Floods in city were waiting to happen

Our View



Taunton is wet. No one should be surprised to hear that, but when flooding occurs, some always are.

This city sits in a valley, protected in part by the millions of gallons of water held back by the Hockomock Swamp. Rivers run through every section of Taunton. There are numerous lakes and ponds as well. Waterways far beyond the city's boundaries all make their way toward the Taunton River. It may take days to get there, and along the way torrential rain creates even a heavier buildup. Dams prevent the Mill River from flooding downtown on such occasions.

The city's non-buildable wetlands can be easily detected by the black tar paper that tells developers they can precede no further, but has no effect on stopping the water on the other side. Taunton should have strenuously guarded its wetlands. Homes were allowed to be built where they shouldn't have been. Instances occurred where wetlands were filled and even ponds disappeared. Waters' natural flow to reach a river to the ocean was interrupted. When the water found its way again, yards and homes now were in its path. This has been a continuing story.

It was again when 4.5 inches of rain poured down on Taunton after a very wet winter and fall. The Three Mile River spread far over its banks in many low-lying areas. Other rivers and streams surged, and the waters of the often-placid Cobb Brook expanded into the back yards and threatened property damage throughout the Kilmer Avenue-Oak Street-Winthrop Street areas.

Years ago after a similar flood, Taunton was advised it should adopt a maintenance program for Cobb Brook in which the stream would be cleared of accumulated debris and its culverts kept open every spring. The recommendation was abandoned, however, perhaps because of the cost. So many of Taunton's problems today resulted from an unwillingness to spend until an emergency occurs.

A Conservation Commission that was criticized for being discourteous and unreasonable has been replaced. A conservation agent was hired and then fired in the face of similar accusations. A new one has been hired. She must not let herself be intimidated by Taunton politics.

The efforts to do so seemingly go with the territory. So, unfortunately, does a lot of water.

ŠThe Taunton Gazette 2005