by Peter Riviere
Work proceeds at shoring up the tenuous Connecticut River embankment east of the village on one of the area's most heavily traveled roadways.
Forty-five truckloads of Type 4 rock, "the heaviest we can find locally," is being hauled in daily to create a slope in the river, a small shelf and then a slope to the sagging roadway itself, said Sid Achilles of the Agency of Transportation in St. Johnsbury.
Funding for the $750,000 project is coming from a "special project fund" in Montpelier, with a mixture of state and federal funds being used.
Achilles estimated the project would be completed in about a month's time, with drainage, slope seeding and guardrails re-installed and the area repaved.
Already, the project has seen delays due to the discovery of dwaff wedge mussels, listed on the federal endangered species list.
Contract and AOT divers, under the direction of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, collected, tagged, and moved 400 of the tiny mussels from the work area, a colony that F & amp;W biologist Susi vonOettingen termed "astounding."
However, the project has taken on an image of government run amok, with numerous individuals terming the area "mussel beach" and criticizing the wastefulness of the project when there is so much need for bonafide transporation improvements elsewhere along busy Route 2.
As each truckload arrived, excavator operator Mike Mathers of East Burke would pick up the largest boulders with a special riprap bucket and toss them into the toe of the slope, deep under the surface of the river.
It appeared to observers like Mathers was having a day at the beach as each boulder would create a child's "cannonball" plume of water as if a diver were spraying folks in a swimming pool. A sediment boom, estimated as a $20,000 expense, trapped what little sediment and debris drifted from the work area in the apex of a large sweep in the river.