Schoharie County

Schoharie County flood wall project may collapse

A plan to build a flood wall around the Schoharie County office building and courthouse may come to
Debris from the interior is heaped outside the Schoharie County Office Building in downtown Schoharie after the building was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene.
Debris from the interior is heaped outside the Schoharie County Office Building in downtown Schoharie after the building was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene.

A plan to build a flood wall around the Schoharie County office building and courthouse may come to nothing as projected costs exceed Federal Emergency Management Agency commitments.

While the agency had approved about $3.9 million for the project, the most recent cost estimates are around $4.7 million, according to Schoharie County treasurer and flood recovery coordinator Bill Cherry.

“Despite the best efforts of our engineering and construction management team to reduce or trim the project in order to make it less expensive, we have not yet found a way to bring it in for the amount approved by FEMA,” Cherry wrote in a report to the county Board of Supervisors on Friday.

The construction bids for the project, which came back in January, total just under $4 million. Cherry said design and construction management costs would add another $700,000.

The plan approved by FEMA involves building a permanent wall around much of the office building and courthouse, on Main Street in the village of Schoharie, with some retractable sections that could be raised during a flood. It would include a “grout curtain” that extends 32 feet underground to prevent floodwater from penetrating the foundation.

That plan had already been scaled back from the original designs that had called for walls high enough to protect the complex from another Tropical Storm Irene. As it is, the walls would rise to the level of a 100-year flood plus two feet, or about three feet short of Irene’s high water mark.

Cherry does not expect to negotiate the $3.9 million FEMA has allocated for the project—that’s based on “rigid” calculations, he said—but he’s requesting that FEMA fund the project from a separate funding pool that is “more flexible” in considering alternatives when rebuilding in a floodplain.

“We do think it’s a really important project,” Cherry said. “I think it would be a real improvement for this building and the courthouse. We wouldn’t have to worry about at least moderate flooding.”

However, he noted in his report to the board that there is “not a lot of optimism” that FEMA will agree.

If it doesn’t, he said, “we may just have to walk away from this project.”

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.

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