WITH MAMARONECK & SHELDRAKE RIVER FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT PROJECT DELAYED YET AGAIN, SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND, ENGEL CALL ON ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY OVERSEEING ARMY CORPS FOR AN IMMEDIATE EXPLANATION AND FULL REVIEW OF FLAWED EVALUATION PROCESS THAT LEFT WESTCHESTER RESIDENTS IN THE DARK & WITHOUT KEY FLOOD PROTECTION
After Years Of Advocacy, USACE Work Plan Now Excludes Construction Phase of the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Flood Risk Management Project, Stalling The Project In Its Final Phase
Lawmakers Say Protecting The Safety Of Kids & Residents Must Be Top Priority For USACE & Administration; Project Would Construct Flood Defenses For Highly Populated Westchester Community That Has Been Victim of Severe Flooding & Suffered Millions of $$ In Damages For Decades
Reps to Administration: If Fatalities Do Not Indicate Floods Are Risk To Public Safety, What Does?
Citing the tragic loss of at least two lives in recent floods, in addition to massive damage and dislocation of business and other vital activity, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Eliot Engel today voiced their extreme disappointment that the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Flood Risk Management Project (the Project) was not selected as a New Starts Construction project in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) FY 2020 Work Plan.
Specifically, the lawmakers seek to learn what Benefit-Cost Ratio Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA CW) R.D. James used in evaluating the project, because they believe that the WRDA-mandated water planning discount rate (2.75% for this project) should be used for recommendation purposes, and how the loss of life was considered in the project evaluation. Moreover, the lawmakers reject the evaluation of the project solely based on a Benefit-Cost Ratio calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) because it does not take into account the frightening past loss of life and severity of flooding in the area, which they believe should be the foremost concern.
“Protecting the safety of children and residents of Mamaroneck must be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ top priority, but this unexplained and unreasonable failure to include the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Flood Risk Management Project in their fiscal year work plan despite Mamaroneck’s frightening history of loss of life and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage in the flood area really makes no sense and should be reversed ASAP,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The administration claims that priority is generally given to projects that will ‘address a significant risk to public safety.’ Surely people dying as a result of severe flood presents an extreme and apparent risk to public safety, not to mention the millions in persistent property damage – and the fact that we have a plan that it well formulated and ready to go. That is why today I am calling for an explanation as to how the administration — USACE, the ASA CW, and OMB — evaluated the project and why they decided to reject it, so we can learn how to rectify this with all due speed. We need to be doing everything we can to protect and rebuild the Mamaroneck community that has already suffered for decades because of severe flooding.”
“It’s outrageous that the administration has delayed this vital project yet again,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “The lives and livelihoods of New Yorkers are at stake and it’s completely unacceptable that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not made addressing the persistent flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck a top priority. This is clearly a public safety concern and I urge the USACE to re-evaluate funding the project.”
“Given that floods in the Mamaroneck-Sheldrake River watershed have resulted in loss of life, and repetitive and profound property, business, home and infrastructure damage, it is outrageous that the Army Corps is refusing to fund this vital project that Congress has already approved,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. “My colleagues Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and I fought hard for that Congressional authorization, which paved the way for this project to move forward. All that was needed was Trump Administration approval, but as is often the case when it comes to New York, they decided not to help. We will demand further answers and will continue pushing to fund this project in order to safeguard the lives and property of all Mamaroneck residents.”
In April 2007, a Nor’easter storm produced record flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck, equivalent to a one percent flood event. Senator Schumer travelled to the area the day after the storm to personally survey the extent of the significant damage. The 2007 event caused over $50 million in damages and impacted over 50 percent of total structures within the study area. The storm resulted in floodwaters peaking on the Mamaroneck River in approximately four hours, and in approximately six hours on the Sheldrake River. As such, the evacuation time for approximately 19,000 residents in the Village of Mamaroneck was severely restricted and created a high-risk situation. Over 40 percent of Mamaroneck residents required evacuation assistance prior to floodwaters peaking, including a large population of children that attended a school located within the epicenter of the severe flooding. However, this was not the only flood event in the basin. Additionally, two deaths have occurred as a result of flooding in the project area in the last 25 years, most recently in 2007. Following years of study by the Army Corps, the project was recommended by the Chief of Engineers and Schumer, Gillibrand, and Engel fought to authorize this project for construction in the 2018 America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
If funded, the project would have reduced flood risk for the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Basins and thus protected residents and business owners by constructing retaining walls and a diversion culvert. The project would have also enabled the deepening and widening of river channels, structure elevation, and the removal/replacement of 2 vehicular bridges that constrict flood flow. The plan was estimated to potentially reduce average annual damages by approximately 87 percent and help reduce the risk of loss of life.
A copy of Schumer, Gillibrand, and Engel’s letter appears below.
Dear Mr. James:
We were extremely disappointed to learn that the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Flood Risk Management Project (the Project) was not selected as a New Starts Construction project in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) FY 2020 Work Plan, and we strenuously disagree with the conclusion, which we believe is based on faulty reasoning, as well as a lack of appreciation for the events, including fatalities, which precipitated this detailed and doable flood mitigation plan. At a minimum, we request an explanation as to how this project was evaluated for a New Starts Designation in the Work Plan, specifically addressing how the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA CW) considers the risk to public safety and human life when recommending projects for funding.
Specifically, we seek to understand what Benefit-Cost Ratio ASA CW used and how the tragic loss of at least two lives was considered when evaluating the project for a New Starts recommendation. We believe that the WRDA-mandated water planning discount rate (2.75% for this project) should be used for recommendation purposes. Moreover, we reject the premise of evaluating this project solely on the results of a Benefit-Cost Ratio calculated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and vehemently stress that the past loss of life and distressing flooding in the study area should be the foremost concern, and as such should lead to funding of this project.
To reiterate our previous requests for USACE to prioritize the project’s construction, we remind you that persistent flooding has resulted in devastating impacts to Mamaroneck homeowners and businesses for years, creating hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in a very densely populated community. As you know, in 2007 a Nor’easter ripped through the Village of Mamaroneck and resulted in over 40% of Mamaroneck residents requiring evacuation assistance, including a large population of children that attended a school located within the epicenter of the severe flooding. This single storm created over $50 million in damages and impacted more than 50 percent of all structures in Mamaroneck. Even more troubling, this incident was not the only flood event in the basin over the years and at least two deaths have occurred as a result of flooding in the project area in the last 25 years.
Given Mamaroneck’s troubling flood history, we point to the administration’s guidelines for New Starts selection, which indicate that for flood and storm damage reduction projects, “priority was generally given to address a significant risk to public safety.” Furthermore, Congress directed the administration to select projects based on several criteria including, “population, economic activity, or public infrastructure at risk.”
We respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss this matter and an explanation as to how this project was evaluated for a New Start, addressing how the ASA CW considers the risk to public safety and human life when recommending projects for funding. Going forward, we strongly believe this wrongheaded decision should be reconsidered and reversed with all due speed.
We look forward to engaging with you on this objective, and thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or our staff.