Firm identified for Mohawk River flooding and ice jam study

The DEC announced the $500,000 study back in March
Ice jams up in front of Jumpin’ Jacks in Scotia earlier this year.
Ice jams up in front of Jumpin’ Jacks in Scotia earlier this year.

SCHENECTADY — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has selected the consultants who will conduct its $500,000 flooding and ice jam study.

The DEC has contracted with Milone & MacBroom, a civil engineering and landscape architecture firm based in Cheshire, Conn., to look at the entire 147-mile main stem of the Mohawk River.

The purpose of the study, which was announced in March, is to look at what causes ice jams and flooding in high risk areas of the river. This will include looking at natural constrictions along with man-made obstacles, which could include bridges, dams or locks.

The DEC previously said the study is expected to be done in phases. This includes looking at all existing data on ice jams and floods, looking at how water moves through the river system, identifying any constrictions in the river and performing a hydraulic analysis of the river.

At the end, the study will produce a list of recommendations that DEC will look to act on.

“This study is meant to give a technical basis to understand the source of the problem and what can be done about it,” said Jim Tierney, the DEC’s deputy commissioner of the Office of Water Resources.

There isn’t a cap on the funding for the study, according to Tierney. He said $500,000 is an estimate based on the work and studies that already have been done on the river, but said more could be allocated toward the project to make sure it’s done right.

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo] has given the DEC and all agencies a clear directive to get on it and apply the best science in solving these problems,” Tierney said.

The study comes following a harsh 2017-18 winter in which a 17-mile-long ice jam formed in the Mohawk River. It eventually caused two separate floods to occur in the Stockade neighborhood, which led to the evacuation of some residents.

That ice jam was one of nearly 50 that formed in streams and rivers throughout the state.

In response to that, Cuomo announced $3 million for flood studies to be conducted in 48 watersheds throughout New Yoprl to identify flood resiliency projects in high risk, flood-prone watersheds, including the Mohawk River.

The DEC has noted that it isn’t just looking at flooding that has occurred in past and current weather patterns, but the chance for more severe and intense weather events that could happen at a more frequent rate because of climate change.

Milone & MacBroom and O’Brien & Gere Engineers were the two firms selected to be conducting the studies throughout the state, with Milone & MacBroom focusing on the Mohawk.

The DEC met with the engineering and architecture firm on Friday to go over plans and schedules for the study. There was no definitive timeline given for how long the study could take.

Tierney said Milone & MacBroom had previously worked with the DEC in conducting a study of the 13 different tributaries and streams in the western portion of the Mohawk River, meaning the firm is already familiar with the river.

Some experts have cited the dam at Lock 7 as one of the main contributors to the formation of ice jams along the Mohawk River. They have said the dam lets water slow down to an almost standstill, making it easier for ice to form.

Tierney said the agency will certainly be looking at Lock 7 and what sort of role it plays in the creation of ice jams. But he also said the study could reveal a different cause for the formation of ice jams on the river.

“A lot of important lessons will be learned from the studies,” Tierney said. “It will be the type of thing no one can argue with because it’s backed up by the best available science.”

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