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Fort Kent planning work on trail trestle, river levee

FORT KENT, Maine — Several construction projects planned in Fort Kent this summer are aiming to fix a bridge on the Heritage Trail and improve the town’s levee system.

A trestle on the St. John Valley Heritage Trail in Fort Kent slated for repairs this spring. A crew will be replacing the timber beams and decking. (Courtesy of Town of Fort Kent)

Fort Kent is planning to fix a part of a retaining wall on the town’s levy and extend another portion of the levee along the Fish River, said Steve Pelletier, Fort Kent’s planning and economic development director.

During last year’s annual inspection of the levee by the Army Corps of Engineers, a 100 foot section of a concrete retaining wall showed signs of failure “where there are some compressions going on,” Pelletier said. “The Army Corps has noted it and recommended fixing that section.”

Fort Kent’s public works department should be able to do the repairs in-house, but as a contingency, the town appropriated up to $20,000 in reserve funds in case a contractor needs to be hired to complete the project, Pelletier said.

The town also is planning to extend a block wall system from the Fish River Bridge on Main Street near where the Fish River empties into the St. John River — a site of previous floods.

The project will connect a concrete wall, going around Block House Row on the banks of the Fish River, with the levee system, Pelletier said.

The project is still out for bid, though will likely total around $800,000 or more, with funding from multiple sources, Pelletier said.

The town has lined up funding sources that include $360,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $250,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission, $100,000 from the Maine Community Development Block Grant Program and $150,000 in local reserve money.

“We’re hoping those funds will cover the costs,” Pelletier said. “Work would need to happen this summer, because a good portion of the funding we have has a deadline for usage this year.”

A proposed concrete wall and earthen berm, designed to mitigate future flood water in Fort Kent, would run from the Fish River bridge on East Main Street to the end of the current levee, located near the Fort Kent Blockhouse. The wall would be at about the same height as the existing guardrail. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF File)

In other construction work this summer, a crew with J R Boucher & Son’s Construction will start replacing the timber beams and decking of a trestle bridge on the St. John Valley Heritage Trail,

Pelletier said the town has been eyeing a fix to the aging wood on the trestle for several years and secured a $65,000 grant from the Maine Recreation Trail Program to pay for the fix on the bridge in Fort Kent.

The 20-mile multi-use Heritage Trail runs along an old railroad bed from Fort Kent to St. Francis.

“The timbers on the trestle are rotting more and more every year,” Pelletier said, adding that the trestle dates back to the 1950s. “It has become unsafe to cross.”

The J R Boucher crew, which won the bid for the project, will be removing all the trestle’s wood down to the metal girders and replacing the beams and decking, Pelletier said.

“We hope to start as soon as snowmobile season is done,” he said, “and we’d like to have the job completed by May 15, the target date for the start of ATV season.”

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