December Flooding in Ashokan Watershed and Resource for Homeowners

Posted on: January 11th, 2021 by Brent Gotsch
Flood­ing at McK­en­ley Hol­low Bridge 12-25-2020. Pho­to by A. Ben­nett.

Res­i­dents of the Ashokan Water­shed unwrapped a present they prob­a­bly didn’t want this past Christ­mas in the form of sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing on many of our streams. Most of the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) stream gages report­ed that most of the flood­ing would be con­sid­ered a 10-Year Flood, which has a 10% chance of occur­ring in any giv­en year. While not as large or destruc­tive as the floods result­ing from Trop­i­cal Storm Irene in August of 2011, there still was sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to local infra­struc­ture and ero­sion along our stream chan­nels.

Over the past year there are many new res­i­dents now liv­ing full-time in the Water­shed who may not be aware of the flood­ing issues that peri­od­i­cal­ly occur in our val­leys, up our hol­lows, and along our streams. This post is meant to pro­vide some basic infor­ma­tion for res­i­dents on how to iden­ti­fy flood risk for their home, what to do if there are dam­ages to prop­er­ty, and who to con­tact for addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion.

Most of the major streams in the water­shed have been mapped for flood risk by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency through the Nation­al Flood Insur­ance Pro­gram (NFIP). To view your flood risk and deter­mine if your prop­er­ty is locat­ed with­in the 100-Year Flood­plain (which sta­tis­ti­cal­ly speak­ing has a 1% chance of occur­ring in any giv­en year) you can vis­it the FEMA Map Ser­vice Cen­ter, input your address and look at the shad­ing. If you see a turquoise col­or that means you are locat­ed in the 100-Year Flood­plain. You can also access the same infor­ma­tion by vis­it­ing the Nation­al Flood Haz­ard Lay­er, which may be a bit more user friend­ly. Please keep in mind that flood­plain map­ping is meant for flood insur­ance rat­ing pur­pos­es only. Just because your prop­er­ty is locat­ed out­side the 100 or 500-Year Flood­plains (the 500-Year Flood­plain is rep­re­sent­ed by orange shad­ing) that does not mean you are guar­an­teed to not have a flood. Rough­ly 20% of all flood dam­ages occur out­side the 100-Year Flood zone. If you do not already have flood insur­ance for your struc­ture you should con­sid­er get­ting it. Vis­it Floodsmart.gov (the offi­cial site of the Nation­al Flood Insur­ance Pro­gram) or con­tact your insur­ance agent and inquire about flood insur­ance.

A vari­ety of dam­age can occur to a build­ing fol­low­ing a flood. It is vital that you sched­ule a vis­it with your municipality’s build­ing depart­ment to doc­u­ment the extent of the dam­age. If a struc­ture is sub­stan­tial­ly dam­aged (mean­ing that 51% or more of the structure’s fair mar­ket val­ue is dam­aged) then cer­tain pro­ce­dures need to be put into place and often the struc­ture will need to be ele­vat­ed (in the case of res­i­den­tial struc­tures) or flood­proofed (in the case of non-res­i­den­tial struc­tures). There may be some fund­ing avail­able to mit­i­gate flood­ing if the prop­er­ty has flood insur­ance. For more infor­ma­tion, please vis­it the NYS Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Conservation’s web­site on sub­stan­tial dam­age.

Very often dur­ing a flood, homes with base­ments have stand­ing water in them. Some­times this is a result of over­land flood­ing (flood­ing from rivers and streams) or infil­tra­tion from ground water. Regard­less of the source, the base­ment should have the water pumped out. Sump pumps can be used to do this or for a fee many local fire depart­ments will pump out base­ments. Do not enter a home with stand­ing water unless you know for cer­tain that the pow­er to the struc­ture has been cut.

If you own stream­side prop­er­ty where ero­sion occurred or where the stream chan­nel shift­ed or moved, you can con­tact the Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram (AWSMP) at 845–688-3047. Leave a mes­sage and a tech­ni­cian from the Ulster Coun­ty Soil and Water Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict will get back to you and arrange a site vis­it to view your stream and to offer you advice on what can be done to help mit­i­gate future ero­sion. Keep in mind that because of the recent flood­ing our tech­ni­cians are very busy and restric­tions based on the ongo­ing Covid-19 pan­dem­ic may cause a delay.

Flood­ing and dam­age that result from flood­ing can be very stress­ful and expen­sive to fix. If you live with­in the Ashokan Water­shed and expe­ri­ence dam­age to your struc­ture dur­ing a flood, we also rec­om­mend you con­tact Aaron Ben­nett at the Ulster Coun­ty Depart­ment of Envi­ron­ment at 845–688-3047 ext. 109 or email aben@co.ulster.ny.us for fur­ther assis­tance. If you have ques­tions about how to mit­i­gate your home for floods be sure to read the FEMA Home­own­ers Guide to Retro­fitting.

If you have gen­er­al ques­tions about flood­ing, how to read a flood map or deter­mine if your prop­er­ty is locat­ed in a mapped flood­plain or if you may need flood insur­ance please con­tact Brent Gotsch of Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion of Ulster Coun­ty at 845–688-3047 ex. 103 or bwg37@cornell.edu.

If you have gen­er­al ques­tions about streams and ero­sion you can con­tact Tim Koch of Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion of Ulster Coun­ty at 845–688-3047 ext. 118 or tk545@cornell.edu.

Please be sure to vis­it the AWSMP web­site at www.ashokanstreams.org for addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion about flood­ing and stream man­age­ment.

Flood­ing along Oliv­erea Road 12-25-2020. Pho­to by A. Ben­nett.
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