Updated 07/13/2012 06:56 PM
Millions in grants to help counties finish Irene and Lee cleanup
One state legislator said it best Friday: What Irene didn't get, Lee took. Nearly a year after flood waters from the storms saturated areas in the Mohawk Valley and other parts of the state, millions of dollars in grants are heading to counties to help complete clean-up projects. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us what local leaders say this will mean for their communities.
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HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. -- "When they say Friday the 13th is not a lucky day, I have to argue with you. And, yes , there is a Christmas in July," Frank Spatto said Friday.
The German Flatts Town Supervisor says Steele and Fulmer Creeks have been the source of flooding issues in Herkimer County for years. That was especially evident after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee swept through last summer.
But this week, municipalities along the creeks got good news.
"We've been working on this for better than 20 years and this is the first time a project has come through that we can actually put the money to the shovel, to the dirt," said Supervisor Spatto.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens joined state officials Friday to announce that $9 million in flood mitigation grants are on the way to 23 counties across the state. They're being awarded through the New York Works program and will fund projects from removing debris to reconnecting streams to their natural flood plain.
One of those projects is going to take place along Steele Creek in Ilion. A 160 foot concrete and stone wall that helps protect houses is going to be replaced and eroded banks are going to be built back up.
Also flowing in, an extra $7 million in state funds. That's so counties can meet non-federal match requirements for projects through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
"Most communities in this economic climate can't afford that 25 percent. So the potential was there for leaving millions of dollars on the table, leaving the streams throughout the counties unattended to," said Martens.
"That is huge. The impact on the tax base if we had to reach that money, we could not reach that," said Spatto.
Officials say it's not a matter of if, but when the state will again be hit hard by flood waters. But they say these grants will go a long way toward making sure that next time, they're ready.