Storms have caused silt buildup in the village reservoir and at the mouth of the Esopus Creek, and village officials would like to use some of the local share of the state’s $750 million for storm repairs to dredge the two bodies of water. However, this could be hampered by the way the funds are being distributed: the state wants to use the bulk of the $12 million for projects that benefit the village and town of Saugerties, as well as Woodstock and Phoenicia, said village Mayor William Murphy.
If a previous estimate for dredging the Esopus was accurate, the money would only cover a small part of it: Supervisor Kelly Myers said when she was a village trustee serving on the village’s Waterfront Advisory Committee in the late 2000s, the group was told dredging would cost between $40 and $50 million.
There is no cost estimate at this time for dredging the Blue Mountain Reservoir.
It’s not clear that dredging either would help reduce the damage of flooding in the future, which is a stated goal of state funding. Supervisor Kelly Myers said some feel dredging the Esopus below the dam would reduce flooding, while others say it won’t help. But both bodies of water have borne the impact of flooding from recent storms. Accumulated silt in the Esopus made it too shallow for the Sloop Clearwater, the environmental education boat, which had to relocate to Kingston. The Coast Guard, which keeps the shipping channel open on the Hudson, is also having problems, as are pleasure-craft boaters, said Myers.
Mike Hopf, superintendent of the village water department, said Irene brought a lot of silt into the Blue Mountain Reservoir, which reduced its capacity, and also began to clog intake valves that need to be cleaned out. By dredging the reservoir it will increase capacity and take the silt away from the intake valves, he said.
Alex Wade, who is in charge of special projects for the village and who was designated by the governor’s office as one of the representatives of the village, said the “damage below the dam was quite severe… and we also had problems with turbid water at the water treatment plant.”
Selection of projects will depend on numerous meetings. Myers said the public will be invited to attend meetings in the coming weeks and provide input. Each town and village will form its own committee of residents and businesses affected by the storms. And, rather than each town or village going it alone, the state is putting together working groups of towns to make regional plans.
Wade said the state “wants to move quickly on this” and plans are expected by October.