Flood Mitigation Study Ready
By Jeanne Sager
DELHI February 2, 2006 The possible solution to devastating flooding in Sullivan County is expected to result in a flood of public comment this month.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has completed its review of the three major floods to hit Sullivan County and communities up and downstream in the past three years.
The federal group created in 1961 to manage the waters flowing through the entire watershed opted last year to form a 32-member task force focused on interstate flood mitigation.
Made up of representatives from government agencies in the four states of the basin (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) as well as private businesses and non-profit organizations, the task force has put together 44 different recommendations to reduce flood damage in the watershed.
Now they’re looking for the public opinion.
DRBC Spokesman Clarke Rupert said they’ll start with a meeting in Delhi, set for Thursday, Feb. 8, followed by a session in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania the following week, another in the Wilmington, Del. area, and a final meeting in Trenton, NJ, where the commission is headquartered.
Rupert said the first meeting will officially be called to order at 6:30 p.m. for a 30-minute presentation, but the board of supervisors room at the Senator Charles D. Cook County Office Building will be open for a half hour prior to the meeting for an informal “poster session.”
A breakdown of the facts of the task force findings will be set up on poster-sized displays on easels in the room, and DRBC staff will be on hand to answer questions.
The public will be allowed to begin making comments at 7 p.m., the content of which will be recorded and saved for review by the task force.
Rupert said each meeting will be similar in content a total of four will be held because the basin is such a wide area, and the DRBC wants to allow all residents a chance to speak.
Those who can’t attend are also encouraged to voice their concerns or suggestions. They have until Feb. 28 to mail written comments to Robert Tudor, Deputy Executive Director, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, 25 State Police Drive, West Trenton, NJ 08628.
An 80-page draft of the flood mitigation plan is also available online for review at www. drbc.net.
According to an executive summary provided by Rupert, “The Interstate Flood Mitigation Task Force has concluded that no set of mitigation measures will entirely eliminate flooding along the Delaware River or its tributaries.”
Instead, the force focused on what can be done to mitigate its effects.
Chief among their requests is an improved flood warning system with a focus on education and a “flood hardening” of the gages, allowing them to withstand larger flood events (during the flood of June 2006, the Delaware’s height was “off the gage”).
New York City’s drinking water reservoirs, including the Neversink in Sullivan County, were also a major focus with the task force calling for an evaluation of the current spill and discharge programs.
The task force has requested a study of the downstream effects of leaving voids in the reservoirs to facilitate more water (creating space for additional rainfall in the reservoirs with the possibility it could reduce flooding).
With that in mind, the task force also called for minimizing stormwater runoff, possibly creating detention ponds, catch basins and other devices to hold water.
Where flooding has been a problem, the task force wants to see improved floodplain mapping and an emphasis by governmental agencies on the acquisition of property and elevation or flood-proofing of structures within the floodplain.
Government agencies are also pushed in the plan to work together, creating more uniform regulations in the floodplains along the Delaware.
Any plans by the DRBC cannot be enacted without the approval of the commissioners (which includes representatives of the four states, plus a fifth member appointed by the federal government) as well as all five parties to the Supreme Court decree which created the DRBC (the four states and New York City).
Because of that, changes are rare.
This task force was put together at the request of the governors of the four states within the basin because the floods of the last three years were the worst to occur on the main stem of the Delaware since 1955.
Task force members said they “believe that a combination of measures will improve the basin’s resiliency its capacity to prepare for and recover from flooding in the future.”
Now it’s up to the public to weigh in.
“This isn’t a public hearing with the formalities that come with that,” Rupert said. “We want it to be a more informal type of thing where we have room for a dialogue and for people to really understand what’s going on.
“We were under such a tight time frame with the request from the governors… that we didn’t have a chance to talk with the public before.”
This is their chance, he said.
The Feb. 8 meeting will be held on the main floor of the Senator Charles D. Cook County Office Building which is located at 111 Main Street in Delhi.
For information, contact the DRBC at 609-883-9500.