DEEP said the state-owned property was not properly maintained over the years. It said there were growing concerns over flooding and long-term livability.
That’s what prompted the project, which involved dredging. The project has since been put on hold. But this week, the subcontractor went into the area anyway and removed the tree logs.
On Tuesday, The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to concerns.
“Failure to complete this maintenance work, would impose severe risks and financial burdens to those who live on or near the South Branch of the Park River,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “The risk of flooding would increase significantly – this was an area that was typically flooded during storms before the flood control project was constructed. In addition, if work is not completed and the federal government decertifies the system, many property owners would be required to purchased floor insurance, which could cost the typical homeowner $2,000 a year or more.”
West Hartford Town Manager Ron VanWinkle said he doesn't want to see anymore tree cutting.
"If there has to be a tree that has to be cut, I'm asking DEEP to meet with us to tag the tree, to allow our tree warden to look at it and to talk about options to not cut the tree," VanWinkle said.
Neighbors said they saw three truckloads hauled away.
"The neighbors were livid as they should be. It was the opposite of what we were told," VanWinkle said.
The same project will also expand to Hartford and Newington, and residents said they hope other towns aren't put into the same situation.
"I think it just comes down to a lack of communication and people didn't have to chance to weigh in on all of this," said Gail Frahm.
The department said it scheduled a public information session on the project for Nov. 4 at 6:30 pm. at the town council chambers in West Hartford Town Hall. Residents are invited to attend, hear a presentation on the project, and to talk with DEEP staff about it.
The project also expands into Hartford, at the South Branch Park River, and in Newington, at Mill Brook, involving a total of more than nine miles.
A similar session has been set for Nov. 5 at Newington's town council chambers. Work on the South Branch Park River flood control system is slated to start soon. That meeting will start at 6:30 p.m.
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