Flood preparedness has been and will continue to be front and center for the Town of Shandaken, said supervisor Rob Stanley, commenting on what was accomplished this year and what he’s anticipating for 2015. The hit taken by the town during Hurricane Irene in 2011 has led to an array of projects for stream modification and other measures, funded by the federal and state governments, as well as by the city of New York.
“We’re looking forward to finalizing all the massive projects we’ve been undertaking in Chichester with the assistance of Ulster County Soil and Water and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),” Stanley began. “Those are getting near closed up now. There are just minor plantings to be done in the spring. It looks like the millions spent up there are well worth it.”
He was referring to the Stony Clove Creek, which winds through Chichester and meets the Esopus Creek near Phoenicia’s Main Street, three times flooded in 2010 and 2011. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service funded projects to smooth out rubbled slopes on the Stony Clove that were causing runoff to deposit silt and gravel near the Main Street bridge after each storm. By reducing deposits, engineers hope the dredged streambed will remain lower and less prone to flooding, while also reducing turbidity of water flowing into the Ashokan Reservoir, the source of New York City’s drinking water.
Other flood-related efforts may be launched in 2015, said Stanley, with the completion of the Local Flood Analysis process in Phoenicia and Mount Tremper. The city-funded program is in the midst of identifying projects that will reduce flood elevations to protect residents and businesses. “That should be wrapping up in June,” Stanley said, “with projects coming out of that moving forward.”
Meanwhile, NYRising, a similar program administered by New York State with federal funds, should bear fruit with forthcoming projects to replace town bridges, which contribute to flooding by constricting stream flow during high-water events. A citizens’ committee met extensively during the past winter and spring to make recommendations to the NYRising board, with bridge modification deemed an important measure. Dubbed the “Five-Bridge Project,” the replacements will include bridges in hard-hit Oliverea and the Pine Hill area.
Highway superintendent Eric Hofmeister suggested using box culverts in the replacements, which are expected to be cheaper and possibly more efficient at directing runoff. “They’re not fully vetted through the engineers yet,” said Stanley. “If they’re a more resilient way to go, and they’re cheaper, then absolutely, we’ll use them. The more money we can save on this, the more there will be for other projects on the list.”
Belleayre Resort, sineage, information kiosks
The review of the proposed Belleayre Resort will be draw the town’s focus early in 2015. After over a decade of contention, the luxury hotel and golf course planned for Belleayre Mountain has been turned over for consideration to the planning boards of Shandaken and Middletown. “They’ll hold a public hearing on the subject,” said Stanley. “I’m looking forward to see how it pans out.” He declined to express an opinion on the merits and flaws of the project, given that it is currently in the hands of the planning board.
The town will be finishing up Smart Growth projects that were begun this year, including the raising of information kiosks in Mount Tremper and Big Indian, plus replacement of townwide signage, designed and executed by local graphic artist Kurt Boyer. Signs identifying the hamlets went up this fall. “We’re just waiting on Kurt for the smaller signs,” noted Stanley, “for the parks and town hall and so on.”
With the announcement of $114,000 in grant monies from the state awarded to the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, Stanley is interested to see how the festival, coming up on its sixth year, will evolve. The funds are designated for a developmental director and for marketing efforts, with another $125,000, obtained by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, socked away for establishment of a permanent structure for the festival. “That’s a large chunk of change to work for us,” Stanley noted. “I hope it solidifies their presence in the area and makes it an even better festival.”
Handshakes and details
Looking back over 2014, he cited such progress as the receipt of grant funding for town projects but decried the increasing paperwork required for running the town. “It gets more and more difficult with requirements from Albany concerning municipalities and financing,” he said. “I hope it gets easier. With the two percent tax cap, we’re supposed to come up with shared service agreements with other towns. They’ve been done on handshakes for years, but now they have to be outlined and detailed.”
Such agreements include mutual assistance of police or ambulance crews and the plowing of roads in outlying sections of towns. Stanley explained, “We have to put it on paper and see, is it really a savings or a cost, can we do it more efficiently? But it can only be efficient to a certain point. For many towns already within the two percent cap, it feels like being smacked in the face for following the state edict.”
Over the past year, the town board has worked well, Stanley said. “Each board member has a job and a focus. We have good communication, which you can see through the votes and discussion. We’re open with each other, and 99.9 percent of the resolutions pass unanimously.”
He concluded, “I hope it’s a year without any serious storms while we continue to work on our resiliency. I hope for smooth running.”