By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO February 21, 2006 Paul Rush, a representative of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), told Sullivan County legislators on Thursday not to worry about the safety of the Neversink Dam.
Despite recent reports questioning the oversight of the dam and indicating DEP employees simply photocopied safety reports, Rush said the 200-foot-high, 2,800-foot-long dam is 100 percent safe.
The Neversinks watershed itself stretches 93 miles. The dam can hold up to 35.5 billion gallons of water. The spillway is another 1,440 feet high and 600 feet long.
An engineering study between 1998 and 2003 on the watershed dams found that the dam was in compliance with state regulations, said Rush. The Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County, however, was reported to be unsafe, he said.
Among the few improvements he said are needed in Neversink include the filling in of some burrows occupied by woodchucks. The retaining wall is reported to be in fair condition, although broken metal was identified. In addition, work is needed on the blocks at the top of the spillway, which also needs to be cleared.
Construction to address some of the issues is not set to begin until 2012. Rush said the delays were partially financially related.
Rush said many of the engineers who oversee the dam are from Sullivan County, including himself. He did so in order to communicate that the DEP cares about what happens to Sullivan County.
Despite reports that engineers were photocopying reports of inspections, Rush said the inspections did in fact occur. Section engineers conducted quarterly inspections, as well.
Reports of photocopied reports have done incredible damage to the department, he claimed.
Last Aprils flooding of the Neversink River caused immense damage to communities along the river from Woodbourne to Bridgeville. Rush said that was due to the river reaching record heights. He said the reservoir does not release its water until the spring and must receive approval from states downstream such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Sullivan County Legislator Leni Binder said a bill pending in the NYS Legislature would give the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation oversight of the dams, including when the water was released.
But Rush said such a bill would be in violation of the United States Supreme Court Decree which require the other states to agree on the drawdowns.