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SSU Fitness Center Project An Opportunity to Fix Flooding Issues

Flood control could be a collaborative effort with school and businesses.

For as long as I can remember, there have been certain areas of the city that have flooded whenever large rain storms have hit during high tides.

Living in a coastal area means that some flooding can't be avoided, but that doesn't mean all flooding can't be avoided.

As Salem has grown over the years, its landscape has changed in response to population and business growth. Areas that were once river front were filled in with earth in order to create living space and to accommodate business growth. Some of those low-lying, filled in areas became very vulnerable to flooding due to drainage issues. The water has to go somewhere.

Lower Bridge Street by the overpass and Canal Street in the Ocean Avenue and Forest Avenue area are probably the most obvious examples of the water going where it wants to go.

Multiple generations of Salem residents have been forced to deal with these incidents of flooding as they occur. Every Mayor and City Council in our lifetime, and the lifetime of our parents have been aware of the issue and for one reason or another have either been unable or unwilling to work toward a solution to the problem. I remember an effort some years back that was not successful.

The $15 million dollar fitness center project being proposed by would seem to present an opportunity to make a real effort at addressing the flooding issues on Canal Street.

No one entity is responsible for the flooding. You can blame city or state government for allowing natural wetlands to be filled in. Blame can be applied to both government and business interests who paved over the same areas without realistic consideration to the sewerage and drainage issues that ensued. The blame game is just wasted emotional energy. Energy and effort is better spent pursuing a solution.

The City and SSU have an opportunity to work together during the fitness center project. Now is the time for a real and concerted effort by both entities. SSU may never again have such a chance to show true concern for the quality of life of its own students and the residents of the Canal Street corridor.

The many businesses in the area seem to do well enough that they can afford to be flooded out once or twice every year. If a place sells enough cheeseburgers to be able to afford the cleanups and the insurance rates that come with them, then, perhaps, they can also afford to contribute to the solution. The city for the last few years has chosen to keep the commercial tax rate steady while raising the residential rate every year. Maybe it's time for or to say "thank you" by also cooperating in this effort.

Outgoing Ward 3 Councilor Jean Pelletier has called this one of the most important unresolved issues to him as he leaves office. He is pledging to stay involved as the SSU project goes forward.

Due to the ward re-districting, incoming Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel has inherited this albatross. This is not a ward problem, however, it is a city-wide problem.

Here is to the hope that all parties involved —  Salem, SSU, and Mother Nature — are able to come to cooperate and find a solution.

chester suchecki December 17, 2011 at 01:31 PM
the solution is simple for the bridge street flooding. open up where the north river flows under the overpass. all that water that flows from peabody is forced to flow thru the funnel of the overpass. open this up and create a bridge not another culvert will remedy the flooding on bridge st. but peabody's problem as well.. the canal street area is hopeless. you cant force mothernature to go underground.
Kevin Letourneau December 17, 2011 at 02:16 PM
In the wake of all these million dollar expansions and 6-figure new-hires, it's important to keep in mind how many staff and faculty members have been laid off as a result.
Nelson Dionne December 17, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I watched steel piles being driven at the junction of Ocean Ave & Canal st back in 1978. They support the 5' diameter sewer line that was being installed under canal St at that time. The area was so soft, that they went down 70 or 80" under their own weight, before they had to be driven father down to a firm level. The longest, as I recall, went down 130' ! After, they were filled with concrete. This is why, the pipe under Canal St By McDonald's has not moved, even as the road & area around it has subsided. The McDonalds building was built on pilings too. Fixing the drainage problems in that area will be difficult & costly ! A good part of the entire area may well be an old peat bog. The filling on top will likely subside when the ground water is altered. Good Luck .
William Legault December 17, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I also remember those pilings being pounded into the earth Nelson. There was a whole of that in the 70's. I also recall listening to conversations about the drainage issues in the Canal Street area and the lack of foresight and true planning in dealing with those issues. The costs of actually engineering and building what was needed was prohibitive and as a result we have annual floods and damages to businesses and homes. Better to do it right the first time, but it is too late for that now. An effort should be made now to improve the situation.
john December 18, 2011 at 06:01 PM
I remember back when the Ocean Ave bridge was still in use and a leather factory was located where McDonalds is and the flooding has not changed. Pellitier made it his top priority to address flooding issues city wide spending more time outside his ward than inside. The fact is that flooding has not improved at all. The correct place to start is in Peabody and work with Peabody to provide downstream solutions that will have a positive impact on Salem as well as Peabody Sq. I don't disagree that we also need to look at this from the ocean side as well. Heavy rain results in a head on collision of forces from mother nature inside the Salem city limits with the ocean pushing in while Peabody's runoff seeks a route out to the ocean. It seems to me that at least some progress should have been made in the last 50 years.

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