SCHUMER URGES FEMA TO FULLY FUND REPAIR OF ASHER DAM IN RHINEBECK; DAM & PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE WERE DAMAGED BY HURRICANE IRENE & TROPICAL STORM LEE – REPAIRS HAVE BEEN MADE, BUT FEMA IS WITHHOLDING FUNDING DUE TO ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR THAT CAN BE EASILY CORRECTED
Village of Rhinebeck’s Asher Dam, Which Plays Critical Role in Controlling Water Levels At Crystal Lake in Dutchess County, Was Severely Damaged by Hurricane Irene & Tropical Strom Sandy; Dam’s Pedestrian Bridge Was Also Damaged And Needed Significant Repairs to Keep Residents, Tourists Safe
The Village Made Substantial Repairs to Dam & Bridge in 2014 And Had Proceeded to Final Fed Funding Stage When FEMA Pulled Funds Back Due to Easily Corrected Administrative Error – The Fix is Easy, But Feds Have Yet to Approve Small Change & Release Funds
Schumer Says Rhinebeck Has Already Made Necessary Repairs – Calls on Feds to Cut Through Red Tape, Approve Easy Fix & Disburse Funds Immediately
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fully fund repair work the Village of Rhinebeck undertook on the Asher Dam after it was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. FEMA initially agreed to reimburse the repair work with federal funds, but has since reneged due to an administrative error the village made. Since the village was unaware they were required to complete additional hazard mitigation work for the project, they submitted a final request for funding without completing that work; FEMA then deemed the project incomplete and withdrew all of the funding it had agreed to provide. The village has since completed that hazard mitigation and all other required work. Schumer said FEMA should make an administrative correction of error to Rhinebeck’s federal funding application, which would enable the village to obtain the federal funding it was initially allocated for repairs to the dam and the nearby pedestrian bridge. FEMA’s decision to withdraw funding has left the Village of Rhinebeck to foot the entire bill for the repair project, which is close to $200,000. Schumer said that the village was forced to undertake repairs to the Asher Dam, through no fault of its own, in order to ensure the safety and protection of residents, and they should be reimbursed by the federal government Schumer urged FEMA to allow the administrative correction to be made and providethis much-needed funding to Rhinebeck as soon as possible.
“A simple misunderstanding has left the Village of Rhinebeck holding the bag for repairs it absolutely needed to make to the Asher Dam and Pedestrian Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and this misunderstanding should be corrected right away,” said Schumer. “I am calling on FEMA to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, correct this simple administrative error and provide the funding the Village needs to cover costs of repairs and flood mitigation efforts. Local taxpayers should not be burdened by the cost of repairs that were desperately needed following these two catastrophic storms. This village has proven it can come back and rebuild stronger than before, and it is FEMA’s duty to provide the funding that was initially promised.”
The Asher Dam and its Pedestrian Bridge, located just downstream of the dam, were damaged by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Then, just weeks later, these two structures were hit hard by Tropical Storm Lee. Specifically, debris washed over the dam’s spillway during the storms and damaged one of its valves, located at the base of the dam. Schumer said that these valves are critical because they are used to control water levels at Crystal Lake. Following the storms, the village was approved by FEMA for $150,124.66 to cover dam and bridge repairs. However, when the village submitted its paperwork to FEMA for final closeout, they were denied funding because the project was considered incomplete. Because of an administrative error, the village was unaware that they were required to complete hazard mitigation work on the dam. As a result of the incomplete work, FEMA de-obligated the funding for the entire cost of the project. Since then, the village has completed all of the required work, including the additional hazard mitigation.
Schumer explained that the Village of Rhinebeck was granted an extension by the state in November 2013 to be able to complete the project by September 2015. In addition to the initial repairs, the dam ultimately required the removal of heavy stone and debris as well as repairs to the cracks in the concrete it sustained. The dam also required the re-grouting of its down slope stone, along with the furnishing and installation of ladders and sand bag dams from the concrete block by the crucial valves so as to eliminate water coming into contact with the freshly poured stone masonry. On the pedestrian bridge, 9 feet of sidewalk needed to be replaced, side slopes and footings that were displaced during the storms needed to be scoured, and the stone wall at the end of the bridge needed to be re-set.
Schumer explained that when the village submitted the necessary paperwork for funding following the initial repairs, FEMA withdrew the more than $150,000 in funding it had agreed to provide because the entire project was then considered incomplete due to the fact that the village had not completed the required mitigation work. The village appealed the decision and has since completed all required work, but did not hear back immediately. Due to the pressing need to complete the additional dam and bridge repairs to ensure the safety of residents and visitors—as well as meet the 2015 extension deadline—the village had to carry on with the remaining repairs in 2014.
While the village submitted a request for a closeout of the project, it did not include the required mitigation work; due to an administrative error, the village did not realize that work was required. Schumer said the town then subsequently completed the mitigation work and additional dam and bridge repairs in 2014, but have not heard back on the initial appeal, making it difficult to request a final closeout of the final project. As of 2015, the village completed all of these repairs—both the initial phase and the additional flood mitigation work—but FEMA has yet to re-obligate funding.
Schumer said that, despite this initial administrative error during the initial project closeout, the town completed all of the repairs by its scheduled extension date and should be reimbursed accordingly. That is why Schumer is urging FEMA to correct the administrative error, which would allow FEMA to re-obligate funding and proceed to a final inspection and closeout of the project. Finally, Schumer is urging FEMA to include any additional costs that the village incurred while making these additional repairs to the damage that was discovered after the water level of the lake had been lowered. Schumer said that the town’s repairs total approximately $184,799, which is more than the initial project estimate, and they should be reimbursed in full.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate:
I write to express my support for the Village of Rhinebeck’s application for Public Assistance funding to repair the Asher Dam (PW 622, 4020-DR-NY). Due to a simple administrative error, FEMA de-obligated the Village’s entire approved project cost; I urge you to make this administrative correction, and re-obligate the much-needed funding to Rhinebeck.
The Asher Dam was damaged by Hurricane Irene in August 2011, then was hammered again, just weeks later, by Tropical Storm Lee. Debris that washed over the spillway during the storms damaged one of the valves, located at the base of the dam, which is used to control water levels at Crystal Lake. Additional damage to the downstream side of the dam was also discovered after the water level of the lake was lowered to allow for the initial repairs to be made. After the disasters, FEMA approved a Project Worksheet to make repairs to the Asher Dam and the Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream of the dam.
FEMA de-obligated the entire project cost in August 2013 because the applicant made a simple administrative error, and was unaware that they were required to complete hazard mitigation work. The Village of Rhinebeck has since completed the entire project, including the FEMA-required hazard mitigation work to make the dam more resilient to future storms. The state has indicated that the administrative error would be very easy to fix; FEMA simply needs to release the Village of Rhinebeck’s appeal, make a simple administrative correction of error, and then the project would be ready to move forward with final inspection and closeout. During final closeout, I also urge you to include any additional costs that the Village has incurred while making additional repairs to the damage that was discovered after the water level of the lake had been lowered.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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