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WATER FROM THE Callicoon Creek overflows the Creamery Road Bridge in Callicoon in the aftermath of the June 28, 2006 flood.

Rerouting the Creek

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON – September 14, 2007 — It stands to reason that water flows downstream – just not in Callicoon.
The Delaware River flows south past the hamlet.
The Callicoon Creek flows north, right into the river.
Under normal circumstances, that’s not a problem.
But when there’s a flood, the river rises beyond its banks and flows south into town.
It flows south into the Callicoon Creek, even as the creek is trying to outlet into the river in a northern direction.
More often than not, the mighty river wins the fight, pushing water back upstream in the creekbed.
That’s about to change.
Brian Brustman, district manager of Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation, got a call this week from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
They were the last piece in a complicated puzzle crafted by the county to relieve Callicoon of a portion of its flooding problems.
SHPO gave the green light to a plan already approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation to create a floodwater relief channel in the backyard of the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon.
Funded by the Sullivan County Legislature via the sales tax increase that took effect earlier this year, the project is one of several flood mitigation projects Brustman hopes to get off the ground across the county.
A trench, 60 feet wide and 800 feet long, will be dug out north of the current outlet of the Callicoon Creek.
When waters rise, Brustman said the channel will allow the creek an alternate path to the river.
“Our hope is when the Callicoon Creek raises more than 2 feet above its normal flow height, it’ll start to go down this channel,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to raise a whole heck of a lot.”
It’s not a panacea, Brustman warned.
“If we have a flooding event like we had last June, there is still going to be flooding,” he said. “The idea is that instead of covering the floor of the youth center hall, it’s 2 feet from the building; it should help the town with the sewer plant, if nothing else keeping it down out of the building.
“Our hope is we can keep the water at the bottom of the [Creamery Road] bridge instead of coming over the bridge,” he continued.
In and of itself, that would have a major impact on Callicoon even if another flood of the magnitude of the June 28, 2006 event were to occur.
Waters devastated the youth center and Peck’s Markets in Callicoon that day, left costly damages behind at the Town of Delaware Sewer Plant and came within inches of breaching the first floor of the Sullivan County Democrat building.
With the channel in place, each of those buildings would suffer less of an impact, Brustman said.
Varying amounts and the location of rainfall or snowmelt, the difference in debris back-ups on the creek itself or its tributaries and dozens of other factors make it hard for him to accurately forecast exactly how the channel will help.
But it’s clear it will play a role.
“It should have an impact to a minor extent up the creek,” Brustman surmised. “It’s an awful stretch to say back to Falls Mills, but at least by keeping the water moving I’d like to say back to Hortonville where the North Branch of the Callicoon Creek meets the East Branch.
“If we can get the water moving down [in Callicoon], it’ll move better from Hortonville on down.”
Some of the older residents of Callicoon have told Brustman the creek hasn’t always flowed north into the river.
The story goes that Martin Hermann (who donated the land that will be used for the channel to create the youth center and for whom the hall is named) had the waterway rerouted when he had a lumber mill in town.
At the time, Callicoon’s woods were being mined for timber; the logs lashed together and sent downriver to Philadelphia, Pa.
Hermann’s lumber mill closed in the 1920s, and today the site is home to Roche’s Garage with the Callicoon Creek flowing behind.
Brustman hasn’t been able to confirm or deny the stories, but he said they could play a role in the future of the channel.
Water is hard for man to control, and man-made means for diverting water don’t always work.
If the creek was moved once by man, however, there’s potential for it to be moved again.
For now, this channel will remain a means for high water relief, but Brustman and his crew are hopeful that the creek might take the easy route to the river and adjust itself.
That would be good for Callicoon and have little ill effect on the youth center property, although the fishing access at the rear of the property might have to be moved slightly.
The current roadway to the access will actually be affected by the channel – contractor Ken Redard of Hankins, who submitted the low bid for the project, will be dropping the road down into the channel for people to get through.
Brustman said work should be completed on the project by Oct. 1 at a cost of $45,000.
Chosen in part because of the role it can play in mitigation along the Callicoon Creek Watershed and in part because it’s a project that caught the eye of Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who has pledged federal aid for flood mitigation in Sullivan County, this is only the first plan, Brustman promised.
“Our intent is to continue as funds are available,” he said.

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