FLOOD CONTROL: The Berm, the Bridge, the Bench or…? —— December 2016

By Buffy Calvert

As Andes residents hunkered on the ACS bleachers for a Public Hearing on Flood Control on October 21st, Bud Gladstone, the Flood Commission Chair, turned the hearing over to Graydon Dutcher of the Delaware County Soil and Water Commission and Shaun McAdams and Wendell Buckman of the firm Barton & Loguidice, which has been hired to advise their work. DEP is picking up the costs.

Dutcher assured the crowd that they are all “working for you,” proposing ways to lessen flood damage in the hamlet but not deciding for the Town. He noted with pride that Delaware County is first in the nation to take this approach.

Buckman and McAdams showed a series of slides using model FEMA maps depicting possible 40, 60, and 100 year floods sluicing over a map of Andes. They then outlined possible measures to slow the water down. They recommend this pro-active approach, addressing the causes of flood damage before it happens.

The Berm

Since water flows in from the higher land around the hamlet, one way is to create a berm upstream dented by a hollow to let the stream through for normal flow. In flood, the berm, an artificial bank, would hold back the rush, filling a swale above the berm to extend the time the flood waters could reach the stream. This flood-retention structure on Gladstone Hollow or Hyzer Hill might cost up to $1,000,000 and would require constant, conscientious maintenance by the town.

This spurred some discussion. Jesslyn Cleary, who lives on Lower Main Street, noted that she used to get 4 ½ feet of water in her basement but that since the storm-water drains were installed in 2007, she doesn’t get any.

Dutcher agreed. “She’s right.” When another resident asked about dredging the stream, he pointed out that some of the vertical stone walls along  Liddle Brook by the school are “hanging in place” above the floor of the brook. This indicates that the stream is deeper now than when the walls were built 50 years ago and that rather than dredge, perhaps we should fill. Everyone agreed that Liddle Brook, which runs into town along Delaware Avenue, is a very well behaved stream.

The Bridges

One problem the team of experts noticed is that our bridges become obstructed with storm debris and flood the surrounding areas. “We could remove all the bridges.” An audible gasp from the audience. “That’s not practical,” conceded the experts. However, perhaps the 5 most problematic could be widened by 10 feet to allow the surge to flow underneath.

In searching for options, the Commission and their advisors are committed to solutions that do not involve relocating any houses or businesses. They will consider relocation of outbuildings such as garages or sheds where practical.

The Bench

Another plan under consideration is to create a “bench” along the Tremperskill from the Gladstone Hollow bridge to Ballantine Park. This would mean lowering the stream bank on one side to create room for the water to overflow onto a lawn or field by 25 to 40 feet. The “bench” would have to be contiguous from one property to the next so that all the private properties along the brook would be affected. It could go from side to side if necessary. For example, where houses are nearly on the bank, the “bench” could swing over from the north side to the south side of the brook or vice versa.

Realistically, to avoid flood damage will require some sacrifices. The ACS tennis courts would need to be relocated. And some people seemed reluctant to give up their landscaping for the arbitrary plantings prescribed on a “bench” along a cut-down stream bank. The legal framework for this plan is yet to be worked out.

The Flood Commission hopes to propose a plan to residents by 2017. The team reiterated that they work for us and will not tell us what to do but will offer possibilities for limiting flood damage by addressing the causes and let the Town choose among them. They also assured us that there are grants out there to cover the costs. ~