Middleborough Plans to Buy Out Flood-Prone Properties

By ecoRI News staff

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. — In spring 2010, significant flood damage from two storms caused emergency evacuation, property losses and interruption of utility services in the Woloski Park neighborhood. Flooding of the sole access route to this isolated neighborhood is a perennial problem, requiring residents and emergency responders to access properties by canoe, small boat or chest waders for a week or more at a time.

Now, using a combination of federal, local and nonprofit funding, the town of Middleborough has proposed to acquire nine Woloski Park properties from willing sellers so that homeowners and tenants can relocate outside of this flood-prone area.

“This will reduce the burden on the town’s emergency responders who must make repetitive responses to this flood-prone area, committing significant personnel and equipment,” said Ruth Geoffroy, the town’s planning director.

The town plans to remove structures from the property and dedicate the newly open land as protected open space and natural floodplain area.

On April 25, Middleborough’s Annual Town Meeting will consider whether to authorize the use of $161,088 in Community Preservation Act funds for these acquisitions. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Middleborough High School.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has awarded the town a $752,824 grant for the project. The grant came from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and is associated with the federal disaster declaration issued in response to the spring 2010 floods that wreaked havoc throughout Greater Taunton and Brockton.

The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts helped draft the FEMA application in 2011 with the town and remains supportive of the project. The conservancy is contributing $161,088 to the acquisition.

“Investing in conserving and restoring nature helps sustain economies, communities and the environment,” said Alison Bowden, director of rivers, coasts and oceans for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “This project will move people out of harm’s way, while supporting significant conservation goals by restoring and protecting floodplain habitat, helping maintain water quality and connecting state-protected conservation land.”