Shandaken set to tackle flooding issues

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Shandaken’s annual reorganizational meeting on Monday was downright calm this year, as opposed to previous such sessions, and it almost ended without any of the usual dark tones that tend to plague this local government.

After positive announcements about the upcoming year by Supervisor Rob Stanley, who said that the long awaited new signage in town was coming in 2013, along with some nifty new kiosks that have been in the design phase for over a year, Phoenicia Water Commissioner Ric Ricciardella made sure the session did not close without a reminder that all is not well.

Noting that the water district has received a citation over turbidity issues, Ricciardella said that the town must pay attention this year to the threat of flooding.

He pointed out that the most recent rainstorm last month ended just in time. “Another hour of rain and we would have had another flood,” he said.

Another close call
As town board members nodded in agreement, Ricciardella said that could have meant that Phoenicia could easily have been in the shape it was one year ago, when residents and business owners were screaming for the County of Ulster to reopen the Bridge Street bridge, a span that was damaged in the flooding caused by storms Irene and Lee in the summer of 2011.

The bridge was reopened by Memorial Day, but Ricciardella said that county officials have made it clear that if it gets damaged again it will not be reopened.

Against polite requests by Stanley to not get into a discussion about flooding, Ricciardella said that the town must work with other related agencies to remove the gravel that has accumulated in not just the Esopus Creek, but also all of the streams in town that feed it.

According to Ricciardella, and many agree, decades and decades of erosion have deposited so much gravel in the waterways that there is little room for water any more, and so they easily hit flood stage during extreme weather events.

One problem area has been another bridge in Phoenicia that spans the Stony Clove Creek, just west of the business district. After Main Street was badly flooded three times within one year, agencies such as the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, despite warnings from the scientific community, collaborated on the dredging of the Stony Clove.

The project has worked at least twice, with locals agreeing that Main Street would have been flooded both times where high water ran amuck in the region.
While scientists studying stream flow have said that dredging is only a temporary fix, people like Ricciardella say it is better than nothing.

There was no response from the town board when Ricciardella called for town-wide dredging.