We asked the six candidates running for City Council this fall: “What one thing can and should the City of Rye do now (as soon as possible) to aid in flood mitigation?”
We asked the six candidates running for City Council this fall:“What one thing can and should the City of Rye do now (as soon as possible) to aid in flood mitigation?”
Laura Brett (R)
Flooding is an issue for all of Rye, not just the unfortunate families whose homes flooded. We have had flooding in our downtown business district, at our firehouses, in our community organizations, and at our high school. Beginning today, we should clear debris from the brook and its banks. We have the power to begin a cleanup, and should do so.
To prevent a large-scale flood in the future, however, we need more than a local cleanup effort; we need funding for the large-scale projects identified in studies performed in the wake of the past floods. If the community comes together, both in a local cleanup effort and in a coordinated campaign to put pressure on our elected officials at the State and Federal levels for funding for the long-term projects, we can prevent large-scale floods in the future.
Rafael Elias-Linero (R)
Two main factors determine the outcome of a flood: infrastructure, and preparedness.
Infrastructure projects may or may not be out of reach, depending on their scope and cost, but the City fortunately has a viable sluice gate project that just needs to be brought to fruition. It is on the verge of happening but still needs to get through the final stages before construction can begin. This project will not prevent the kind of extraordinary flow volumes we experienced with Irene, but certainly mitigates the impact. And to the extent that a flood is not an “off-the-scales” event, the sluice gate is an effective solution.
The second factor, preparedness, includes actions that can be taken immediately and which go from the obvious (which sometimes are disregarded precisely because of their simplicity) like keeping ducts clean and free of garbage and debris, to formalizing a City-wide information system where Rye residents are warned in as much advance as possible on the possibility of a flood and given steps to take in the event of extraordinary flooding that may jeopardize the safety of the residents and/or their properties.
There are steps that may not seem obvious at first, but that can make a difference. Among these are: pre-clearing high parking spaces where residents can take their vehicles; getting local vendors to make sure they have enough preventive and emergency items such as sand bags, plastic, flashlights, batteries and radios; coordinating the police and the fire departments to make sure that every resident receives advance information and regular updates; have a permanent team of staffers following up with Con Edison and other similar utilities to monitor disruptions in service and provide residents with approximate times for restoration of such services; and last but not least, create a permanent “awareness culture” among residents where the City regularly encourages the benefits of pervious driveways, keeping home equipment (i.e. sump pumps) in good working condition, and having current flood insurance.
Councilman Joe Sack (R)
Here’s a relatively quick and easy one: We ought to remove longstanding debris from the brook ASAP. Pieces of junk that have gained visible notoriety include a garbage dumpster in the brook across from Resurrection since Irene, and a 7-iron golf club in the brook across from Fong’s since 2007. This is in addition to years of accumulated tree limbs and other detritus. Taking action now on this item would go a long way as a show of good faith that we are listening to the community and are engaged, and it will also produce some tangible mitigation results. So, in the short term, we should focus on the “low-hanging fruit”.
Meanwhile, we need to keep our eyes on the long-term, big-ticket items regarding large-scale retention upstream. The problem is, it’s so incomprehensibly expensive this can’t be done without a commitment from the state and federal government. The solution is not for wont of a plan, but for wont of massive amounts of money.
The Democratic slate of Councilwoman Paula Gamache (D), Councilwoman Catherine Parker (I), and Josh Nathan (D) responded in a joint statement.
Flooding is the No. 1 infrastructure and life safety priority for Rye City. Far too many homes and businesses have been damaged and destroyed by flooding and it impacts our entire community. Flood mitigation requires a multi-tasking approach.
Here are five things the City of Rye can do immediately to aid in flood mitigation.
1) Fix what Rye City can on its own: Immediately identify and evaluate what Rye City can do without waiting for other municipalities, e.g., cleaning up Blind Brook without running afoul of DEC dredging laws and continue to repair and replace bridges over the Brook that are important to traffic and neighborhood safety. Support the City’s staff in implementing the City’s flood mitigation projects and following through on keeping engineering studies current.
2) Proceed with getting the Sluice Gate built and installed: this requires continued inter-municipal cooperation; it is funded and in process. We need to insist that the balance of the project is completed on the shortest timeline practicable.
3) Demand the County and State fund flood mitigation projects: We have the relationships at the State and County level to effectively press this matter now, including via County Watershed Law 27-2010.
4) Address individual life-safety issues and develop a mandatory evacuation and communication plan. Life safety issues include basement apartments that literally fill with water, power connections that are below flood water levels and above ground electrical lines that are damaged during storms. Implement the model ordinance for flood damage prevention and work with utilities and government agencies to help residents and businesses address these life safety matters.
5) Formalize the role of the Ad Hoc Flood Action Committee. This committee needs to be a regular committee of the City Council with a Council-member and appropriate City staff member(s) serving on the committee with residents. The committee will regularly report to the Council and recommend adding or adjusting measures as appropriate. Such formalization will insure that residents are kept apprised of the City’s progress and enable residents to regularly communicate with the City Council on Developments.