USACE Team Fights Floods in New England

Torrential downpours in mid-July inundated New England with massive amounts of rainfall. Vermont and New Hampshire received the largest impacts and the water levels rose behind all of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dams in the Upper Connecticut River Basin. During this storm, at their peaks, the seven USACE dams in the Upper Connecticut River Basin in Vermont and New Hampshire collectively stored 60 billion gallons of storm water, which is equivalent to 91,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, to mitigate downstream flooding. All affected dams operated as designed.

As a result of rising reservoir levels, all recreation areas in the Upper Connecticut River Basin were closed to the public, with Ball Mountain evacuating campers from its popular Winhall Brook Campground.

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“Our No.1 priority continues to be the life, health, and safety of all potentially affected by the flooding,” said Col. John A. Atilano II, New England District commander. The district’s Emergency Operations Center worked closely with operations staff, the Dam Safety Program personnel, and the Reservoir Control Center to monitor the dams. Team members also coordinated with state and federal agencies, to include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 1, National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices, and the NWS Northeast River Forecast Center.

On July 11, the Reservoir Control Center in Concord, Massachusetts, assessed the status of the floodwaters and determined the Connecticut River was able to accept additional water. To provide space for the reservoirs to hold additional expected rain, at around 10 p.m. the Ball Mountain Dam team began slowly increasing the water being released from its reservoirs. The team at Townshend Dam released slow flows just before 1 a.m. on July 12.

During the flooding, team members at Ball Mountain, Townshend, North Springfield, Union Village, and North Hartland worked around the clock monitoring pool levels and downstream conditions. Team members at the other Upper Connecticut River Basin dams did not have to staff around the clock, but kept a close eye on the water levels.

New England District technical experts on the ground in Vermont and at the Reservoir Control Center in Concord, Massachusetts, assessed the status of the floodwaters and determined the Connecticut River was able to accept additional water. Inspections took place at all the basin dams to ensure they remained in good working order. The inspections are routine during a flood event. Atilano praised the efforts of all the team members working the flood event.

“We have the brightest and most capable minds doing extraordinary work; this mission, as with all our projects and programs, would not be possible without our people,” said Atilano.

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In addition to the flood-fighting efforts done by our teams at the USACE dams, FEMA mission-assigned USACE debris and infrastructure subject-matter experts during the flooding. Members of the team were tasked to assess 10 water treatment plants. At the state level, Vermont requested technical assistance, and district experts assisted with modeling support to predict future pool levels at dams identified by the state. The New England District team posted dam updates through all its social media outlets, as well as press releases.

While pools are above normal water levels at many of our dams, we continue to release water and lower the pools as allowed by the forecast. The New England District team will continue to monitor the situation closely and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of the public. “I want to give a shout out to our dedicated park rangers, engineers, hydrologists, the Reservoir Control Center in Concord, Emergency Operations Center, geotechnical team, and all of the hard-working USACE New England team for their dedication and expertise during this event,” said Atilano. “Outstanding work, and I know the people of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut appreciate it!”

This article originally featured in the 2023-2024 edition of America’s Engineers: The People, Programs, and Projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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