More than 100 Syracuse residents could be removed from the FEMA flood maps if phase two of the city's Creekwalk project is completed. The plan calls for the removal of three railroad bridges to increase Onondaga Creek's capacity. But as our Katie Gibas reports, if state and federal authorities don't act quickly, the city could lose their funding for the project.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Many of the residents who live along Syracuse's Onondaga Creek will soon have to buy flood insurance thanks to FEMA redrawing the city's flood maps.
"It can cost up to $1,000 per year and that is too much and particularly for the families who live along the creek are not families that can easily afford $1,000 per year," said Senator Charles Schumer.
Syracuse officials say they have a way to remove some of those plots of land from the map. Phase two of the Creekwalk project calls for removing abandoned railroad bridges to reduce flooding, which would mean more than 100 parcels of land could be removed from the FEMA flood maps.
Senator Schumer says the problem is that the funding for the project is tied up in federal bureaucracy. Syracuse finished phase one of the Creekwalk early and under budget: About $1.2 million under budget. But under the new state and federal "use it or lose it" policy enacted in August, if the DOT doesn't change their approval of funds from phase one to phase two, the city will lose that remaining money.
"This is federal bureaucracy gone amuck because what normally would happen is the city would be allowed to use this money to go onto phase two of the Creekwalk and do these kinds of mitigation projects. But under ‘use it or lose it,’ you need to reapply. So all the federal and state governments have to do is allow it,” said Schumer. "They shouldn't be penalized because they were extra efficient and extra speedy."
Aside from helping to remove those parcels of land from the FEMA flood maps and saving families money, officials say removal of these bridges could help revitalize the entire Creekwalk.
"This project is already underway. We're simply asking for the ability to complete it, which would take in the next couple years. And that's all local firms doing design and construction drawings for a major project," said Tim Caroll, the Syracuse Mayoral Initiatives Director.
Schumer added, "There's so many things that we're doing and taking things that were sort of looked at as lost or not the kind of places that people would want to go and revitalizing them. So it's really important. The Creekwalk can bring people downtown, help Armory Square, can help so many other neighborhoods in Syracuse."
Schumer says the change is just a matter of paper work and he's optimistic the DOT can make the approval before the December 31st deadline.