Investment Aims to Reduce Risk of Widespread Flooding from Extreme Weather in the Essex County Town
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a commitment of up to $3 million to fund a project that will mitigate flooding and expand the capacity of Gulf Brook to transport water and sediment in the Town of Keene. The project, which was developed by the Towns of Jay and Keene NY Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Planning Committee, will consist of completing repairs for the entire length of Gulf Brook, from upstream by the former Town of Keene firehouse to the waterway’s junction with the East Branch of the Ausable River. The effort, which will include bank stabilization, channel widening and restoration, culvert installation and possible bridge modification, will reduce risks of flooding and deterioration to route 9N and adjacent properties in the center of the Hamlet of Keene.
“Extreme weather has unfortunately become the new normal in New York, and we must be prepared for the next severe storm,” Governor Cuomo said. “This project will fortify the Town of Keene and nearby areas along Gulf Brook and will better protect residents and businesses from whatever Mother Nature sends our way. This is one more way that New York is building back better.”
The Hamlet of Keene is built on an alluvial fan formed where Gulf Brook exits a steep mountain canyon and meets the base of the valley. In its current state, Gulf Brook is straight and confined between the bluff and Routes 9N and 73. During Hurricane Irene, Gulf Brook overflowed its banks and flowed down the center of the hamlet, damaging more than a dozen properties that were in the floodplain.
Hurricane Irene caused extensive damage throughout Essex County, with the most damage occurring in the Towns of Jay and Keene. During the storm, precipitation into the watershed feeding the East Branch was particularly heavy, exceeding 12 inches in 24 hours. Due to the magnitude of the storm, many properties lying within the East Branch’s mapped 100-year floodplain, as well as properties in the 500-year floodplain, were inundated with floodwater, sediment, and debris. Tropical Storm Lee hit the area within a week of Irene, compounding the damage.
In the eight-month aftermath of the storms, Essex County was one of 50 communities – representing more than 100 localities – across the state to participate in the State’s $650 million NYRCR Program. More than 500 participants serve on NYRCR Committees throughout the State, having proposed approximately 600 projects with an aggregate value of more than $800 million. Each participating community was allocated between $3 and $25 million to implement eligible projects that incorporate and capitalize on local needs, strengths, and challenges.
This past summer, New York State launched “Round 2” of the program, extending the opportunity to 16 new communities.
“Our mandate is not only to rebuild, but to rebuild in a better and more resilient way,” said Jamie Rubin, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. “The communities in Essex County should no longer fear for the worst whenever a weather forecast calls for heavy rain.”
Managed by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), NYRCR is a grassroots planning and implementation initiative that strives to empower storm-impacted communities to rebuild, making them stronger and more resilient.
GOSR was established in June 2013 to coordinate statewide recovery efforts for Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. Through its NY Rising Housing Recovery, Small Business, Community Reconstruction, and Infrastructure programs, GOSR invests more than $4 billion made available through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development's (HUD) CDBG-DR Program to better prepare New York for future extreme weather events.
For more information go to www.stormrecovery.ny.gov.
Senator Charles E. Schumer said, “This project is great news for the people of Keene and the thousands of people who visit the town each year. Three years ago, Irene devastated this community, but ever since there has been tremendous cooperation between our office at the federal level, the Governor’s team at the state level, and Essex County and Keene town officials on the recovery. When we included Irene recovery funds as part of the large Sandy supplemental funding bill, it was with projects like this Keene flood mitigation work in mind.”
Congressman Bill Owens said “This project will reduce the threat of future flooding in Keene and help make Gulf Brook a source of safe drainage instead. I applaud Governor Cuomo and New York State for continuing to work with the Keene community to ensure they are as prepared as possible for future storms.”
Keene Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee said, "This funding will go a long way towards making our communities and businesses resilient for future storms. Governor Cuomo has been there since day one with help and resources to rebuild our communities and his support continues today. We look forward to continue this partnership to make our communities better and stronger than ever."
Chairman of Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas said, "Following the devastation of past storms that hit our communities we must find ways to rebuild better and smarter. This funding and the upcoming improvements to Gulf Brook will greatly reduce flooding along 9N and surrounding areas. I applaud Governor Cuomo for making these funds available and continuing to support our communities."