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Schenectady Gathering Input For Stockade Flood Mitigation

Daniel Case

The City of Schenectady is gathering input as it envisions a future for its oldest neighborhood.

Schenectady’s Stockade sits alongside the Mohawk River and is prone to flooding. 

Last winter, a miles-long ice jam clogged up the waterway, forcing water into the Stockade and the evacuation of some residents from historic homes.

Here’s Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens speaking to WAMC last January as officials monitored the jam.

“There’s roughly a 12-mile-long sheet of ice broken up that’s frozen and locked in place and the water that flows downriver has had to find its way below that or alongside it in channels. And it’s been so cold lately that it’s frozen again rock-solid.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made about $9 million available to the city.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the funding follows storms that left homes underwater seven years ago.

“This money is the result of, really, Irene and Lee, that happened in 2011,” said McCarthy.

And officials are seeking to make the city more resilient to future storm events caused by climate change, says Kristin Diotte, Schenectady’s Director of Planning, Zoning and Community Development.

“It’s causing this recalibration of the measures that we need to take given the increased risk,” said Diotte.

Phase One of the project involves outreach. Right now, the city is gathering input from Stockade residents. A community meeting kicking off the effort was held earlier this week.

The Stockade, which is Schenectady’s oldest neighborhood, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mayor McCarthy says that could affect future flood mitigation projects.

“By virtue of it being a historic district, you want to maintain the integrity and character that exists there,” said McCarthy.

The mayor says potential solutions could involve something as simple as moving electric and heating systems in basements within the floodplain, to constructing barriers.

Technology such as drones is also being used as preliminary assessment of the neighborhood begins. Eventually, alternatives and flood mitigation solutions will be recommended.

Officials expect Phase One to continue through 2019. Once completed, FEMA will consider awarding the remaining $7.5 million for construction.

The work follows a set of Flood Mitigation Design Guidelines completed by Schenectady last year. At the same time, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is conducting a study to mitigate future potential ice jams on the Mohawk River.

Stockade residents can submit their own ideas at StockadeResilience.com.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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