Tropical storms Irene and Lee didn’t just destroy property in 2011; their massive rainfall also muddied up the water that’s piped down to New York City.
As a result, towns in southern Schoharie County will be able to get a chance to benefit from money the city will be required to spend on flood mitigation and stream management programs.
The new programs are aimed at the city’s watersheds, which drain water into the reservoir-based water supply system managed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Among those is the Catskill Watershed, which includes part of Schoharie County.
“The Department of Environmental Protection has committed new funding for programs to address flood hazard mitigation in the aftermath of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee,” DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said in a news release.
“These programs, along with others outlined in the Filtration Avoidance Determination, will help the department maintain the safety and reliability of a robust water supply that serves 9 million New Yorkers every day, and they will also improve infrastructure to protect our neighbors across the Catskills,” he said.
The massive water supply system is one of five nationwide able to avoid federal requirements to filter its water through an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called the Filtration Avoidance Determination, that took effect in 2007.
The FAD expires in 2017 but required a five-year review to include any needed changes — and the 2011 storms prompted several, according to the draft issued Friday by the state Health Department.
In Schoharie County, towns considered part of the city’s Catskill Watershed are Broome, Gilboa, Conesville and Jefferson, all of which have creeks and streams that drain into the Schoharie Reservoir.
Funding will be provided for several programs, including a local flood hazard mitigation program to reduce future flood impacts, help flood-prone residents relocate, and help cover the local share of federal flood buyout programs.
A total of $17 million will be directed toward the Catskill Watershed Corp., a coalition of towns in the watershed, to help relocate homes or businesses and “critical community facilities,” according to the draft.
Stream restoration projects are also required as an effort to reduce the amount of turbidity — or cloudiness — that results from heavy rainfall.
It’s not clear yet precisely how funding will be distributed, nor how much might be available for Schoharie County’s southern towns.
Peter Nichols, stream program manager at the Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the city’s stream program funding, in the past, has been run as a competitive grant system.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, issued a statement Friday calling on interested people to share their thoughts with his office as well as with administrators at the state Health Department.
“The release of these revisions are a step forward in the process, and my Watershed Advisory Group has begun a review and analysis of this document. Given the complexity of the issue and number of stakeholders involved, this will take some time,” Gibson said in the statement.
“Principally, we are looking for effective flood mitigation strategies for upstate communities, resolution to turbidity issues throughout the watershed, and equitable policies that balance the need for the conveyance of clean water to NYC with the economic viability and safety of communities in my district,” he added.
When elected, Gibson created a Watershed Advisory Group focused on the city’s watershed and its impact on upstate communities.
Gibson is asking residents to share their comments on the FAD via email to 19thDistrictWatershed@mail.house.gov.
More information about Gibson’s Watershed Advisory Group is online at gibson.house.gov/watershed/.
A public comment period on revisions to the FAD is open until Oct. 15. People can read or download a copy of the document online at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/nycfad/.
Written comments on the draft revised 2007 FAD may be sent by mail to NYSDOH Attn: Pamela Young, Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Room 1110, Albany, NY 12237; or electronically to email@example.com.