Two devastating floods in six years. In the past year alone, three storms that sent water sloshing into stores on Phoenicia’s Main Street. Is industry to blame, for provoking climate change? Are state and New York City regulators to blame for letting streams grow shallow and wide?
Many local residents say the streams were dredged every year or two in the past, as a means of preventing flooding. But since 1996, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has prohibited dredging except in specific cases, and then only through an extensive approval process.
“Our mission statement is to figure out what we can do as a group to stop the intense regulation against dredging our streams,” said Shandaken resident Faye Storms on September 10, as she opened the launch meeting of Save Our Shandaken (SOS) at the Copperhood Retreat and Spa on Route 28, west of Phoenicia. “We want to work with the DEP and DEC as partners, not as dictators, so we can get into the streams when we need to maintain them. And they need to be responsible for paying for it.”
Storms, who owns Blue Barn Antiques and Interiors, and Copperhood owner Elizabeth Winograd chaired the meeting, which was attended by about 30 people. Although representatives from DEC and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were invited to the impromptu gathering, none showed up.
Storms cited the success of the Stony Clove dredging, which appears to have prevented flooding on Main Street during Tropical Storm Lee on Wednesday, September 7. “Margaretville and Arkville had flooding again,” she asserted. “We didn’t flood. John Kilb, who lives on the corner of Main Street by the Stony Clove, came to me and said there was no water in his basement for the first time. If we maintain our streams, preventing floods is a no-brainer. I’m sick of watching my land go away. The next flood, or the one after, may take my foundation.”
“It’s nothing new — in Europe, they do it,” added Winograd, whose property was undercut and strewn with massive amounts of rubble by the flood. “We know what one neighbor does can affect another. We need the authorities to oversee what’s done, but they have to communicate with us.”