Sinkhole opens in Damariscotta

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 7:00am

When crews from Hagar Enterprises were busy cleaning up snow after a November snowfall, they found something in one of Damariscotta's parking lots they didn't expect:

A sinkhole.

And not just a pothole: A four-foot-wide by three-foot-deep hole that overfilled with salty water as the tide came in.

Though the problem was patched by the road department, it might be a sign of a larger problem.

“The larger concern is the pipes underneath,” said LeeAnna Libby during the Wednesday, Dec. 17 Damariscotta Board of Selectmen meeting. “Some of the pipes have already started to sag, and we're afraid the sinkhole might lead to more damage.” Libby is the Great Salt Bay Sanitary District Wastewater Division manager.

Libby said that when the tide rose over the Thanksgiving holiday, combined with a snowstorm, it created a hole where water came rushing into the catch basin of the municipal parking lot. Although the town was able to fill and patch the hole, without addressing the root problem, the damage is likely to continue, Libby said.

“If it keeps deteriorating, it's likely the (sinkhole) is going to keep getting deeper and deeper,” she said.

Superintendent of Roads Steve Reynolds said that once the hole is dug-out and inspected, what lies beneath is likely to cause some concern.

“Most likely, we'll probably find that those pipes are rotting away,” he said.

While the town will continue to monitor and repair the sinkhole should it again become a problem, the long-term plan coincides with the long-term plan for the municipal parking lot.

During the same meeting, Town Manager Matt Lutkus brought the board up to date with the coastal flood resiliency study, which was conducted by Milone & MacBroom's Nicolle Burnham.

Several of the preliminary drawings to protect the downtown area of Damariscotta featured walls to guard against rising water and even a sea gate that would block water from entering through the town boat ramp.

“In the next 50 years, if we do have 'The Storm' we're protected,” Lutkus said, referring to a hundred-year storm, which is often used as a barometer of highest-water levels. “Another benefit of (being fully protected) is that flood insurance rates are going up and up. They have been heavily subsidized by the government for a while, and (right now) we are in the one percent of the flood zone.

“We can get certified by FEMA and they'll say 'Yes, because you've made improvements, we'll take you out of the flood zone.'”

Lutkus said that would serve two purposes: it would protect the downtown area against flooding, but it would also save businesses money on flood insurance.

The estimate for the amount of work that would be needed for that to happen would be approximately $2 million to $3 million, but that total includes the overhaul of the municipal parking lot.

There will be open houses regarding the parking lot at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Great Salt Bay Community School.