The landslide has caused a significant blockage of the Coginchaug, causing the river to rise by as much as 4 feet in Veterans Park, and threatening the health of hundreds of riverbank trees. The draft resolution cites the threat to the trees on the river bank, but more specifically notes the very real possibility of flooding at Palmer Field and the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame.
Previous plans to correct the problem would have used Federal and State funding to clear the obstruction and recreate the channel. However, the Natural Resource Conservation District, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, refused to fund any work on the channel unless work was done on the upper slope to ensure that there would not be a repeat landslide.
The draft resolution provides extensive background to the "bureaucratic entanglement" which is preventing any work. "There is general agreement that the upper slope fix will be in excess of $75,000 for design and $750,000 for construction." Ted Charton, owner and manager of the Charton Apartments, insists that the work he has already done on the slope will prevent any future landslides, but he has not hired an engineer to evaluate this. Neither Charton, nor the city, state, or federal government are willing to fund work on the slope. Thus, the channel remains untouched since the slide.
When the city proposed to the DEP that city workers create a diversion channel through the landslide debris without fixing the slope, Amey Marella, Commissioner of the DEP, responded that the City needs all relevant state and federal permits, and must address the upper slope in conjunction with any work. However, further discussion with her Chief of Staff has led the city to believe that a river diversion plan could be authorized if a plan is prepared by a geotechnical engineer.
The proposed Council Resolution would authorize $15,000 to retain this professional engineer.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the resolution is the proposal that, "if the State and Federal authorizations are not secured in a timely manner, the Common Council authorizes the Mayor, pursuant to under [sic] CGS 7-146, to enter into the channel to remove the debris and release the backed up water, with or without State and Federal authorizations."
Charton told me that he had been prepared to tell his contractor to do just that, but he could not do it without the necessary permits. In fact, on June 28th, Charton was given a cease and desist order in which he was ordered to "Halt all regulated activity immediately and secure necessary permits to remove the obstruction from the channel and stop the upstream flooding."