2012-04-04 / Front Page

Troubled Waters

Shea talks about the state of the streams

The bridge at Winston Lane remains in tatters while the Town waits for grant funding to complete permanent repairs.  ANNIE CHESNUTThe bridge at Winston Lane remains in tatters while the Town waits for grant funding to complete permanent repairs. ANNIE CHESNUTEver since the fall storms of 2011, most people on this side of Putnam County know the names of the bodies of water that helped to create havoc in one way or another.

In Philipstown, aside from the Hudson River, and various lakes and ponds, we have Clove Creek, Indian Brook, Philipse Brook, and Annsville Creek, among others. “They all have issues,” Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea told the PCN&R in a conversation about the state of the streams in Philipstown.
Today, Shea said, “Clove Creek has the most unnatural debris in it…garbage and rubbish…actual contaminants, truck tires, concrete,” which needs to come out. “You also have to look at bank restoration because there’ve been huge carve-outs in the banks.”
The issue in New York, Shea said, is that the “If the stream runs through your yard, you can’t just go working in the stream; you can go right up to the stream, you can clear the banks, pull out some debris—anything you can do by hand is OK.” But, he added, “You cannot work in the stream.” Generally the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will issue a permit if it’s something simple.
Even after a recent community clean-up, there is substantial debris in and around the creek on Fishkill Road.  ANNIE CHESNUTEven after a recent community clean-up, there is substantial debris in and around the creek on Fishkill Road. ANNIE CHESNUTIn Philipstown, “Anything we’re going to do is going to require a permit...Like the bridge at Walmer Lane….We have a grant application now to address that.”
“Something’s going to have to happen at Walmer Lane because that’s a dam right now; it’s not a bridge anymore.
Shea noted that the state regulates the streams but it’s never clear who owns the steams, and noted the difficulty of getting funding to maintain stream health.
Assuming some grant money, or even simple permission to proceed, becomes available, Shea said, getting the work done is a contract job: “You can’t push the burden on the Highway Department.”
Shea added that, “We just had the exit meeting with FEMA for the highway project. We’ve filed for $1.9375 million in funding [and if it’s approved] we get 87.5 percent of that [FEMA pays 75 percent and NY State pays 12.5 percent.] We had 33 projects—7 large and the rest under the $63,900 [FEMA threshold]…that represents just a huge amount of work” for the Highway Department staff and for Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico.
Thw Walmer Lane bridge, which collapsed after being overwhelemed by floodwaters from Hurricane Irene last August.  ANNIE CHESNUTThw Walmer Lane bridge, which collapsed after being overwhelemed by floodwaters from Hurricane Irene last August. ANNIE CHESNUTThe $63,900 threshold means that once you get that money, “You’re done; that’s all you’re getting,” whereas beyond the threshold you will get funding for the entire project, even if additional costs result.
All of the work is to repair damages to roads and items “accessory to road” such as culverts. He had nothing but praise for the Highway Department and its hardworking leadership and staff.
Shea said that the relative lack of damage to areas other than roads “had to do with maintenance” The new roof on the Recreation Center, for instance, prevented a tremendous amount of damage, he said; adding that “being proactive” was the key.
“We also have our local ordinances that have to be observed, as far as wetlands,” which is where Wetlands Inspector Dave Klotzle gets involved. Philipstown has a required setback from a stream, whereas the DEC does not. In New York State there are rated trout streams, with various classifications—spawning, etc. From September 30 through May 1 in those regulated streams you can’t work in the stream at all and no permits are issued. “As of May 1 we’ll be able to get back into the streams and work [providing permits are issued], if we have to.”
Shea noted all of the trees that are lying across the stream on Fishkill Road and said there are ways to get those trees out without disturbing the stream. He suggested that if people could hook some ropes on trees and pull them away without disturbing the stream, it would be great, but added, “There is no getting jobs done anymore because there’s so much regulation against getting them done.”
He also suggested that getting rid of some of the downed trees throughout the region will be “doing a favor” by limiting the potential for brush fires, which is a serious challenge as the weather warms up. He urged anyone with loose brush or branches on their property to clear it away.
As for silt, Shea said, “it’s continuous. ...When you have a big rain event, and you have a dirt road, that silt is going in the stream that’s alongside the road.”
Putnam Valley Case Study
Joseph Horan lives at 174 Church Road in Putnam Valley, on a peaceful, verdant stretch of land not far from the intersection known as Adams Corners.
Here the scenic and historic thoroughfares known as Mill Street, Church Road, and Peekskill Hollow Road intersect. At one corner there’s the old school house that now houses the Putnam Valley Historical Society; across the street is the Putnam Valley Grange Hall.
The usually tranquil Peekskill Hollow Brook, which traverses the entire length of Peekskill Hollow Road and continues on into the Town of Peekskill, flows nearby.
Horan and his wife have five young sons, one of whom has special needs. At the Horan’s house, since about 2009, whenever there was heavy rain, they would lose the lower half of their yard to water. By 2010, he said, they were starting to lose the lower half of their yard on a regular basis.
During the snowstorm of March 15, 2011, about 20 inches of snow fell on Putnam Valley, followed by a 43-degree day, he recalled. The snow melted and the runoff overtook his neighbor’s yard, which is closer to the brook and tends to flood first.
The March, 2011, event “really was damaging,” he recalled, and Hurricane Irene exacerbated the situation. On August 28 the hurricane runoff put so much pressure on the Horan’s septic system that it literally exploded, necessitating complete replacement of the system, although (thankfully) not contaminating the brook. The family moved out of the house in September to stay with friends, and then found a rental for the months of October, November, and December. The family was back home by Christmas.
Horan has spoken to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Putnam County, the Town of Peekskill, and the Town of Putnam Valley. On September 14, 2011 he met with the Putnam Valley Town Board, explaining to them and to the TV audience that he felt he was getting no direction on how to proceed. He has been forced into a high-risk flood insurance category because his national flood insurance claims totaled more than $1,000. FEMA did pay $20,000 for the replacement of their septic system and a place to live, but the family is only a rainstorm away from more damage.
First of all, Horan would like to clean out the creek as much as possible so that it can hold more water before overflowing, but DEC regulations won’t allow him to do the work himself. The only permanent solution is to raise the entire house about 3 feet but Horan doesn’t have the money.

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