Assemblyman Lopez calls for state role in ensuring safety of Gilboa Dam

Republican state Assemblyman Pete Lopez said today he wants the State Legislature to start scrutiniz

Republican state Assemblyman Pete Lopez said today he wants the State Legislature to start scrutinizing the safety of the 84-year-old Gilboa Dam, which holds back the 19.5-billion-gallon Schoharie Reservoir upstream of roughly 32,000 residents in the Schoharie Valley.

One of hundreds of homeowners affected by Hurricane Irene, Lopez, of Schoharie, is requesting a hearing of the Assembly and Senate Environmental Conservation committees to probe the dam’s structural integrity, emergency and safety protocols, its use for flood control purposes and indemnification and other issues, according to a release from Lopez’s office.

“The people in my district, particularly those who live downstream from the dam, have been through more than enough in the last two months. They have lost their homes, their farms, their businesses, their schools, their libraries and town halls,” Lopez said in the release.

As floodwater from Hurricane Irene gushed into Schoharie Valley communities, scores of evacuees had to be uprooted from emergency shelters after gauges that monitor flow over the Gilboa Dam were destroyed, leaving no way to determine the dam’s ability to hold its water.

The Schoharie Reservoir has its own estimated flood inundation zone that’s greater in extent than Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding, forcing officials to evacuate shelters like the Esperance Elks Lodge and the Schoharie Central School in case the dam broke.

A series of 20 sirens used to alert residents to head for high ground is believed to have saved lives in creekside communities but the system was put out of commission by the storm.

Without those sirens, firefighters and emergency officials were forced to use the reverse 911 system and go door-to-door to evacuate residents a week later as Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain on the watershed.

“The very least we can do as legislators is to take action to ensure their safety, to give them some peace of mind. This is why we need to hold a joint legislative hearing as soon as possible,” Lopez said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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