By Nathan Mayberg
LIVINGSTON MANOR January 20, 2006 With flooding in Livingston Manor getting worse each year, Town of Rockland Supervisor Patricia Pomeroy has been leading the organization of multiple engineers and government agencies to solve this towns stubborn and terrifying foe.
But it will take time.
The Army Corps of Engineers and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are set to begin their study of the hamlet this year. Meanwhile, the DEC, New York State Department of Transportation, Sullivan County Planning Department, town officials, the towns Sullivan County Legislator Elwin Wood and concerned residents packed into the town hall to hear the ideas of a scientist who has been studying the issue in-depth for several years.
Nat Gillespie, a fisheries scientist from Trout Unlimited (a national trout and salmon habitat conservation group based in Washington, D.C.) spent his time arguing against dredging or gravel mining.
Pomeroy said that many local residents have clamored for dredging whenever there is a flood.
Gillespie said dredging would cause more erosion and destruction of land. The river always rebuilds itself, he said.
He said attempts to change the path of the river have failed in the past. The only way to prevent the flooding is to build up the floodplain. He said some of the sites in the path of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc creeks had been filled in, disrupting the natural direction of the bodies of water and contributing to flooding.
The town is currently considering the purchase of several properties along this path to allow the water to run its natural course.
Another protector against flooding is trees, said Gillespie. Pomeroy said that local resident Martin Schwartz pinpointed several properties on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc that had been clearcut about a dozen in total, he said. Pomeroy said the town board would consider stricter regulations regarding logging permits.
Such extensive logging is believed to have contributed to flooding, as well as a discoloration of the famously clean water in both waterways.
Another site in the way could be the Livingston Manor schools athletic field. Planning Board Chairman Thomas Quick Jr. said the field was on the floodplain and has been continuously flooded for many years. The school was going to erect a large wall on its grounds to prevent flooding which damaged its gymnasium last year, but the town opposed it. Pomeroy said the school never obtained permits from the DEC. The wall could cause other properties to flood, she said.
Pomeroy and the board visited Elmira to check out some detention ponds recently. That could be another option for the town.
Local resident George Fulton has drawn up a plan to build a dam where the water would flow into a dry lake bed. A series of levees would be built on the northwest side of the Beaverkill, said Pomeroy.
One gentleman in the audience suggested a building moratorium in the town until there is a solution. Pomeroy argued against such a move unless there was a large outcry from the community.
The drainage underneath Route 17 is another problem. According to Pomeroy, when the highway was built, it cut off the connection to the floodplain. Stormwater runoff from the highway has caused major problems in the past.
While Pomeroy was optimistic these issues could at least partially be solved, Town of Rockland Building Inspector Charles Irace said the flooding could never be stopped.
For now, it appears that the town will continue its mission to investigate the purchase of certain properties, while considering different mitigation options. Pomeroy said she will be awaiting the studies of the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEC, which have yet to begin.