The Town of Saugerties Highway Department has begun putting in another replacement culvert, this one on Wilhelm Road. The construction, which began on August 1, is expected to be completed by the end of the month and is being fully funded by the state.
Culverts may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but they serve an essential function, especially in an area that’s been hit hard by storms like Irene and Sandy in recent years. These key pieces of infrastructure run underground to channel water away from roads and prevent flooding.
“What’s happening is these storms we’re getting lately are magnified tenfold compared to what’s normal and the pipes couldn’t handle it,” said Saugerties Highway Superintendent Doug Myer. According to Myer, 2011’s Hurricane Irene was especially destructive, causing flooding that overburdened Saugerties’s culverts, many of which were undersized and ill equipped to handle the massive water volumes dropped by the storm. On Band Camp Road, Irene caused such severe flooding that it “blew the pipes right out” and “completely warped the road” said Myer.
Those culverts were replaced with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They declined to cover the replacement of the Wilhelm Road culvert on the basis that it was undersized. This was no different from the burst pipes on Band Camp Road, but unlike those pipes, the culvert on Wilhelm only flooded and did not destroy the road.
In 2013, the Town of Saugerties reached out to the NY Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Program and proved a need for storm recovery repairs not covered by FEMA. Using money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the program is providing 100 percent of the $299,000 bill for the Wilhelm Road work.
The new pipe will be a four-sided concrete box culvert — the same kind that Myer says has successfully curbed flooding on Band Camp Road. Contractors have dug a trench lined with a bed of crushed stone in preparation for the sections of culvert, which have been precast by the manufacturer in Watertown. When all six sections arrive, a crane will lower them into the trench where they will be bolted together. The sections are each nine feet and six inches high and 16 feet wide. When complete, the culvert will 34 feet long. (The culvert it will replace was eight feet in diameter and was built from a repurposed railroad tank car.) The contractor for the replacement project is Prime Highway Contractors of Albany and the engineering firm is Brinnier & Larios of Kingston.
“It’s designed to help stop flooding in the low-lying area,” said Myer. The culvert will handle water in a “normal to above normal rainfall,” but Myer says how it will perform in a superstorm remains to be seen. He adds that the two similar box culverts that are on Band Camp Road have worked flawlessly.
The Highway Department, Myer said, is “very grateful” to both FEMA and NY Rising for their assistance in preparing Saugerties with sufficient and up-to-date infrastructure.
NY Rising is funding several other restoration projects in Saugerties. The Highway Department is currently looking into replacing the storm drainage on Cottontail Lane. Then, in Platte Clove, two pipes will be converted into one. “We’re going to bore under the road and build the pipe as we go,” said Myer of the project, which is currently in the engineering stages. NY Rising is also working to repair storm damage to the Esopus Creek banks.