Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Willamansett residents learn of progress on levy repairs and FEMA flood maps

Date: 6/22/2010

June 23, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE -- Willamansett and Ferry Lane residents filled the gym at the Chicopee Boys and Girls Club to standing-room-only on June 17 to hear a progress report on the repairs to the city's flood control system.

Those repairs and their acceptance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would make the difference in whether homeowners will be required to buy flood insurance by mortgage lenders or whether it will be an option.

Mayor Michael Bissonnette and Henry Jones, an engineer with GZA Associates, told residents the city is on track to comply with FEMA requirements by the deadline set for December.

Bissonnette explained the city had complied with an order from the Army Corps of Engineers to make improvements to the levy system following Hurricane Katrina. Although the repairs were made to the satisfaction of the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA announced its maps indicated there was no flood control system for the city.

"It wasn't just Chicopee," Bissonnette said. "Communities all over the country got socked with this."

The city has to receive FEMA certification in order for property owners not to be forced into buying flood insurance, he said.

Jones said that without a certified levy system, federal authorities would assume the levies didn't exist.

Bissonnette said the flood control issue extends through other parts of the city as Chicopee has more coastlines, due to its location on both the Connecticut River and the Chicopee River, than any other community in the state.

Jones said the bids for one part of the repairs has been opened and another would be opened the week of June 21.

"We're just about ready to say we're in good shape," he said.

The eight pumping stations will go under considerable renovation with roofs, plumbing and mechanical systems all addressed. The Department of Public Works has already been working on the cleaning and repairs of drains, Jones added.

Part of the new FEMA flood control mapping system are new classifications and Bissonnette cautioned the residents there are many unknown variables in how mortgage lenders will react to the new classifications and how much the federally-backed flood insurance will cost.

Jones emphasized the need for flood insurance and asked residents to "seriously consider' purchasing it.

"There is still risk and will be risk in the future," he said.