THE BENCH STANDS ALONE: Flood Commission Holds Final Public Hearing – October 2017

By Buffy Calvert

People streamed into the gleaming ACS gym, signed in under bright lights shining down from the splendid new roof and ceiling, and mounted the bleachers to hear the Flood Commission’s proposals for mitigating flood hazards in the Hamlet.

Proposal #1 ACS

Before Wendell Bachman and Shaun McAdams, engineers advising the group, began to speak, a voice from the top row was raised to complain that notices were sent only to streamside residents, no notice to others in the community, nothing in the local press. She added, “Andes hangs together. What happens to one of us is of concern to all.”

The audience gave full attention to the presentation and asked many pointed and pertinent questions which were handled with grace, frankness and appreciation by the engineers. After 2 ½ years of study, the Commission has decided to discard (“set aside”) some of the options they have explored:

  • Detention Pond Upstream as too costly;
  • Managed Farm Practices, minor benefits, will encourage but not enforce;
  • Increasing Span of Bridges, concluded our bridges do not cause flooding;
  • Debris Influence at Bridges, needs only regular maintenance;
  • Aggregation/Degradation of Streams Under Bridges (i.e. streambed silting or eroding) equals long term buildup. In a later discussion with Marty Donnelly, whose building on Delaware Avenue is squeezed up next to the Tremperskill beside the bridge, the team suggested that dredging it there might have adverse effects on the watercourse farther on. They were also dubious that the allegation that “boys who used to walk under the bridge with ease would now have to bend double,” would meet FEMA standards of proof.
  • Liddle Brook Dam Enhancement (at Woodland Hills) would yield only minor benefits.

They then addressed the flooding of homes. The list of homes where flooding would reach the first (ground) floor by FEMA standards includes: 267 Lower Main, 72, 85, 193, 200, 221, 270, 388, and 326 Main Street and 22, 27 and 39 Delaware Avenue. These would be eligible for FEMA relief if they were flooded. A possible way for those not on the list to reach FEMA eligibility is to fill in the basement (!). In a later interchange with this reporter, Bachman said that ’96 was only a “16-year flood” by FEMA standards. Shane Moshier vehemently denounced the idea, derived from FEMA data gained from a monitor out along the Tremperskill Road. Commission member Frank Winkler agreed, and suggested that there be a monitor in front of the school. “It would be educational for the students and yield far more accurate Andes data.”

Now for the last option: The Floodplain Conveyance through Andes.  As you will recall from an article in the August Gazette, the feasibility of this possibility (the Bench) was scouted out by the team of experts, the Commissioners, and some streamside residents on July 6th in a walk-through by the whole group. The basic premise is: When a brook is confined laterally (by walls or banks) its speed is intensified which leads to flood waters spilling over the banks. To reduce the velocity, widen the area it has to fill. In effect, provide a bench by lowering the stream bank and making a flat surface secured by shrubs or other vegetation. Needless to say, the longer and more connected the bench is from property to property, the better.

Proposal #1 ACS

The engineers used as an illustration  cutting down the wall by the ACS soccer field to 2 feet and letting flood waters flow over a bench: 15 feet of level land reinforced by low shrubs. The stones from the current wall would be used to line the cut made in the field. This would also slice across the tennis courts.

When asked how the soccer field could be restored, they suggested cutting back the hillside and building a retaining wall. Gasp! “That’s the sledding hill!” cried the audience. “There are many pieces of this jigsaw puzzle we have to figure out to meet the community’s concerns,” responded the (rather surprised) engineers. They have already presented this plan to Dr. Chakar and the ACS School Board, none of whom were present.

Proposal 2: Floodplain Conveyance through Andes

The idea is that the school project would function as an inspiring demonstration to persuade homeowners farther upstream to come on board. This would enhance the chances of Proposal 2, basically, the Bench.

They showed a schematic map of Andes inundated by a full-scale flood and one with far less flooding after a bench was created. Although each landowner has to decide whether or not to go along, they hope that, at the least, the sheds and garages perched right on the brook banks could be re-sited. Future zoning could regulate placement of these structures. We were assured that there is grant money available to reimburse homeowners for allowing their brook sides to be lowered 2 feet to create a floodplain of 10-15 feet and for replanting of the area.

Next Steps:

The next steps are for the Commission to complete its report and to present it to the Town Board and the School Board for approval so that the Streamside Program can be implemented.

Phil Eskeli from CWC suggested that they might be able to help fund community education and eligible streamside homeowners. Graydon Dutcher, from Soil and Water Conservation, thought they would consider funding the ACS project. But hurry! They have a new round of grants coming up soon. ~