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What you need to know for 01/17/2017

Local flood projects eyed for FEMA funding

Local flood projects eyed for FEMA funding

Schenectady’s sewage treatment plant may soon be protected from floodwater by a 14-foot-high berm.

Schenectady’s sewage treatment plant may soon be protected from floodwater by a 14-foot-high berm.

The project was one of several locally recommended by the state for FEMA funding, a critical step toward getting funded.

A project in Schoharie County also made the short list to help rebuild after recent natural disasters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

In Schenectady, Tropical Storm Irene nearly flooded the sewage treatment plant.

“It was within a foot,” Mayor Gary McCarthy recalled, adding that no one expected the Mohawk River to rise so far that it could threaten the plant’s operations.

Residents expect their toilets to keep working, even in a hurricane — but a little more rain would have put a sudden end to that amenity.

“You never think of that,” McCarthy said. “You expect these things to keep working.”

The proposed project would protect the entire plant with a berm 14 feet high at a cost of $1.2 million.

“It’s a great investment for the future, because it guarantees that facility will stay online no matter what the weather,” McCarthy said.

If the plant had flooded, raw sewage could also have contaminated the Mohawk River, endangering public drinking water. State officials noted in a press release that the nearby towns of Cohoes, Colonie, Latham and Niskayuna rely on the river as a source of public drinking water.

Schoharie County also was recommended to receive $3.8 million. The project would improve Spring Brook’s drainage system to protect the village of Schoharie from future storms. Communities in the area were badly damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

The city of Amsterdam in Montgomery County could also receive $148,000 and the village of Waterford in Saratoga County could get $500,000 to prevent potential damage from future natural disasters.

A total of 10 projects statewide are set to receive about $128 million through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The projects are among the first to be considered for funding, but still require federal action.

“As extreme weather becomes increasingly routine, we must not only rebuild New York but build it back stronger and better able to protect the safety of our citizens,” Cuomo said in a news release. “This vital program enables communities to think creatively about preparing for future storms, bolstering infrastructure and helping to revive local economies in the process.”

Schenectady is also seeking FEMA funding to replace a crucial sewage pump station that was flooded and moved off its foundation during Hurricane Irene. FEMA initially agreed only to provide funds for repair, but the city appealed the decision last year. A decision is expected by early 2015.

The project is estimated to cost $3.2 million and is scheduled to be completed this year. The city plans to take out a loan to pay for the construction, but officials are still hoping FEMA funds will pay off that loan.

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