Assemblymembers Petition State Leaders to Address Present and Future Flooding Concerns

Members call for swift action to provide relief and oversee flood control strategy

In the wake of devastating floods throughout New York State, seven Assemblymembers have written a letter to Governor George E. Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, requesting prompt disaster relief for victims and the formal establishment of a flood and disaster response and mitigation plan.

The members – Kevin A. Cahill (D-Kingston), Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), Barbara Lifton (D/WFP-Tompkins/Cortland), Paul D. Tonko (D-Schenectady/Montgomery), Bill Magee (D-Nelson), Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) and RoAnn Destito (D/WF-Rome) – cited the recent flooding throughout Upstate New York and ongoing questions about the structural integrity of the Gilboa Dam and other dams within the New York City Watershed as examples of the urgency of the issue. June’s flooding is the latest indication that more needs to be done to protect New Yorkers, the Assemblymembers said.

"In realization of the clear and continuing threat presented by recurring flooding, we now ask that, as leaders of this state, you make an immediate and serious commitment of government resources aimed at addressing this long-term crisis in a preventative as well as responsive way," the Assemblymembers wrote. "There is no doubt that action must be taken to address dam safety, flood prevention, response and recovery, but in doing so it is vitally important that the motivation for such measures be driven by an obligation to ensure the safety of the public at large, not simply by a desire to respond to political pressure."

The members – representing the Catskills, the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys and the Southern Tier, which were all affected by the recent floods – are requesting management plans for communities that might be impacted by future flooding in the event of a dam failure, reservoir overflow, river flooding or sewer back up. Earlier this year, the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee held extensive hearings regarding dam safety and statewide disaster preparedness. The Assemblymembers said the lessons learned from the meetings painted a bleak picture of the current situation.

"Our disjointed approach to disaster management and watershed maintenance has placed our communities at risk and forced residents and businesses to exist under a constant state of fear over repeats of floods and other dangerous conditions," the Assemblymembers wrote. "This most recent weather event has proven those fears to be justified."

The members are asking state leaders to provide any services and financial means necessary to assist all victims of the latest tragedy, as well as implement a strict timeline to identify and correct any potential problems to mitigate any flooding in the future.

"Government has the basic moral and legal obligation to keep our citizenry safe to the fullest extent possible," the Assemblymembers wrote. "“Now is the time to act to move New York State closer toward the fulfillment of that responsibility. We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to make flood preparedness, response and recovery a top priority going forward."

Please click here for a .pdf version of the letter.