Officials target DEP rep for Phoenicia flood woes

By Jay Braman Jr.
Some Ulster County Legislators are hopping mad at Willie Janeway.
Janeway, director of Region Three of the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is being singled out by lawmakers as the man responsible for a series of bureaucratic slowdowns that led to delays in the dredging of Stony Clove Creek in Phoenicia.

Those delays, officials said, made the flooding problems during Tropical Storm Irene much worse than they should have been.

Resolution drafted
At a meeting of the legislature’s Government Operations and Environmental Services Committee last week, it was agreed that the committee would draft a resolution, to be presented to the full legislature, calling for the governor to fire Janeway.

The move followed the complaints of Shandaken town officials, who were on hand to describe how hard they say Janeway’s department has made things.

Supervisor Rob Stanley described a meeting last winter in which a New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) official almost physically attacked Janeway when Janeway announced that his department was putting a hold on approving the dredging project.
That meeting followed in the wake of two devastating floods, one in October of last year and another in December, that sent the main current of Stony Clove Creek right through the Phoenicia business district, each time causing thousands of dollars in property damage.

Shandaken Highway Superintendent Eric Hofmeister said Janeway had intentionally dragged out an approval process when emergency clearing needed to be done last year, even when the town had DEP funding for engineering.

Design commissioned
Hofmeister said the DEP, notorious for being very careful with the waters in the Catskills, had paid $30,000 for an engineer to come up with a design to dredge the stream right next to the business district.

The dredging finally happened following Irene because the town took advantage of a loophole in DEC regulations that allowed for emergency stream work following the flood. It is widely believed that the dredging prevented flooding of the business district when high water returned with Tropical Storm Lee.

Before Irene, Hofmiester said Janeway’s department had denied permission for the plan because it would harm fish.