Lopez calling on NYC, NYPA for flood help
By Patsy Nicosia
With an eye on the Schoharie Creek-always-Assemblyman Pete Lopez is launching an effort to convince New York City's Department of Environmental Protection and the New York Power Authority to agree to use their reservoirs for flood control.
It's a controversial topic.
NYC's Schoharie Reservoir, in Gilboa, is used to store drinking water for downstate; the NYPA's Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project generates electricity for the grid.
Neither were designed for flood control, something Assemblyman Lopez acknowledges, but in light of 2011's Irene and Lee, he argues it's time for that to change.
Assemblyman Lopez is suggesting that NYC and the NYPA create "voids" in their reservoirs-essentially dropping the water levels in their reservoirs and slowing its release when needed.
It's a precedent, he points out, set when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a State of Emergency in 2012 in advance of Hurricane Sandy.
In a draft letter that has the support of the Schoharie County Flood Resiliency Project, a group that's drawn representatives from Dam Concerned Citizens, DEP, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and Congressman Chris Gibson and Seward Jim Seward's offices, among others, Assemblyman Lopez wrote:
"We are not asking either the NYC-DEP or the NYPA to in any way exercise flood control at the expense of their respective primary goals of water supply or electrical generation.
"Rather, we are requesting that the two existing dams and their release works be used preemptively...This is not an unreasonable request and merits a serious response..."
Assemblyman Lopez and the Flood Resiliency Project hope to get representatives from across the region to sign onto the letter.
"If we don't stay on this, no one else is going to do it," he said.
There's a possible fly in the ointment, however.
Assemblyman Lopez is concerned that if Schoharie County's Board of Supervisors continue to balk at extra costs associated with stream bank work along the Line and Little Schoharie Creeks in particular, others are going to balk at supporting the DEP/NYPA request.
"We've done everything in our power to prevent the county from having to pay a penny," he said.
"But this is critical work. If we walk away from it, we jeopardize our ability to seek future funding" from state and federal agencies.
It's an emotional issue, he said-and one that's only going to get more emotional when regulations for things like land use included in the Countywide Flood Hazard Mitigation Study start to ramp up.
"A quarter of my calls are still flood related," Assemblyman Lopez added. "Every time it rains, people get nervous. We can't risk everything we've done to rebuild and recover by walking away from this work and what it means to everyone living here."