Take That, Trout Streams!

Do you think highway superintendents, property owners and anyone else with access do a bulldozer, an excavator and a tri-axle dump truck should be allowed to do whatever they want to a trout stream with no oversight from the state Department of Environmental Conservation?

The chairman of the Delaware County, N.Y. Board of Supervisors seems to think so. And a state assemblyman seems to agree, since he included the notion in his news release, included here in its entirety.

For the record, the work shown in the photos below — which the assemblyman distributed with his news release — is clearly and obviously in violation of the DEC’s emergency authorization allowing repairs in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee. As noted in an earlier post, the repair work is supposed to “conform to the preflood depth, width, gradient, and channel character, matching the stable stream channel upstream and downstream of the project area.” Fat chance.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 2, 2011
Contact: Allison Scott (518) 455-5981

ASSEMBLYMAN PETE LOPEZ CALLS ON GOVERNOR FOR CONTINUED
EMERGENCY ATTENTION TO STREAM CLEARING & STABILIZATION
SEEKS EXTENDED PERMIT WAIVERS AND MORE FEDERAL $

As communities continue to grapple with the massive impacts of Hurricanes Irene & Lee, Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R, C, I – Schoharie) has requested Governor Cuomo continue emergency attention to stabilizing the hundreds of streams and creeks that devastated the region.

“Despite our best collective efforts, the clearing and stabilization of tributaries remains a critical challenge; many channels have left their banks while others are laden with silt, gravel, and debris,” said Assemblyman Lopez. “Unattended, these compromised streams and creeks pose a continued and significant threat to our roads, bridges, and schools, as well as to private businesses, farms and homes.”

Following the storms, the governor authorized the temporary suspension of permits required to clean up debris from stream beds in navigable waters, protected streams and freshwater wetlands in declared disaster areas until October 8, 2011. Coupled with this waiver has been the release of federal funds through FEMA to take on the massive work.

While progress is being made as a result of the Governor’s initial efforts, Assemblyman Lopez and local officials are concerned that the recovery efforts have been complicated by continued heavy rains, slowing the pace of necessary work. These delays will lead to further flooding, landslides and other damage across the region.

Harold Vroman, Chair of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, said, “We need to have this deadline extended. There’s not enough time to get clean up done in the short period we have and there’s a lot that needs to be done. If we aren’t able to clean up before the spring thaw, we could see additional major flooding and damage to personal houses.”

At a special legislative meeting of the Greene County Legislature, held September 19th, a resolution was passed asking for an additional 6-month extender on the permit waiver. Wayne Speenburgh, Chair of Greene County Legislature, said “It is most important that they extend this deadline. The first few weeks of our recovery were spent on ensuring public safety, getting people out of their homes, and it’s just now that we’re able to start looking at issues like cleaning up the stream beds.”

Delaware County Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution asking for the permit waiver to be extended. James Eisel, Chair of Delaware County Board of Supervisors, said, “I support Assemblyman Lopez 100 percent. We have tried for years to get in and cleanup the stream beds and it’s always been an uphill battle. It’s time for them to do away with the permits and allow us to clean up. If there’s another storm, without giving us the opportunity to clean up the streams, the results will be catastrophic. How many times can FEMA come bail us out? It’s always the same problems year after year.”

“With the Batavia Kill adjacent to the school and exceeding its banks, the amount and level of sentiment on our fields and complex was incredible. Additionally, with the water levels now a minimum of 3 feet higher than it was, due to sentiment piling up downstream, our storm water drainage system is being compromised and causing reoccurring flooding on our campus and Main Street each day. The only way to solve this problem and restore safety is to clean out the streams. John Wiktorko, Superintendent of Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School District, said,
“Redirecting this steam and preventing future damage to the community is a cost that local taxpayers simply cannot afford. The amount of resources to do the job properly is significant and not only affects our community but those downstream as well.”

“Franklin and Walton in Delaware County did extensive stream clearing after the flooding in 2006. This work helped protect them from Irene & Lee.”, said Unadilla Highway Superintendent Rodney Renwick. “There needs to be a long-term plan and not just a short term solution. Right now we are simply reacting to what has happened. We need to be proactive to reduce these impacts in the future. Years ago, farmers and other property owners were able to help keep these streams and creeks clear. We need to take a hard look at allowing them and others to be part of a routine stream maintenance program.”

“We need the Governor’s help to protect our communities”, said Assemblyman Lopez. “More time and resources are needed to tackle these streams to protect public health & safety”.

###

Photo: Emergency reconstruction efforts continue in Pleasant Valley Brook (Schoharie County) as rains continue.

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