Bonacic wants reservoirs lowered to cut down on flooding chances

By Jay Braman Jr.
State Senator John Bonacic says that water levels in New York City’s upstate reservoirs are too high and should be brought down to reduce the risk of flooding, but the Delaware River Basin Commission says it won’t matter much what the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does because flooding will still happen even if the reservoirs are empty.
Bonacic continues to keep close tabs on the DEP and the agency’s role in preventing, or according to some causing, flooding in the region.
Bonacic has written to the DEP, the Delaware River Basin Commission and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to urge that steps be taken to lower the water levels.
“Today, reservoir levels are substantially higher than normal,” Bonacic wrote. “That means there is less capacity, and less ability to absorb inflow either from rain or seasonal melting snow. That means the risk of flooding is growing.”
On Monday, according to DEP, reservoir levels were at 94.4 percent. Normally at this time of year, again according to DEP, those reservoirs are at only 77.6 percent.
When the reservoirs overflow, the excess water spills into attached creeks, which often results in downstream flooding, as was the case in April 2005.
Bonacic’s call follows a report issued last month by the Delaware River Basin Commission that says reservoir levels have little to do with flooding.
“The results of the flood analysis computer model…indicate that operational changes to reservoirs alone will not substantially reduce flooding if we experience storms similar to the three major events in September 2004, April 2005, and June 2006,” DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said. “We believe the results support the earlier conclusion…that no single approach will eliminate flooding along the Delaware River and that we must continue to focus efforts on implementing a combination of flood loss reduction strategies.”
The flood analysis model was used to predict river stages for six hypothetical pre-event reservoir conditions for each of the three storms. The model predicted that with the three New York City (NYC) reservoirs hypothetically empty preceding each of the three storm events, river elevations would still have reached or exceeded flood stage.
Bonacic introduced legislation that was approved by the state senate to mandate voids in the reservoirs which can help reduce the risk of flooding but the state assembly has not acted on the matter.
Noting previous flooding in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, Bonacic wrote: “My concern is that when the snow melts and rains come in the spring, areas nearby will be hurt. Engineered (water) releases now can ensure there is adequate room in the reservoirs in the spring, while still leaving more than enough water for those who rely on the city’s water supply.”