AS THE SOUTHERN TIER CONTINUES TO RECOVER FROM HISTORIC 2006 & 2011 FLOODS, SCHUMER CALLS ON ARMY CORPS TO GIVE COMMUNITIES MAXIMUM TIME TO REVIEW & COMMENT ON UPPER SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BASIN RESILIENCY STUDY; SENATOR SAYS EXTENDING FINALIZATION DEADLINE IS VITAL TO ENSURE SOUTHERN TIER COMMUNITIES HAVE FULL OPPORTUNITY TO REVIEW STUDY RECOMMENDATIONS & HAVE OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The Army Corps Of Engineers Recently Released The Initial Findings & Recommendations Of The Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Damage Reduction Feasibility Study; Schumer Expresses Residents’ Fears That Suggested Actions Won’t Sufficiently Mitigate Flood Risk
Following Schumer’s Successful Push To Secure The Study, Senator Urges Army Corps To Extend Study’s July Finalization Deadline To Give Local Stakeholders The Opportunity To Review, Comment On & Better Understand Resiliency Blueprint
Schumer To Army Corps: Let The Communities Hammered By The 2006 & 2011 Floods Fully Review The Study; Mitigation Plan Matters Too Much To Rush
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to extend the deadline – set for July 8, 2019 – to finalize the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Damage Reduction Feasibility Study (Study). Schumer expressed his deep concern that the Study’s findings and suggested actions are not nearly strong enough to fend of the significant risk of future flooding. Therefore, Schumer called on the USACE to extend the finalization deadline of the Study to provide sufficient time for local stakeholders to review its findings, ask questions and offer feedback to USACE.
“After flooding devastated the Southern Tier in both 2006 and 2011, the need to fortify infrastructure became clear, which is why I pushed the Army Corps to do a flood mitigation Study. However, it is critical for stakeholders on the ground to have ample time to review and comment on the study before it is finalized,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I’m urging the Army Corps to extend the finalization date of this Study, so as to ensure that it is as impactful and helpful as possible, and can lead to informed flood mitigation measures. The Southern Tier needs carefully thought out protection measures that boost flood resiliency, not a mad dash across the finish line.”
“It’s no surprise that Broome County is extremely vulnerable to historic flooding and we take this very seriously,” said Broome County Executive Jason Garnar. “We need more time to look at the results of this study so we can continue doing everything we can to enhance flood resiliency, keep our residents safe and their properties at lowest risk possible, and ensure that we have the best information available to prioritize federal, state and local resources to protect our communities.”
“Flooding is a reality for those of us who live along the Susquehanna River. Having good, accurate information is critical in making decisions for mitigation projects. More time would allow that,” said Martha Sauerbrey, Chair, Tioga County Legislature.
The three year Study was intended to provide a comprehensive plan for the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, including an overview of the levies that are functioning, the areas that are at risk of flooding, and measures the community can take to reduce the chance of flooding. However, Schumer explained, considering the high risk of new flooding in the coming years, he has heard from many stakeholders and constituents in the Southern Tier who worry that the findings and potential recommendations are unlikely to provide future protection from the devastation they sustained multiple times. So, Schumer urged the USACE to extend the finalization date of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Damage Reduction Feasibility Study to ensure that local leaders, stakeholders, advocacy groups and others have maximum time to review the Study and offer comments, with the goal of improving the final product, and setting a course that is most likely to lead to the creation of impactful flood mitigation policies and infrastructure.
In 2006, flooding of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin forced over 3,000 locals to evacuate and caused an estimated $175 million in damages. Five years later in 2011, flooding required that 24,000 residents in Broome County be evacuated, with 2,500 having to seek emergency shelter. During these floods, water and sewer systems sustained serious damage, with over 7,000 structures being damaged and over 350 private wells being contaminated. Per FEMA, the estimated damage for Broome and Tioga Counties was $500 million.
After the 2006 flooding that impacted the Southern Tier, Schumer immediately pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to implement projects from previous studies to provide protection to flood-stricken communities. Schumer also worked to authorize new study options to ensure Army Corps had a full range of options to best address flood protection. Schumer successfully secured federal funding to begin a reconnaissance study and remained a steadfast advocate to Army Corps that future work on this study be a priority.
The development of a USACE project requires multiple steps, over multiple years. Congressional authorization is first required for the USACE to conduct an investigation, which includes both a reconnaissance and more detailed feasibility study. A second separate authorization for construction is then required based on the outcome of the feasibility study. In order for the USACE to act on an authorization, a separate appropriation of funding is also required. As a result, Schumer has long fought to help communities across the Southern Tier obtain the necessary approvals to get these types of mitigation projects moving along and underway.
In the wake of the devastating flooding that severely damaged Southern Tier homes and businesses, Schumer urged the USACE to conduct a study of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, utilizing an existing authorization, and to direct remaining funds from the 2007 Continuing Budget Resolution to begin the project. The Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Risk Management Study directed the USACE to study and implement improvements to the Upper Susquehanna River with the goal of mitigating future flooding to do so, the USACE was tasked to work with New York State and local governments to conduct a reconnaissance study. In FY2010 Schumer helped appropriate $100K to fund this crucial first step. As a result of Schumer’s urging, and the favorable reconnaissance study outcomes, Army Corp, developed an agreed-upon work plan cooperatively with federal and non-federal sponsors to move forward. In subsequent years Schumer urged USACOE to keep this project a priority; he successfully ensured funding was allocated by the Army Corps to conduct the feasibility study, whose preliminary findings were recently shared with local stakeholders.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the USACE appears below.
Dear Lieutenant General Semonite,
I write on behalf of stakeholder groups and communities throughout the Upper Susquehanna River Basin in the Southern Tier, including the Broome County Flood Task Force, regarding the Army Corps of Engineers’ and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Upper Susquehanna River Basin (“Basin”), New York State Comprehensive Flood Damage Reduction Feasibility Study (“Study”). The Upper Susquehanna River Basin is a fundamental part of New York State’s water infrastructure as it drains over 4,500 miles in the south central part of the state. Given the Basin’s significance, recent flood disasters and the many communities impacted by potential future flooding, I strongly advocated for this Study and I write now to request the Army Corps Of Engineers extend their July finalization deadline to ensure that impacted local communities have adequate time to review the Study and are given ample opportunity to offer crucial feedback.
The Southern Tier faced catastrophic floods in 2006 and 2011, causing disastrous and irreversible harm to many homes, business, and communities throughout the region. This Study is an imperative step in identifying the realistic, impactful and long-term solutions to minimize the impact of rain and flood events in the Basin. The Study is also a way to recommend infrastructural and policy solutions to minimize the damage to life and property Southern Tier residents faced in 2006 and 2011. Although I commend the work the Army Corps has done thus far, and the efforts to involve local partners in the advancement of this initiative, I am deeply concerned that draft recommendations fail to identify enough impactful actions over a broad enough area to achieve the desired flood mitigation policy goals. For this reason, and others, it is vital that local leaders, stakeholders, advocacy groups and others have maximum time to review the Plan now and offer comments, with the goal of improving the final product, and setting a course that is most likely to lead to the creation of impactful flood mitigation policies and infrastructure.
Given the importance of the Study and its potential long-term impacts on many Southern Tier communities and the environment, it is imperative that the local communities and their representatives be given ample opportunity to review the full draft of the Study and supporting documentation prior to its conclusion. Community leaders and residents are concerned that the findings and potential recommendations are unlikely to provide future protection from the devastation they sustained multiple times and wish to have full opportunity to impact the recommendations. Therefore, I write to request an extension of the July 8, 2019 deadline in order to allow local communities and officials sufficient time to review and comment on the full draft of the Study and corresponding data. Due to the many lives impacted by the 2006 and 2011 floods, it’s vital that the victims of those floods, many of whom are still recovering, and their representatives are given ample time to review the draft plan. I encourage Army Corps to make community involvement and feedback throughout the planning process a top priority in order to ensure that the voices of residents are fully heard and accurately represented.
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