NYC Saves Money by Helping Smaller Communities with Flood Control

In a unique relationship with towns in New York City’s watershed, the city allows access to otherwise unattainable disaster prevention expertise, mainly in the area of flood control, in addition to millions of dollars in construction aid to fund solutions to flooding problems. This came in handy recently for towns in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

One town that benefits from the relationship is Phoenicia, NY, which recently suffered flooding when Hurricane Irene passed through that area, followed closely by Tropical Storm Lee. Both storm systems together brought considerable flooding to the main street area and prompted action by town officials.

Such action included the removal of over 20,000 cubic yards of sediment from an area encompassing a quarter-mile of river. This was followed by the installation of a V-shaped rock wall upstream from the Main Street bridge. Accomplished through the use of hydraulic modeling, the wall prevents the formation of sand bars and protects against erosion.

In essence, some good emerged from the disastrous flooding caused by Irene and Lee, exposing gaps in the disaster preparedness plans of small towns. Now, with a decisive plan in place and steps taken to prevent forthcoming flooding, future scenarios will be easier to manage, as the work so far has paid off in the protection of key roads.

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, it is something that other towns should be preparing for, as stated in its 600-page ClimAID report released in November. Global climate change, especially in the New York area, will bring more frequent floods. It is those towns that will have ongoing efforts to deal with this new threat; they also must build disaster education and subsequent response into their everyday procedures in preparations for such future events.

Because these small communities in the Catskill region are in New York City’s watershed, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection provides funding for stream management. The DEP funds work in these small communities to prevent floods that wash clay, silt, and other unwanted debris into the reservoirs. By doing so, the city is allowed to avoid spending billions of dollars on a water filtration plant.

For more information about New York City’s watershed program, visit: