Shandaken seeks state help in flood recovery

By Jay Braman Jr.
SOS is known worldwide as a distress call. Save Our Ship is how it originated, as a cry for help from any sea faring entity that ran the risk of being no more.
On Saturday morning, in a meeting hall in Shandaken, a group of land owners who were hard hit by tropical storm called Irene organized a grassroots effort to demand aide in the wake of that weather event.

They call themselves SOS, as for Save Our Shandaken. The circumstances for the people in this room varied, but all have suffered some degree of loss in the past couple of weeks.
What brings them together is the belief that the current batch of knights in shining armor, known as the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), that are supposed to be helping the town, are not coming through, and they want to do something about it.

Spa threatened
Elizabeth Winograd was the one who put the meeting together. Her business, the Copperhood Inn, has been ranked recently as one of the top 10 destination health spas in the world. Such a distinction, she said, will be hard to uphold now that Irene has moved the mighty Esopus Creek almost under her foundation.

Winograd has been trying for years to get various levels of government to take responsibility for keeping the streams in line, but said that so far her cries for help have fallen on dear ears.
Not lost on Winograd is the very real issue that these waterways are also the water that serves as drinking water for the City of New York, an area with half of the state’s population, that and an area that holds sway over what happens to the creeks and brooks and streams in the Catskills.

Winograd feels the time has come to no longer prioritize the drinking water, but instead take care of the people who live next to those waterways, similar to the way the federal government has taken care of the people of New Orleans by dumping millions of dollars into the Big Easy following hurricane Katrina. In that territory, substantial efforts have been made to enhance flood control measures to protect the city after it was wiped out by the infamous hurricane in 2005.

Not happening
But so far, Winograd sees nothing like that here.

“It’s almost like they have an agenda to get the people out of here,” she said on the deck of her spa as a giant backhoe scraped the stream bed away from her business.

Faye Storms, who operates an antique shop downstream and is one of the organizers of SOS, noted that most folks in town knew well in advance what precautions should have been taken to arrest the devastation that ran rampant throughout town.

Storms feels the DEP and the DEC should have, could have, and should continue to do things to help landowners, but so far nothing has happened.

“You don’t work your whole life to see your buildings washed away, then have some bureaucracy tell you there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said.

SOS plans to prepare a position statement and demand action from both DEC and DEP. Those who want to participate should call 845 688-5759.