Posted on June 25, 2015
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Has Included A Federal Investment of $600K to Identify Best Ways to Protect Flood-Prone Susquehanna River Watershed Region, But A Feasible Plan Must Be In Place To Ensure Results
Schumer Has Long History of Pushing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers To Prioritize Authorizations Covering Southern Tier Watersheds And Supporting Funding for Mitigation Projects to Protect Nearby Homes And Businesses From Future Flood Damage
Schumer: Outcome of this Study Should Bring Long-Term Flood-Mitigation for Hard-Hit Southern Tier
However, the USACOE still needs to provide a detailed account of how the agency plans to utilize the funding to complete this study and provide residents and businesses with real solutions. As a result, Schumer is urging the USACOE to provide an update and detailed timeline given the significant funding that was allocated and the dire need on the local level to keep this project moving forward. In his letter, Schumer requested the USACOE provide an update on the study’s progress and a timetable for moving forward, including when stakeholders can expect implementation of its findings. Schumer said that the constant risk of flood damage to homes and businesses makes the USACOE study of utmost important to Southern Tier residents, and he will continue to press that it must remain a top priority.
“Since the major flood events in 2006 in the Southern Tier we pushed hard to get the Army Corps to study the Susquehanna River Basin flood risk and implement flood mitigation measures. The delay of the implementation of this long-sought-after study is disconcerting given the past – and potential future – Susquehanna River flooding events. More must be done, and soon, to execute the intent of the study’s authorization to better protect the communities in this watershed area. Which is why I am demanding a detailed update and timetable for the implementation of the study of the river basin and its vulnerabilities for future flooding events, including best mitigation solutions. The $600,000 in new federal funds will jumpstart the feasibility study stage, but we need answers about implementation and a real action plan,” said Schumer.
After the 2006 flooding that impacted the Southern Tier, Schumer immediately pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to implement projects from previous studies to provide protection to flood stricken communities. Schumer also worked to authorize new study options to ensure Army Corps had a full range of options to best address flood protection. Schumer successfully secured federal funding to begin a reconnaissance study and remained a steadfast advocate to Army Corps that future work on this study be a priority.
The development of an USACOE project requires multiple steps, over multiple years. Congressional authorization is first required for the USACOE to conduct an investigation, which includes both a reconnaissance and more detailed feasibility study. A second separate authorization for construction is then required based on the outcome of the feasibility study. In order for the USACOE to act on an authorization, a separate appropriation of funding is also required. As a result, Schumer has long fought to help communities across the Southern Tier obtain the necessary approvals to get these types of mitigation projects moving along and underway.
The Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Risk Management Study directed the USACOE to study and implement improvements to the Upper Susquehanna River with the goal of mitigating future flooding. To do so, the USACOE was tasked to work with New York State and local governments to conduct a reconnaissance study, pending favorable outcomes, develop an agreed-upon work plan cooperatively with federal and non-federal sponsors, and then launch a feasibility study from which construction projects could be identified. An FY 2010 appropriation was secured for a reconnaissance study and with favorable results, the USACOE has been in the process of working to identify a non-federal partner for the cost share requirement and to define the scope of the next step: the feasibility study.
In the wake of devastating flooding that severely damaged Southern Tier homes and businesses Schumer urged the USACOE to conduct a study of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, utilizing an existing authorization, and to direct remaining funds from the 2007 Continuing Budget Resolution to begin the project. In FY2010 Schumer helped appropriate $100K to fund the reconnaissance study. In subsequent years Schumer urged USACOE to keep this project a priority; as a result this year’s Army Corps work plan includes $600K for the feasibility study.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the USACOE appears below:
Dear Lieutenant General Bostick:
I write regarding the Army Corps’ Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Risk Management Study in New York. Specifically, I request a detailed update and timetable for the implementation of the study of the river basin and its vulnerabilities for future flooding events, including best mitigation solutions. The delay of the implementation of this long-sought-after study is disconcerting given the past – and potential future – Susquehanna River flooding events. More must be done, and soon, to execute the intent of the study’s authorization to better protect the communities in this watershed area.
For many years, the Southern Tier region of New York State has been subject to significant and costly flooding events; it is clear that a comprehensive study and mitigation improvement projects are needed. After personally touring the communities devastated by multiple flooding events, I saw firsthand the need for additional flood damage reduction measures. Thus, following those flood incidents, I worked tirelessly with my legislative partners to push for the studies and funding needed to get those projects off the ground, including the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Risk Management Study.
Since this study was first authorized, another crippling flood has come and gone, adding hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Residents and businesses have incurred repair and replacement costs, and local governments continue to work to recover from the decimation these storms and associated flooding caused. Resources and time have been expended that could have been allocated to growth and development rather than clean-up and rebuilding. Stakeholders and local leaders continue to question the slow progress in protecting communities throughout the watershed. Years later, little reportable progress has been made, and those who call the Southern Tier of New York State home need some assurance that action is being undertaken to take meaningful steps toward a better protected and flood-resistant region. This is critical to peace of mind, public safety, economic prosperity and the prudent expenditure of public resources.
I am pleased that the Corps has begun to move forward with the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Comprehensive Flood Risk Management Study to identify flood damage reduction measures for residents and businesses in the region. I was also glad to see that the Army Corps’ Fiscal Year 2015 Work Plan included $600,000 for the feasibility study, after which the Corps will be able to implement the most critical and cost-effective flood damage reduction solutions. I ask that you provide me with a detailed update and timeline for the implementation of the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Study. As you know, this study and its findings are critical to the residents living in the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, and I am committed to doing all that I can to push for additional authorizations and funding that may be needed to implement flood damage risk reduction solutions.
I thank you for your attention and consideration of this matter and eagerly await your reply. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office should you require any further assistance or clarification.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator