Olive progresses in flood mitigation

Turbidity HZTOlive town supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle is almost giddy with the progress being made now with her town’s eternal flood problems. A recent kickoff meeting for Olive’s Local Flood Analysis (LFA) overview on April 14, she said this week, drew a full house to set the ball in motion to spend nearly $100,000 in grants that, in turn, has resulted in a million dollar commitment from the state for implementation projects as soon as Spring/Summer 2016, and another $2 million for further stablization projects being designed to avoid a repeat of the town’s 2011 devastation from Tropical Storm Irene.

Sylvia Rozzelle

Sylvia Rozzelle

In addition to the town’s hard-working flood advisory committee, the supervisor said, attendees included representatives from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Ulster County, the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program that is funding the analysis, and at least three dozen members of the local community.

The analysis will look at trouble spots in local streams with an eye towards mitigating recurring flood problems in Boiceville, the community’s de facto business center, and West Shokan, where its town government is based. Rozzelle said that a key component to the study, and its effectiveness drawing implementation funds, is public input. Towards that end, she is asking the public to stop by the stream program’s offices on Route 28 in  Shandaken to look at the maps they are working from, and then come out to the flood advisory committee’s next meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30, to identify problem areas directly on to those maps.


The supervisor added that, thanks to an additional grant from Hudson Valley Greenway, waterways not in the New York City watershed, particularly in the Samsonville area, can also be identified as needing mitigation work.

The last really major flooding to affect the town, in 2011, devastated the Boiceville business area, knocking out Olive’s main supermarket and doctors’ offices for months, shut down town offices on Watson Hollow Road, and cut off wide swathes of the community from each other.

Rozzelle said she was hoping to get copies of the relevant flood maps that the town and stream management program are working with online soon, pending completion of a number of further implementation funding applications over the coming weeks.

Olive turned to the locally-funded program after growing frustrated with endless delays and changes in paperwork with the state’s NY Rising program, announced two years ago but only now starting to actually disperse funds to regional towns for flood mitigation purposes.

The NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program was put together by Governor Andrew Cuomo following Superstorm Sandy, to include funds to help prevent future flooding problems in areas also affected by tropical storms Irene and Lee. The goal of the program is “to help the state become better equipped to withstand the effects of extreme weather, while empowering local communities to take the lead in resiliency efforts.”

“Our 2013 planning process for that program, though, allowed us to organize around the areas of concentration in Boiceville and West Shokan that we’ll now be doing a full analysis on,” Rozzelle said. “Now, with all we’ve been doing of late, we just received ‘pre-application approval’ for $1 million in funding for 2016…We’re still doing the paperwork on it and can’t be sure about what projects we’ll be doing until the current analysis is completed.”

The supervisor added that NY Rising administrator Laurie DeBord told her funds would be paid out “as soon as they are invoiced,” and that Olive was eligible for another $2 million for stream management projects, and possibly even an earlier-talked-about plan to move the town offices to a better, safer location.


Trying to reduce flood insurance premiums

In other flood-related matters, the Olive town board has been working with the Community Ratings System to ensure that FEMA (Federal Emergancy Management Agency) can eventually lower mandatory flood insurance costs for local businesses and homeowners.

“I recently heard from one woman in West Shokan who said she was paying $4700 a year,” Rozzelle noted. “FEMA says we could conceivably have such costs reduced by 45 percent, although we would never be able to get it down that far because of the way our town’s set up. Nevertheless, we’re hoping to reduce people’s costs 10 to 15 percent, which could particularly mean a lot for our businesses. We have $2.5 million assessed in our flood zones as it is now…”

Did Rozzelle ever think of future projects she could lead Olive towards following all the flood mitigation work of recent years?

“Oh Christ, that’s going to be years down the line and I’m already 65,” she replied. “Let’s just get through all this. And my knee replacement surgery. At least we got a plan.”