FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 2, 2013
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)
Westchester Legislators, Stakeholders Address Flood Mitigation for Bronx River
White Plains, NY – A recent meeting of the Bronx River Basin-Wide Watershed Advisory Board (BRAB), hosted by the Westchester County Board of Legislators, focused on potential dredging efforts as a means to mitigate flooding in the communities and roadways along the river. A large group of stakeholders, including local, state and federal officials and representatives, attended the meeting, which was attended by Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), who served as the founding BRAB chairperson, and Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson).
At the BRAB meeting, it was noted that, historically, the Bronx River has had flooding problems, but many communities had escaped unscathed due to regular dredging of the river every ten years or so. The last time the Bronx River was dredged was in 1979, though, and in the thirty plus years that have passed the situation has gotten exponentially worse.
Westchester County Planning Department officials agreed hydraulic improvements like dredging usually benefit the river’s condition, but that doing so was a very costly process. Nonetheless, there was general agreement that dredging was the most significant and long-lasting measure that could be taken to address the years of inaction that have allowed the situation to become so severe. However, before any such action could take place, there would need to be County and municipal support for the dredging. Also, state and federal agencies would need to be involved, as dredging upstream would affect communities downstream and impact New York City.
“We need comprehensive and coordinated efforts among our stakeholders on the Bronx River to achieve long-term flood mitigation, so I’m pleased that we’re finally pinpointing what needs to be done,” said Williams. “Having federal representatives here is important since major projects will entail a level of partnership and support that eases some of the financial burdens on the affected municipalities.”
Indeed, many communities are now dealing with devastating flood conditions. Legislator Shimsky noted the multi-level problem in the Bronx River, with the primary issue of woody debris has been relatively easy to address, with much of it cleared away in the last year. The more difficult problem to address, she said, was the volume of silt, which is much higher that the Saw Mill River’s levels. But the Astorino Administration hasn’t even involved itself with the river debris cleanup. Last year, it took a prominent official to get one of the river’s choke points cleaned out.
“We can’t wait until this river floods homes and business again—which it will—to get serious about undertaking even relatively easy mitigations like debris cleanup,” said Shimsky, who chairs the Saw Mill River Watershed Advisory Board.
Thanks to the BOL, which spearheaded and approved the County’s Storm Water Management Law in 2011, a Reconnaissance Plan of the County’s six major watersheds is finally underway. The Plan will include a compilation of roughly ten years worth of information gathered by the County and municipalities, plus numerous maps detailing flooding “hot spots” and other relevant information. The study of various sites will lead to recommendations on how to mitigate flooding in the most efficient way possible. Still, the Bronx River part of the Reconnaissance Plan is presently being drafted and the final report several months away from being finished, according to County Planning Department officials at the meeting.
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