare arched culvert located in Temple was damaged in April. With the federal disaster declaration, federal funds will be made available to help repair the culvert. But as with all Public Assistance funded projects, the community must comply with federal, state and local laws that regulate environmental and historic preservation when undertaking rebuilding efforts.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires FEMA to identify all historic properties that might be affected by a FEMA-funded project. A team of environmental and historic preservation specialists consult and assist in the rebuilding process. As rebuilding and reconstruction continues for the April flooding disaster, these specialists will work closely with the New Hampshire Historic Preservation Office to ensure all appropriate screening and permitting takes place. The goal of these laws and derivative activities is to preserve such sites and structures as an important link to New Hampshire's past.

Sometimes the culvert may need to be upgraded to accept more water to lessen future flood damage, or it may be beyond repair. The need for public safety and the historic value are weighed in the decision for repairing and upgrading procedures.

"In consultation with the state, we review and advise so that the rebuilding will have the least amount of adverse affect to the historic site, but also allow for life and property to be protected, which is FEMA's mission," said Kathleen Bergeron, FEMA historic preservation specialist. "Some of these stone culverts are 50 years old and more. If these structures aren?t repaired, or if they can?t be repaired and are not at least documented, no one will ever know the techniques and the handiwork involved ? we'll lose our evidence that informs us about our past."

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Last Updated: 
May 5, 2013 - 23:38
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