By Buffy Calvert

The Andes Flood Commission invited stream-side homeowners to see what the Commission is up to that will affect their property and to get their responses before a Public Meeting to be held in August. So, on July 6th, Commission members Frank Winkler, Dorothy McArdle, Nick Burton and Mary Davis and a team of environmental specialists (including Phil Eskeli of DEP, John Mathiesen of the Catskill Watershed Corporation, Graydon Dutcher of  Delaware County Soil & Water Conservation, Wendell Bachman and Shaun McAdams of the firm of Barton & Loguidice) walked Andes brooks with stream-side home owners Jim Andrews, John Andrews and Carol Sweat and representatives of affected institutions, Robert Chakar Superintendent of ACS and Gloria Carlson, a librarian from the Andes Public Library.

The Commissioners and their advisory team want to mitigate flood damage to homes and bridges in the hamlet. As Frank Winkler put it, “At the school we tried to show the benefits of stepping back the stone wall to allow the stream to enter a floodplain. This would reduce floodwater levels. We would try to retain the characteristics of the stone wall as much as possible. The State Historic Preservation Office would have a role but I don’t think we would want to mimic the work of 80 years back. I think a ‘safety fence’ would need to be added. A stream gauge near the school would get better storm records and help to educate the students on stream dynamics.”

At the library, the team told the residents that they were likely to recommend building a “floodplain bench” along the Tremperskill as it flows along Main Street. The brook switches from the south side to the north as it rushes under the bridge just below Bohlmann Park and back again beyond the Triangle at Depot Street, after swallowing Liddle Brook on the school grounds.

The “bench” would be a continuous 25-foot swale on one bank of the brook to allow flood waters to spread out. Since it would be lower than the opposite bank and would be stabilized to avoid falling trees, it would lessen the impact of flood waters filled with woody debris surging against bridges, backing up and overflowing into homes, businesses and streets.

As we walked, the team was appraising the banks of the brook, considering which bank would work best for the plan at that particular spot. Optimally, the “bench” would extend the entire length, uninterrupted by buildings, but it can swerve from side to side as needed, and no homes will be disturbed.

They emphasized that even the Great Floods of 1996 and 2006 were not, by FEMA statistics, 100-year floods.  That one is still to come! Whatever measures Andes can take now would help to avert catastrophic damage later.

They also stressed that this will be a “bottom-up” community project, not “top-down.” Any measures adopted would come from the Town Board and cooperating brook-side home owners.

In answer to a question, the group was assured that there are grant monies available to help with the cost of tree-removal, re-siting outbuildings, etc. to property-owners as well as the creation of the bench itself to the Town. DEP is picking up the costs of this preliminary study and plan.

In a follow-up email, Winkler observed, “Several thoughts I have for flood mitigation are zoning setback requirements along the stream edge, an annual streambank assessment to identify any hazard trees that may obstruct the stream flow, and anchoring fuel tanks. There may still be a few sites above the hamlet that could detain peak flows. Hopefully, we will see the full list of possible treatments in a month or two.”

Hear more at the Flood Commission Public Meeting in August. ~