Schoharie County has completed an All-Hazards Mitigation Plan and it was approved by FEMA in August 2006.
The County and municipalities must work together to implement the plan.
Hazard mitigation efforts and planning in Schoharie County encompass many different hazards. However, the mostly costly disasters in the County in terms of financial and loss of life are attributed to riverine flooding. Schoharie County is blessed with the beauty of the Schoharie Valley and the Schoharie Creek. However, reduced to a trickle during summer months, the Schoharie Creek can become a raging torrent during high water events.
The Schoharie Creek is a northward-flowing tributary of the Mohawk River, and it drains the northwestern Catskill Mountains. Schoharie Creek follows a meandering course, with low to moderate sinuosity and a varying bed gradient. Its tributaries are best characterized as having moderate to steep gradients, low sinuosity, and with high-relief contributory watersheds. The course of the Schoharie Creek includes two reservoir-dam systems.
The Schoharie Reservoir is part of the New York City Water Supply System (dam construction below in 1920s). The New York Power Authority (NYPA) operates the Blenheim-Gilboa Dam and its reservoir to produce hydroelectric power. This dam is located 4 miles north of the Schoharie Reservoir. Both dams are non-flood control structures and all peak discharges are passed downstream to Schoharie Creek.
Two recent major floods in the Schoharie Creek watershed, one occurring in April 1987, and the second in January 1996, were both the direct results of snowmelt or combined precipitation-snowmelt events. Both of these floods occurred when unseasonably warm weather produced melting of the existing snowpack followed by intense rainfall.
An intense storm occurred on April 3-5, 1987; the soils were already saturated, stream discharges were high, and some reservoirs were at or near capacity from snowmelt and previous rainfall. In early March, due to unseasonably warm weather, a 30-inch snowpack had been reduced by nearly half. Rainfall from April 3 to April 6 resulted in more than 9 inches at higher elevations. Flooding on the Schoharie Creek resulted in the collapse of the New York State Thruway bridge due to scour. Several deaths were caused as a result of the bridge collapse.
On January 18 and 19, 1996 extensive flooding was caused in the Schoharie Creek watershed when precipitation from a large storm combined with rapidly melting snow brought on by warm temperatures. Snowpack in the Catskills exceeded 45 inches and the January 18-19 storm provided 2.0 – 4.5 inches of rain, varying mainly by elevation. Air temperatures rose above 60 degrees F by midnight of January 19 and remained high for several hours. The January 1996 floods were the most widespread and devastating in Schoharie County since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Two deaths occurred in the Village of Schoharie and damage to residences, businesses, roads and bridges prompted a new outlook on floodplain management in the County.
All of the mitigation projects undertaken to date in Schoharie County reduce the impacts of flooding. Approximately 100 floodplain acres have been acquired in the County and the land protected as open space. 5 homes have been elevated in the County. A list of projects completed or ongoing since 1996 include:
Town of Blenheim – Home Acquisition:
One home was acquired in the floodplain of the Schoharie Creek after 5 feet of water impacted the first floor living space of a home in January 1996. This project is complete and 1 acre of land in a frequently flooded portion of Blenheim is now open space. The elderly resident moved to a group home facility outside of the County. HMGP Funds. Total cost – $18,000.
Town of Broome – Catskill Creek Home Acquisition:
One home was acquired in the floodplain of the Catskill Creek after flood damage occurred twice to the home in 2000 (picture at right). The project is complete and 3.5 acres of land is open space. The residents relocated in the Town of Broome. HMGP funds. Total cost – $51,000.
Town of Esperance – Home Elevation:
4 homes were elevated resulting in first floor living space approximately 1 foot above the base flood elevation. 3 homes are located in the area referred to as “Priddle Camp” and 1 home is located on Cripplebush Creek. Utilities were also raised. This project is complete. HMGP/DEC Funds. Total cost – $149,000.
Town of Esperance – Fly Creek Restoration:
This ongoing project utilizes Environmental Protection Funds through the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. The project involves stabilizing banks and altering the channel of Fly Creek where several properties and septic systems are severely eroding during high water events.
Town of Fulton – Home Acquisition:
This project involved purchasing and demolishing approximately 12 homes and over 32 acres of land along Schoharie Creek. The homes were substantially damaged in January 1996. One historically significant home was archived and relocated to high ground in Delaware County (picture at right shows dismantling of home). This project is complete. HMGP/DEC Funds. Total cost – $524,000.
Town of Fulton – Redling Road Drainage:
This ongoing project involves installing new larger box culverts under a frequently flooded road and paving a small section of the road to reduce erosion and road repair costs. HMGP Funds.
Town of Gilboa – Home Acquisition/Road Relocation/Church and Town Hall Relocation:
This project was completed as 3 separate projects and is the largest mitigation project completed in the County to date. Several residences along Stryker Road that were damaged in January 1996 were purchased and demolished. A County Road was relocated out of the floodplain and an historic church and town hall were relocated to higher ground (picture at right). This project is complete. HMGP/DEC Funds. Total cost – 1 mil.
Town of Middleburgh – Home Acquisition:
1 home near NYS Route 30 in an area of repetitive flooding was purchased and demolished after January 1996 flooding. This home was also flooded in 1987. This project is complete. HMGP Funds. Total cost – $63,000.
Town of Middleburgh – Home Elevation:
1 home was elevated along Huntersland Creek. HMGP/DEC Funds. Total cost – $40,000.
Village of Middleburgh – Home Acquisition:
3 repetitive loss properties on Baker Avenue were purchased and demolished. The land is now utilized as open space and a gravel parking lot for a neighboring school. HMGP/DEC Funds. Total cost – $163,000.
Village of Middleburgh – Home Elevation:
1 historic home was elevated in the floodplain of Schoharie Creek (picture at right). Homes in the general vicinity experience flood waters at least once a decade. HMGP Funds. Total cost – $60,000.
Town of Sharon – Bowmaker Pond Restoration:
This project restored an historical recreation area and wetland. In order to alleviate drainage problems in the Village of Sharon Springs, a diversion culvert was installed by NYSDOT to redirect water to West Creek and away from a problem drainage area. This project was funded with several grants, NYSDOT, and volunteer work and was completed in 2002.
Schoharie County Early Warning System:
Primarily for floods, the County installed an early warning system that will also be utilized in the future for various disaster scenarios. The mapping component of the system is useful for mitigation planning, evacuation route planning, and shelter location identification. While it is a completed project, the early warning system is still being modified and improved. Flood awareness, training and education are a major ongoing component of this project.
Village of Cobleskill – Church Acquisition
This ongoing project involves the purchase of the Calvary Assembly of God Church on South Grand Street. This building is located in a floodway. The estimated total for this project is approximately $300,000.