Twin County officials are welcoming an initiative announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month to study flood risks at certain waterways including the Catskill Creek and the Stockport Creek.
Cuomo announced Nov. 5 the state will invest $3 million to conduct “state-of-the-art” tests on multiple waterways across the state to identify priority projects and actions to reduce community flooding and ice-jam risks. The studies will single out 48 waterways including the Catskill Creek, the Stockport Creek and the Roeliff Jansen Kill that runs through Dutchess and Columbia counties.
“I think it’s important to come up with ideas to help prevent flooding, especially along the Catskill Creek and its streams,” said Greene County Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill. “There are many residents and businesses in Catskill that know full well the life-threatening and costly expenses to rebuild after a flood.”
Greene County Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, recalled the flooding that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011.
“There was flooding right up to the town supervisor’s office [439 Main Street] and two to three inches of flooding on West Main Street,” Bulich said. “There is significant risk of flooding, especially because the Catskill Creek and the Kaaterskill Creek merge just outside the village. There has to be about a mile of flooding before it runs into the river.”
The flood plains along the Stockport Creek are included in Columbia County’s multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is submitted to the state each year to help local communities get funding for rebuilding after a disaster strikes.
“We get flooding along Route 25 in that area,” said Stockport Town Supervisor Matthew Murell. “There used to be dams along the creek but they have deteriorated and were put in by local businesses that have since left town.”
Murell recalled severe flooding in 2011 that hit the hamlet of Stottville hard where a lot of flood plains are along the creek.
“The creek can flood peoples’ basements,” Murell said. “Our zoning prohibits homes from having certain things in the flood plain areas. Homes need special septic systems, if they want septic, because normal sceptics will be flooded. Those systems can be expensive.”
The county and the town have also identified the need to elevate homes in Stottville along the Claverack Creek, which feeds into the Stockport Creek.
“Anything the state can do to help with the issue is welcome,” Murell said. “The town does not have pockets deep enough to handle all of the issues.”
The Greene County Soil and Water District has done a lot of work to mitigate flooding along the Catskill Creek all down the mountain including straightening streams, getting rid of kinks in the creek that could cause water to bottleneck and buying properties too close to flood plains, Bulich said.
“Those efforts won’t stop flooding, because that is out of our control,” Bulich said.
Bulich is focused on an area of the Hudson River near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, close to where his farm is situated, 64 Green Point Road, where sediment has built up over the years, causing large sandbars to form and choke the river flow.
“That is the biggest thing for me,” Bulich said. “It is causing water levels to rise in local channels of the river.”
The state prioritized waterways based on criteria such as routine flooding, significant flood damage and the likeliness of continued flooding given future climate change predictions, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
For those along the Hudson River Estuary, which are some of the largest tributaries to the Hudson estuary below the Troy dam, the department also looked at active and engaged watershed groups that can communicate locally and coordinate implementation strategies and the number of municipalities that will benefit from flood study.
The studies, which are primarily funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, started this month and will identify the causes of flooding within each watershed and develop, evaluate and recommend effective and ecologically sustainable flood and ice-jam hazard mitigation projects.
“New York is using the best available science to guide our efforts to adapt to extreme weather events driven by our changing climate,” Cuomo said. “New York’s flood resilience is an urgent priority and these expedited studies will give communities a blueprint to abate the worst effects of future flooding and ice jams.”