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Group seeks input on flooding in watershed

Water runs through Rob Breen’s property in Clarksville during Tropical Storm Irene. Breen has helped to organize a community meeting Nov. 30 for area residents interested in discussing flooding concerns.

Water runs through Rob Breen’s property in Clarksville during Tropical Storm Irene. Breen has helped to organize a community meeting Nov. 30 for area residents interested in discussing flooding concerns.

Clarksville resident Rob Breen considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Tropical Storm Irene caused him a flooded basement that he said is still drying out, and enough water running into his yard to create a “mini Grand Canyon” that split his property in two, but Breen was able to escape the storm with a relatively small amount of damage.

Breen, a professor at Siena College, moved to Clarksville 18 months ago with his family. He immediately took interest in the work done by the Onesquethaw-Coeymans Watershed Council, a group that examines issues within the watershed in areas like South Bethlehem, Feura Bush, Selkirk, New Scotland and Clarksville. He’s helped to organize a community meeting Nov. 30 for residents of the area who are concerned with flooding problems in the watershed.

“When Irene and Lee came in, it did some real serious damage,” said Breen. “It put a whole lot more water into the area than the area had been able to handle.”

Residents will have a chance at the meeting to share their stories, express their opinions about what needs to be done and assist in forming a response plan that could help prevent the type of damage that occurred in early September.

“There’s some concern because government agencies, whether at the state or local level, don’t have the resources the equipment or the jurisdiction to get out to private properties and do cleanup work,” said Breen.

Bethlehem town officials are still collecting information about the total damage done by the significant tropical storms. They are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to apply for federal funding for repairs and infrastructure upgrades. As those discussions continue, Breen has more immediate concerns.

“We’ve got a lot of huge trees that are down, that are just blocking the channel of the (Onesquethaw) creek,” said Breen. “Whenever there’s going to be another high water event, if we get another serious rain storm, it’s going to cause flooding. There’s no plan or strategy to deal with this.”

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