State to pick up local share of stream work


By Patsy Nicosia

The state has agreed to fund the local share of the cost of rebuilding streams ravaged by last August's Hurricane Irene.
In Schoharie County, that will mean a check for $5.3 million.
Statewide, the help will total $16 million to 23 counties.
"This is huge," said Sarah Blood, the county's Economic Development coordinator.
"Between this and the other awards we've gotten, we're in surprisingly good shape when it comes to funding flood recovery. This [work] is what some people said was going to bankrupt the county."
Supervisors' decision to sponsor $21.2 million in stream restoration and repairs with no promise that the state would help out was controversial.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez was one who worked to make sure they weren't left hanging.
"I worked my tail off on this," Assemblyman Lopez said Monday.
"One of my first calls in September was to the Governor's office and to their credit, they listened. We were already in their hearts and minds. They wanted to find a way to help us."
Statewide, the funding includes $9 million in flood mitigation and control grants awarded through the New York Works program and $7 million to help counties meet match requirements for federally-funded stream restoration through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The $16 million from the state will leverage $44 million in federal and local funding, said State Senator Jim Seward.
"...helping make sure homes and businesses are protected without burdening local governments and taxpayers."
Among the projects receiving help is the restoration of Line Creek in Middleburgh and Fulton, five miles of the Little Schoharie Creek in Middleburgh, and one mile of Platter Kill Creek in Gilboa.
Claude Coons, chair of the county's Soil & Water Conservation District, said they've received hundreds of requests for stream repair help over the past 10 months, calling the need "unprecedented."
The state help, he said, will also go a long way toward reducing the impact of future floods.
Being able to match $21 million in available Emergency Watershed Protection funding, "will allow us to use proven scientific methods to repair these streams," said Pete Nichols, S&WCD Stream Program manager.
"Doing this right the first time is critical to our long-term economic recovery."
Harold Vroman, chair of the Board of Supervisors, agreed.
"The scars that Irene and Lee have left will take years to heal," he said.
"Thanks to the Governor's announcement, we are now further along the path to recovery."