The horrendous flood of 20 July is over a month old and almost forgotten. Especially, it seems, by our political leaders of both the city and town of Lockport.
Flooding rains will occur again. Streets and basements will flood again. When the next flood occurs, our political leaders will bemoan, again, by repeating the old saw: "The DEC won't let us!"
Around and around, we go, again!
But, won't the DEC let them? Let's see:
The Donner Creek flooding issue has been around for 60-plus years. It's a solvable issue, if we had the will to do it. But not if we continue to use old, inaccurate 1960 data to solve a 2021 problem, as we have been doing for the past 60-plus years. See the FEMA reports beginning in 1980, or Wendel's first Donner Creek report of 1971, or the second Wendel report of 2008, or the most recent "Resiliency-Donner Creek" report of December 2020.
To mitigate flooding, the Town of Lockport has requested "cleaning" permits from the DEC only twice over the past 60-plus years. Twice! On Jan. 7, 2005 and on Sept. 25, 2006.
The DEC responded with "denial/explanation" letters, which explained "why/why not." It also offered suggestions on what was needed in order to gain approval.
In their responses, dated Jan. 13, 2005, and Dec. 21, 2006, Penny Dempsky and Dan Davis, respectively, pointed out:
1. "Cleaning" of Donner Creek would not eliminate the flooding issue related to the creek. (This position was later supported by the Army Corps of Engineers as well.)
2. The town's proposal for "cleaning" was in fact a channelization of the creek and, as such, would cause undue/additional flooding in downstream Pendleton. (Interesting! The DEC is concerned about the town dumping on Pendleton, but not the city dumping into the town of Lockport.)
3. Bridges and culverts along the way should be evaluated to determine their adverse effect on and along the stream.
4. The watershed of both the city and the town needs a better definition.
5. The Town of Lockport should take a more "regional" approach in solving the flooding problem by engaging the City of Lockport and the Town of Pendleton.
"The DEC won't let us!"? Maybe, in the strictness of terms, no they won't. But, didn't the DEC point out the additional problems that proposed "cleaning" would cause? As in, Pendleton flooding and no mitigating the flooding in the town?
The Town of Lockport responded to the DEC's suggestions by contracting the Wendel people for a second "study." (The first one, the "Lockport Pendleton Drainage Report for Town of Lockport," dated Sept. 13, 1971, indicated that 83% of the water entering the town through the culvert at Lincoln Avenue was city water.)
Wendel's "new" study, in 2008, defined the problem area as the area between Lincoln Avenue and Transit Road. No Lockport! No Pendleton! So much for DEC's recommendations 1 (cleaning would not eliminate flooding), 4 (watershed of both the city and the town needs better definition) and 5 (take a more regional approach).
The 2008 study addressed one culvert: the 60-inch pipe that Mr. Stockwell used to cross from one side of his property to the other. At the time of the report, along Donner Creek, there were 10 bridges and two culverts; the report only considered one culvert, and that was 36 inches, not 60.
Speaking of all the Donner Creek bridges in the town, there is only one in which the creek enters or exits in a straight path. And that one, the Robinson Road bridge, has a walk bridge on the exit side. The walk bridge is several feet below the FEMA flood plain level, and it blocks a portion of the road bridge. The creek, entering the bridges, is considerably larger, in width, than the bridges.
The Town of Lockport, FEMA and Wendel have conveniently ignored these facts.
So much for the DEC's No. 3 suggestion.
"The DEC won't let us!"??
In its letters of 2005 and 2006, in expectation that "work" would be done, the agency asked whether the Town of Lockport had begun getting easement permission from affected property owners. To date, the Town has never addressed that question. The reason why is, the Town has never asked anyone for that permission. Just as the town leaders have never held a public review of any Donner Creek studies done, by Wendel, FEMA or, most recently, Gomez & Sullivan for the DEC (December 2020).
A public forum is required to sort out the "you said / he said" back and forth. Maybe then, the truth — and a workable solution — can prevail.
Ed Quinones resides in the town of Lockport.