“My natural disaster was bigger than your natural disaster!” That seems to be the message that downtown Rosendale residents have been getting from the US Army Corps of Engineers, according to town supervisor Jeanne Walsh. At the Rosendale Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6, Walsh expressed her frustration with the federal agency’s heel-dragging with regard to cleaning up the mess that it had made while trying to clean up the mess that Hurricane Irene had made in 2011. “They keep saying they’re working on it,” she reported of her most recent conversations with Army Corps representatives. “The money ran out, and the project stopped.”
The high volume of water flowing through the Rondout Creek during and after Irene caused serious erosion problems in the area downstream from Rosendale’s old railroad trestle, undermining the streambank behind the 1850 House Inn and Tavern on Main Street. While working to remedy the problem during the summer of 2012, the Army Corps created a stockpile of fill on one of the shoals in the creekbed, building a temporary road down the embankment from the end of Snyder Avenue in order to dump the material. But then the project ground to a halt, with the erosion repair unfinished, a pile of fill still sitting on the shoal and the temporary road seeming more permanent by the day.
The problem, according to Walsh, was that Hurricane Sandy happened, and projects to address its aftereffects became a much higher priority for the Army Corps. The crew working in the Rondout was pulled out, and now “There’s no funding due to Sandy,” said the supervisor.
Her contacts at the federal agency assured her that a crew would be back in the foreseeable future to finish up the work that it had started, in terms of the most urgent problem of stabilizing the undermined embankment. As for the mess left behind, “The piles will be removed, but we still will have a problem with the shoaling, which is diverting water to the James Street side of the Creek,” noted Town Board member Ken Hassett, adding, “That temporary road can’t stay — it [the embankment]’s part of the berm.”
Walsh didn’t hold out much hope for significant help from the Army Corps in removing the shoals in the streambed that were greatly enlarged by silting of materials dislodged by the force of Hurricane Irene. “They think it’s a waste of money. They say that every time they remove the shoaling, it comes back. We can’t get blood out of a stone.”
On a more positive note, the supervisor said that the Army Corps had agreed to allow the “cobbles” that it removed from the site to be repurposed as fill by the Rosendale highway department and the Department of Environmental Conservation. This would save the town the cost of disposing of the debris. “They’re going to finish what they started, and the town gets the material. We don’t have to truck it out,” said Walsh.
Town Board member Manna Jo Greene asked the supervisor whether her Army Corps contacts had given her a written plan for the completion of the project. “They keep saying they’re working on it,” replied Walsh. “They’re waiting on approval from their supervisors. I’ll let them know that we’re waiting on that written description.”