Pleasant surprises can be hard to come by. Town of Olive Supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle, busy “chasing money” to support the town’s efforts to minimize damage potential in its newly re-mapped flood zones, received one last week in the form of a call from Mark A. Castiglione, Acting Executive Director of New York State’s Hudson Valley River Greenway agency, informing her that Olive had been granted an award of $8500.
“I’m very excited about it,” Rozzelle said. “I plan to go to the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library on Wednesday (October 8) to receive the funding” which she said would go to cover a portion of expenses involved in the creation of a flood mitigation plan for the town. “I remember (former town board member) Linda Burkhardt presenting a resolution for Olive to become a Greenway Community in 2006, which passed, and [we] applied for a grant, this year, before their deadline in early September.”
The agency, established by the Greenway Act of 1991 to work toward environmental goals and “strengthen state agency cooperation with local governments” as well as “help communities bolster a balanced approach to local economic development, preservation of community character, open space protection, heritage education and help incorporate smart growth principles” is designated as a “public benefit corporation”
The issue of flood areas has been a primary concern in Olive for several reasons. Beyond the obvious physical impacts of hurricanes in recent years, there have been reactive legislative adjustments, still unresolved, hovering over affected hamlets of the town. Set to go into effect in 2014, the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, enacted to rescue FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from insolvency after Hurricane Katrina left a $23 billion debt in its wake, the Act prompted such huge insurance rate hikes in flood zone regions that many homeowners were faced with moving to other areas. Rozzelle cited a $9,000 homeowner flood insurance bill in West Shokan as just one example.
Many flood zone residents were shocked by the rates set according to newly drawn Flood Insurance Rate Maps and the 25% annual increments over five years, reaching actuarial levels Rozzelle said were “cost-prohibitive” to home owners who have property parts dipping below BFE (Basic Flood Elevation) points. The shock waves across the nation from Biggert-Waters (which reauthorized the flood insurance program through September 2017) prompted the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR3370) in Congress and a like bill in the Senate (S1926) which both passed by comfortable margins early this year, delaying large premium increases until FEMA completes an “affordability study” which is still up in the air, presumably above BFE levels.
Rozzelle explained the reason for the projected use of the grant.
“A reason for doing a flood mitigation is so we can make application to FEMA’s Community Rating System available to property owners, which requires a mitigation plan in place,” she said. “Depending on the level Olive participates, this can reduce flood hazard zone policy-holders insurance premiums up to 45%.”
With a report from the engineers working on specifics of the mitigation plan available, Rozzelle said she will be making a grant application on October 16 to AWSMP (Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program) to cover the study costs on who is handling the Request for Proposal process for the Town through the Cornell Cooperatrive Extension.
With Olive’s new Flood Advisory Committee working through stacks of required paperwork, Rozzelle called for input from the community in response to the fresh ideas about what needs to be done in terms of stream stewardship. State regulations allow actual work in the streams to begin on April 1. When the initial cost of the engineers’ study is behind them, the committee hopes to have the materials ready for an October 30 meeting and SMIP (Stream Management Implementation Projects) grant applications in place before the Spring.
Another flood-related matter will be aired at the town meeting hall on Bostock Road at 10 a.m. Thursday, October 23. NY DEP Manager Ray Girgis will be outlining a project to replace the railroad bridge over the Esopus Creek on Route 28A in Boiceville. Titled Project CAT 352, it plans to remove the so-called “5 Arch Bridge” to a yet-to-be-disclosed location eastward of the present position.
“DEP does plan to replace the bridge because it is more than 100 years old,” explains Adam Bosch of the DEP’s Director of Public Affairs. “Some portions of the bridge have deteriorated over time and — although it’s still safe and passable — the city needs to replace it to keep that crossing in good repair.”
Supervisor Rozzelle points out that it can be observed on the new flood maps that the structure and its foundation is constricting the flow of the Esopus at that point, at times creating a backwash of water into the hamlet.
“Experts have not even begun to design the project yet,” Bosch noted. “They are expected to begin soon, and the design phase is anticipated to take roughly six years. That means we could replace the bridge sometime around the year 2020, but all of this is still very preliminary.”
“I’m glad they’re coming this early,” Rozzelle said. “We want to give them information on what we think they should make sure to do to keep from further problems in Boiceville.”
Curfew on agenda
Other business on the agenda for the October 14 meeting includes a resolution to make the town curfew for residents under 16 years of age official at 9 p.m., which has been informally active for several years.
Budget workshops on October 6 and 9 will aimed at establishing a preliminary budget for the town board meeting.