Corps engineers take swift action to reduce flood potential

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CONCORD, MA, Jan. 27, 2010 -- Hydraulic engineers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, were busy on Jan. 25-26 as heavy rains and snowmelt combined for a potential flood situation in New England. Engineers monitor water levels in the region's major rivers and the depth of snow cover throughout the region to regulate the 31 Corps-managed dams and two hurricane barriers in New England to minimize downstream flood impacts and tidal flooding.

The New England region experienced between 1 and 3 inches of rainfall throughout the day on Jan. 25. This rainfall, along with the snowmelt, caused river levels to rise to above warning levels but not high enough to reach flood levels. As of the morning of Jan. 26, rivers were slowly beginning to recede and expected to continue that tendency for a few days. There were a few isolated ice-jams that have not caused any flooding nor have there been any reports of river flooding downstream of Corps of Engineers-managed dams in New England during this event.

All Corps-managed dams in New England were regulated on Jan. 25 in anticipation of this heavy rain and snowmelt event, and were able to impound runoff overnight to mitigate flood potential. Corps dams utilized between 5 and 15 percent of their flood storage capacity and began making releases on the morning of Jan. 26 as the rivers continued to recede. Reservoir levels should be returning to normal levels by the end of this week.

The New Bedford Hurricane Barrier was operated twice -- on the afternoon of Jan. 25 and the morning of Jan. 26 to prevent tidal flooding. Also, Woonsocket Flood Damage Reduction project was operated late in the afternoon of Jan. 25 and again the morning of Jan. 26 to reduce flood risks.

The New Bedford-Fairhaven-Achusnet Hurricane Protection Project provides a gated barrier across New Bedford-Fairhaven Harbor and supplementary dikes in the Clarks Cove area of New Bedford and Fairhaven, Mass. The twin sector gates can seal the 150-foot-wide navigation opening in 12 minutes and were operated on 14 occasions in fiscal year 2009. This barrier affords tidal-flood protection to an area of about 1,400 acres. Since construction in 1966, the Project has prevented approximately $21.1 million in flood damages through the end of fiscal year 2009.

The Woonsocket Flood Damage Reduction project protects industrial and commercial establishments and densely populated residential areas from flood flows on the Blackstone, Peters and Mill Rivers in Woonsocket, R.I. It was constructed in response to flood damage that occurred due to heavy rains in August 1955 that caused $22 million in damage. For more information on these and other Corps projects go to: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil.

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