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Flood Prevention Strategies For Catskill To Be Presented At Public Meeting

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A task force that has been looking at ways to prevent flooding in a Greene County village will present its recommendations at a public meeting tonight.

The Catskill Waterfront Resilience Task Force will present its draft recommendations as well as welcome public input on strategies to prevent flooding in the Village of Catskill. Input from the meeting will be incorporated into the task force’s final recommendations, which will be submitted to the village board. The recommendations come after nine months of exploring ways to reduce risks to the village from accelerating sea level rise and the increased frequency of flooding and storm surges.

Dr. Sacha Spector is director of conservation science for Poughkeepsie-based environmental group Scenic Hudson. He has been leading the project for the task force, with financial support from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and partnerships with other organizations.

“In Catskill, we looked at a variety of different of neighborhoods along the waterfront and identified what the flooding challenges might be,” says Spector. “Catskill Point is the marquis asset of the community. It’s their public park. It’s a marina area, it’s got restaurants. But it’s also very, very low and subject to flooding frequently. So that’s a major area of concern for the community and we’ve looked very closely at that and other neighborhoods that will require some kind of adaptation.”

He says a priority for Catskill is one that could benefit several Hudson River communities.

“I think the number one priority for Catskill in the immediate term is simply improving its emergency response and management protocol so that when a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Irene occurs, they have a very clear of idea of where the chain of responsibility is, who’s doing what, how the debris gets removed, where people shelter, how communication is maintained from one side of the creek to the other,” Spector says. “Those kinds of things are really a very front-shelf kind of thing.”

He says another recommendation is to examine zoning and building codes to ensure development is appropriate for the waterfront and flood water impacts.

Consisting of municipal officials, concerned citizens, and leaders in business and non-governmental organizations, the task force was established by the village in the fall of 2013. Task force work for Catskill follows work for Kingston, where the mayor appointed the Waterfront Flooding Task Force in December 2012 to study and recommend actions in response to severe flooding on the Rondout and Hudson River waterfront from Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Task force recommendations for Kingston were presented late in 2013. Again, Scenic Hudson’s Spector.

“Like Kingston, Catskill has a wastewater treatment plant right by the water, and that was impacted by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy,” Spector says. “So that’s going to be something they need to take a look at over the long term and decide whether or not continued investment in that plant or relocation is going to be the best option.”

Spector notes that the next site for which flood prevention recommendations will be unveiled is Piermont, in Rockland County, in September.

Elizabeth LoGiudice is natural resources educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Agroforestry Resource Center for Columbia and Greene Counties. She serves on the task force as coordinator of the Catskill Creek Watershed Awareness Project and of the Hudson Estuary Watershed Resiliency Project.

“Particularly some of the recommendations about putting together guidance for landowners and residents will be important for people to know how to respond to the next flood,” says LoGiudice. “Catskill has a very complex situation because the Catskill Creek goes right through the heart of the village and so the Task Force was originally focused on sea level rise, but Catskill, as we saw in Irene, is also vulnerable to flooding from upstream.”

She adds.

“So I’m optimistic that Catskill is going to be able to face the future of uncertain precipitation and definite sea level rise in a way that they’re ready and resilient to these flood events,” says LoGiudice.

The draft recommendations are being issued exactly one week ahead of the third anniversary of Hurricane Irene. The public meeting for Catskill is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the village’s Senior Center on Academy Street.

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