By Buffy Calvert and Judy Garrison

On Friday evening, March 20th, Andes residents gathered in the ACS gym for the launch of the Andes Flood Commission, a 9-person group of citizens who will analyze, prioritize and effect flood mitigation projects in the Hamlet of Andes.

Two experts from the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation Stream Management Program led the meeting. Rick Weidenbach outlined the history of New York City’s monitoring of its watershed, stemming from the Clean Water Act and the consequent federal regulations.

NYC opted not to filter its water supply but rather to regulate activities in its watershed in a negotiated agreement with the affected upstate communities: us.

In the past several years, Delaware County has suffered the most “declared floods” in New York State. Flood waters pour lots of pollutants into the reservoirs. For example, NYC couldn’t use water from Pepacton Reservoir for 3 months after a recent flood.

NYC’s DEP has diverted $15,000,000 from its land acquisition program into a buyout program, $10,000,000 of which is going to the Watershed “Buy Out” fund to purchase property and relocate the owners with an eye to mitigating flooding in hamlets that choose to participate. Weidenbach emphasized that this option is a last resort and would happen, “If and only if the community wants it.” Many other flood mitigation options are available and will be explored by the Commission.

Graydon Dutcher, a flood science expert from the county Soil and Water Conservation Program, gave us an intense, illustrated tutorial about floods, their causes and ravages and some methods, old and outdated and new and promising, to reduce flood elevation levels and rebuild infrastructure, thereby mitigating their severity and damage.

He is eager to hear stories from everyone in Andes who has experienced local flooding.

Precipitation (rain and snow, sleet and hail), in Andes is increasing. Delaware County measures twice the yearly amount of precipitation as the rest of NYS.

The work of the newly-formed Andes Flood Commission will be to do an intensive and  extensive Local Flood Analysis — which will include depth mapping and depth grids of the streams — followed by designing (with community input) effective and specific Flood Engineering projects – such as the construction of multi-stage channels or a step-pool system — for the Hamlet. They must do a cost/benefit analysis and prioritize which flood mitigation projects are wise and doable.

Money is available through various local, state and federal grant programs.

Dutcher anticipates that frequent community meetings will be held. The Commission’s first job is to choose a consultant to coordinate the work The county will facilitate its administration.

Contact members of the Andes Flood Commission: Wayland “Bud” Gladstone, Chair, Mary Davis, John Gregg, Dorothy McArdle, Tom Joyce, Frank Winkler, Michael McAdams, Artie Short and Rob Laing, with questions, suggestions, and real-life flood stores.~