Shandaken has flood fix-up shortfall

By Jay Braman Jr.
“I’ve got no money in my budget to handle this.”

That is the message that Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley delivered to state and federal officials Sunday, just prior to a meeting set up to determine how best to proceed with helping the Catskill Region in the aftermath of tropical storm Irene.

Exactly one week after the storm, Stanley was busy inside the command post set up in the MF Whitney Fire House on Route 214 in Phoenicia.

American Red Cross Volunteers, helping organize the stream of emergency supplies, milled about with local residents who were pitching in to do the same.

Guard helps out
Outside, National Guard personnel controlled traffic as a line of dump trucks came and went from the Stony Clove stream across the street for the firehouse. Stony Clove wreaked havoc on Phoenicia.

Irene dumped so much gravel into the stream bed that there was only about four feet of space under the Main Street bridge, leaving little room for the water that Stanley feared was coming within the next couple days once tropical storm Lee trudges into the area.

Precautionary measures were taken elsewhere, like all the way up in Winnisook.

The Winnisook Lake, the very headwaters for the Esopus Creek, is at risk of having its dam fail after Irene forced the water level up and over, causing severe erosion of the earth holding the handmade, stone dam in place.

“We had the lake lowered four feet,” Stanley said.

Repair work is happening all over town, and the time to start paying for it is at hand.
Stanley estimates that over $2 million will be needed to get the town back in shape.
In the meantime, frustration mounts.

Equipment lacking
Danny Davis, a scientist with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), was overseeing the Stony Clove project. On Sunday Davis said it was the lack of trucks that was holding up progress, but on Monday his prayers were answered when a mid-morning convoy of giant orange 10 wheelers, courtesy of the Ulster County Department of Public works, appeared.

But Stanley notes that even more equipment is needed. Resources are still spread way too thin in a town where the damage spreads over a 16-mile range. At present Stanley is at work trying to get the State Department of Environmental Conservation to release four dump trucks that have been parked nearby for days.

“They’re just sitting there,” he said. “We could use them right now.”

According to Davis, if enough equipment arrives the town could witness a ballet of trucks coming and going from the Stony Clove. Ironically, the material causing hazard in Phoenicia is the same material needed as fill to repair roadways all over town. As fast as they can fill the trucks, the material heads for damaged areas. But often there’s no equipment waiting at those areas to do the work.

Other issues
Other problems have surfaced as well. The water in Phoenicia has been declared unsafe to drink. As Stanley spoke, volunteers were busy loading cases of bottled water into cars for delivery to the senior housing units on Ava Maria Drive.

For those who can get out, Stanley says that, until further notice, the best place to go in town is your nearest firehouse.

“Know that your firehouse is your local access point for information and supplies,” said Stanley. “ Belleayre Mountain is, and will continue to be, available as an emergency shelter as well as a supply center. If you feel that you or your home may be in jeopardy, we advise that you utilize their facility. It is better to err on the side of caution.”