ALBANY, N.Y. -- Repairs to town highways in Delaware County damaged during spring flooding in 2005 were designed to a higher standard, making those roads better able to absorb flooding damage in the future.
Thanks to a New York State and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy, extra funding is provided to mitigate against future damages to public infrastructure. The result is that in spite of the severe storms and flooding in late June of this year, many roads that were repaired previously suffered significantly less damage.
At the request of New York State Governor George E. Pataki, the President signed a major disaster declaration for 12 counties in New York State as a result of the 2005 flooding. Among the recovery programs activated by the declaration was the Public Assistance Program. This program reimburses eligible government jurisdictions and certain non-profit organizations for eligible costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair or restoration of damaged public infrastructure.
One mitigation success story is in the Town of Walton in Delaware County. Houck Mountain Road is a steep gravel road that has been repeatedly damaged by flooding disasters over the last 10 years. Flooding in 1996 caused the road to be closed for six months, and it was heavily damaged by flooding again in 2004 and 2005.
Following the 2005 disaster, the Town of Walton requested additional funding to repair the road, including hardening the road surface and re-grading and repairing approximately one mile of the road shoulder. The additional mitigation work added $15,853 to the $121,541 total cost of the repair project.
Town of Walton Highway Superintendent Walter Geidel noted he was pleasantly surprised at how little damage Houck Mountain Road sustained during this year’s flood event. “Given the severity of this year’s flood, we anticipated having to deal with significantly more damage to Houck Mountain Road than we actually saw. The extra dollars spent mitigating the road last year definitely saved us time and money this year.”
Another instance of successfully funding cost effective mitigation measures is in the Town of Deposit. Heavy rains following Tropical Depression Ivan in 2004 and severe storms in April 2005, led to a surge from uphill streams that overwhelmed three large culverts carrying water under Silver Lake Road near the town. With the culverts blocked by debris, rushing floodwater undermined the road bed and washed out sections of the road.
The old clogged culverts, originally made from converted railroad cars, were described as “tree catchers” by Town of Deposit Highway Superintendent Dan Axtel. Based upon design improvements mandated by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the three old culverts were upgraded with 40 to 50-foot-long elliptical aluminum culverts and fitted with wing walls, greatly reducing the risk of clogging and washout. The wing walls protect the embankment at the inlet and outlet sides of the culvert.
“It was a classic case of accumulated debris from upstream plugging these culverts and causing the road to wash out,” explained Axtel. “Upgrading the culvert design at those three locations on Silver Lake Road resulted in minimal damage to the road during this year’s record storms. In fact, the road was able to be re-opened almost immediately,” Axtel added.
“These are excellent examples of investments in infrastructure improvements that will pay dividends for years to come,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Marianne C. Jackson.
“Finding ways to mitigate against potential future damages when making disaster repairs is not only a smart way of doing business, it lessens the threat on communities from future disasters,” said John R. Gibb, Director of the State Emergency Management Of...