Flood Project Provides Support

The New York Rising Flood Control project under the supervision of Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides communities in the New York State area the opportunity to rebuild and restore the local damage done by recent natural disasters.

Communities are encouraged to work both individually and collaboratively on brainstorming both remedial and preventative methods to combat flooding of the Wallkill River as a result of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo has awarded the town and village of New Paltz $3 million each to carry out project ideas once approved by stakeholders in Albany. If both the town and village collaborate on projects, they will be awarded an extra $3 million to carry out these plans.

New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet has been working to bring together the town and village of New Paltz to try to maximize their potential earnings from Cuomo, as she said the New York Rising Flood Control project provides an “incredible opportunity” for the community to rebuild its resources.

“With the election and budget behind me, I have more time to get really involved in making sure we have the biggest and best ideas and we will qualify for the money,” Zimet said. “I hope to be more involved on a local level and for the entire region.”

Since the project incorporates individual and collaborative work within the Ulster County region, two leaders have been designated co-chairs in charge of bringing together communities within the area in an effort to produce long-term storm solutions and maximize government funding.

Steven Kelley, an employee at Ellenville Regional Hospital, has been assigned the group leader in charge of bringing together communities in the Village of Ellenville and the Town of Warsing, Rochester and Rosendale to collaborate on rebuilding the damage done by recent natural disasters.

Julie Robbins, Kelley’s co-chair for Ulster County, is in charge of bringing together communities from both the town and village of New Paltz, the town and village of Saugerties, the town and village of Shandaken and the Town of Woodstock.

Although Robbins was not available for comment as of press time, Kelley said she is a “skilled leader” and has been instrumental in bringing together local communities to form remedial solutions to the problems at hand.

Many of the projects being proposed in Kelley’s region are flood mitigation-based and have to do with protecting wetland barriers and alleviating the erosion and sediment composition caused by water and wind damage in both steeper and valley-structured areas in the region.

Kelley also said one of his main considerations when proposing solutions is to consider what will protect those in the community who are more vulnerable than others, both the elderly and medically handicapped.

“After some of the recent natural disasters we’ve faced, Ellenville was just flooded and completely obliterated. It was truly a disaster,” Kelley said. “Houses were washed away and people were left homeless and flooded out. It’s during these times of crisis that you really see the community pull together to help the people who need to be taken care of and brought to safety. The purpose of this funding is to help communities rebuild better through cooperation and resiliency.”

Kelley said that while some areas were more affected by the wind than the water after recent natural disasters, all the areas he was assigned to bring together in the region share the same watershed and are thus similarly devastated when a storm hits.

Because of these communities’ shared resources, there is much room for a collaborative effort when attempting to rebuild a more resilient environment prepared to withstand the next natural disaster, he said.

“Even though these communities have historically not been able to work well together, we’re seeing a lot of good municipal cooperation with this project,” Kelley said. “Even though each region has their own boundaries, the rivers and streams in Ulster County flow through these boundaries and the problems that happen as a result of these natural disasters are our common link. This is a situation where these rivers, streams and tributaries all flow together, which create a remarkable amount of discussion and cooperation about the best kinds of solutions. This is a tremendous program and I salute the governor for creating a ground-up approach as opposed to a top-down approach.”

Kelley said now that problems and solutions have been identified, it’s up to the communities and their leaders to work with consultants on prioritizing which remedies to push forward. Factors that will be considered when prioritizing each solution include monetary estimations and the substance and value of each project.

Consultants will present ideas, solutions and perceived cost in Albany during a final proposal and presentation in March. In the meantime, communities are continuing to publicly meet on a weekly basis to provide an inclusive environment for residents to voice their concerns and solutions to the problems they have faced because of recent natural disasters.

Zimet said some of the ideas being proposed are big, but rightfully so.

“The governor is encouraging people to think bigger, and at the end of the day, they’re going to fund the big ideas,” she said. “He wants you to take a natural disaster and build a resiliency so if that disaster comes again, we’ll be better prepared and protected instead of being devastated. We don’t want to build back the same, we want to build back better.”