Schoharie County

Feds provide additional funds for Schoharie flood barrier

Schoharie County’s flood wall project is moving forward after the Federal Emergency Management Agenc
A rendering of the proposed exterior flood mitigation walls at the Schoharie County office complex.
A rendering of the proposed exterior flood mitigation walls at the Schoharie County office complex.

Schoharie County’s flood wall project is moving forward after the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to provide an additional $800,000 to cover the total cost last week.

The roughly $4.7-million project, which would build a flood wall around the county office building and courthouse, seemed doomed recently as costs exceeded what county leaders thought was a rigid FEMA allocation of $3.9 million.

“While we were given to understand that there was almost no chance of FEMA providing that additional funding based upon their cost-benefit analysis structure, Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and his representatives at the state level really went to bat for us,” said Schoharie County Treasurer and Flood Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry. “So yes, the flood gate project will now really happen.”

The county received bids for the work early this year, with the lowest estimate coming in at about $3.9 million for construction with another estimated $800,000 in “soft costs” for design and project management.

In a letter dated March 8 from FEMA to the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, which helped facilitate the funding effort, the agency agreed to provide the extra $800,000, deeming the request to be “reasonable” and the project to be cost-effective.

Cherry said he planned to make a bid recommendation at the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting March 18. The project should break ground this spring or early summer and continue into next spring.

While the county is grappling with multimillion-dollar cost overruns from another federally funded flood recovery project — which, like this one, also promised no county share at the outset — Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Van Wormer said he expects the board to weigh this project on its own merits.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a problem,” he said. “When a new project comes on, it’s a whole new project.”

Cherry said this project will be funded 75 percent by FEMA and 25 percent by the state with no county share. The stream bank reconstruction project, on the other hand, which is approaching $30 million, is being funded 75 percent by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and 25 percent by the state. There is also a roughly $3 million local share.

“This project must come in and will come in at the FEMA-approved budget,” Cherry said. “We’re not allowed to add a local share to that under FEMA’s rules for flood mitigation.”

The project 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.

Cherry said the offices and court will continue to function throughout construction, though there may be periodic changes to how people enter and leave the buildings.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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