Gowanda working on cautionary agreement following flood

GOWANDA – Ever since the flood in mid-May, the village of Gowanda is working on ensuring another flood does not happen.

Village officials and surrounding municipalities are coming together on the Thatcher Brook Task Force.

The task force, formed several years ago but really gaining of momentum following the 2009 flood, is working to firm up a cautionary agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Conservation. The agreement will serve as a long-term plan for Thatcher Brook and also will include Grannis Brook. Disaster Coordinator Nick Crassi is hopeful the plan will include annual dredging for both waterways and give the village more power for preventive measures.

“We can’t do anything as of now. The only thing is in a state of emergency, I do have permission to dig out the trash rack on Route 62,” Crassi said.

Village Trustee Paul Zimmermann, who serves on the task force, explained the cautionary agreement as a long-term solution with cooperation of the village, the towns of Dayton, Perrysburg, Persia and Collins, the army corps and the DEC; the department of Soil and Water Conservation is also involved in the process.

In the meantime, the village has been working on short-term mitigation. The village currently has three active DEC permits allowing them to enter into the creek for remedial work. The permits are for the trash rack on Route 62, the South Chapel Street bridge and Jamestown Street, between Hill Street and a small waterfall. Over the winter months, the village removed silt from the trash rack on Route 62 as preventive measures.

“(The village) is working on gaining on further permits. We need a permit to get in the creek to clean out the trash rack. We were recently in the creek to clean out the silt near the Chapel Street Bridge,” said Zimmermann. “We’re trying to further develop some shorter-term (plans) that will prevent any events from happening while the longer-term fixtures are resolved with the federal cautionary agreement.”

The agreement has been an ongoing process for many years and could take several more years. Zimmermann hopes the Army Corps and DEC will realize there is a need to have preventive measures.

“There is a need and a desire to work with the (Army) Corp and the DEC to develop a plan to prevent the flooding,” said Zimmermann. “Once an obstruction starts, you can’t have a meeting to try to resolve anything. You need to have people there right away ready to do it.”

The flooding that occurred in mid-May joins more significant flooding that occurred in 1986, 1998 and 2009, but flooding has dated back as early as 1857. Crassi said the village is waiting to see how to pay for the over $650,000 worth of damage caused by the most recent flood. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have acknowledged that amount and the village is waiting on the federal government.

“The next step is Governor (Andrew Cuomo) grouped all the counties together as one disaster and submitted it to the federal government and President (Barack Obama) to see if he would sign it. I haven’t heard anything from that,” Crassi said.

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