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Post-Irene stream bed work approaching start

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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— Design plans for Schoharie County’s massive post-Irene stream reconstruction project reached a milestone Friday and officials this week said work is expected to begin within months.

The roughly $21 million project, focusing on eight stretches of creeks and streams mangled in 2011 by the back-to-back tropical storms, is considered the biggest emergency watershed protection project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service in New York state.

The county’s Planning and Development Department on Tuesday announced that a new website, www.schohariestreams.com, was launched to serve as a journal of the work as it progresses.

Soil and Water Conservation District stream program manager Peter Nichols said design plans for the work — which will include rebuilding roughly 29,000 feet of stream channels — reached 30 percent Friday, an important milestone that entails bringing regulatory agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, into the planning process.

Engineers from the project management firm AECOM secured precise surveys of the streams, which remain in a risky state.

Many are disconnected from their respective flood plains — they were scoured so severely by Irene and Lee flooding they no longer tie in with areas that could help relieve some of the flooding that would take place were another tropical storm or hurricane to hit.

Despite the destruction wrought by the 2011 storms, the project represents necessary work that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

“We’ve never done a full-scale watershed assessment. We’ve never had the money to,” Nichols said.

County planning and development director Alicia Terry said the website established for the project will help keep landowners updated on the work’s status. It’s also expected to be followed by others interested in large-scale stream restoration work.

The project is a combination of eight smaller jobs focusing on four stretches of the Little Schoharie Creek, one on the Line Creek, one on the Platter Kill and two on unnamed tributaries on Brown Mountain Road.

Nichols said it’s not yet certain whether the work will put the streams back into pre-Irene state, or if that’s even possible.

“We’ve lost a lot of real estate, we’ve lost a lot of soil, we’ve lost a lot of bed armoring,” Nichols said.

Landowners with property adjoining the affected creeks and streams are a critical element of this project, Terry said, so it’s important to have a website available for them to keep up on the work as well.

 
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