NRCS and Town of Whitestown Partner to Pursue Voluntary Buyout Program for Flood-Impacted Homes
Builds on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Commitment to Protect Communities from Future Severe Storms and Flooding
New York State and Town of Whitestown to Construct New Floodplain Benches and Culverts to Mitigate Future Flood Risk
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Town of Whitestown today announced landmark progress in new and ongoing efforts to protect Whitestown and the Village of Whitesboro from future flooding following the 2019 Halloween storm.
NRCS and the Town of Whitestown announced a new Memorandum of Understanding that will target the voluntary home buyout of properties along the Sauquoit Creek impacted during the 2019 Halloween storm and numerous other flood events. The MOU will determine whether residents in the affected areas are interested in participating in the Floodplain Easement Program, which would remove structures affected by floodwaters, restore part of the floodplain and help protect the area from future flood events. This new federal-local partnership complements New York State’s continuing flood mitigation efforts in the area, directed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and undertaken by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation and Office of General Services to bolster resilience, protect public safety, and improve stream habitat in this community after repeated flood events.
“With severe weather becoming the new normal, building and maintaining resilient communities is increasingly a team effort. That’s why it’s critical that all levels of government coordinate effectively and advance projects that protect our communities from the enormous disruption of widespread flooding and storms,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today’s announcement adds to New York State’s multi-pronged effort to protect residents along the Sauquoit Creek from severe flooding and will further our capacity to build a more resilient Mohawk Valley.”
Blake Glover, NRCS State Conservationist, said, “We are proud to be partnering with the Town of Whitestown to address the damage left by the 2019 Halloween Storm. Together we can serve the needs of the community whom have shown great resilience in the wake of this storm and storm events in previous years by restoring and protecting the floodplain for future generations.”
“Governor Cuomo continues to demonstrate his commitment to helping Oneida County, the Town of Whitestown, and the Village of Whitesboro rebuild after flooding devastated this community,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The State of New York applauds the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Town of Whitestown for this important agreement that begins a process of utilizing a federal program to acquire homes repeatedly flooded within the Village of Whitesboro. These buyouts, coupled with New York State’s ongoing flood mitigation projects and investments, will make these communities more resilient to future flood events.”
DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has provided unprecedented support to enhance resiliency and protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of extreme weather events. These strategic investments in infrastructure hardening will help improve water flow, and assist in mitigating the risk of future flooding. The Department of Transportation is proud to join with our partners in state and local government to provide funding for the construction of the five-new culverts that, in combination with the benching, will help improve the resiliency of the Mohawk Valley region.”
OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Governor Cuomo is acutely aware of the challenges faced by those living in flood prone areas, and has marshalled extensive State resources to help communities regularly devastated by rising water. The team at OGS was happy to be engaged as we worked through the design and contracting for this project.”
DEC, DOT, OGS and the Town of Whitestown also announced that construction will commence this fall on the next phase of floodplain benching designed to mitigate flooding along the Sauquoit Creek. This new $3.8 million project includes construction of a 12-acre floodplain bench along the lower portion of the Sauquoit Creek and the installation of five, 48-inch culvert pipes in the CSX railroad bed in the Village of Whitesboro. The combination of the floodplain benching and five new culverts will significantly increase water flow from the Sauquoit Creek to the Mohawk River, mitigating future flood risk.
“I have walked the flooded streets, the neighborhoods and talked with families hit one too many times by the Sauquoit Creek’s waters and vowed a fight to deliver the buyout dollars needed to make this happen, and we got it done,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “This is a prime example of state, federal, and local governments working together to bring desperately needed resources and a plan to bear to improve a historically dangerous issue for the Whitestown and communities throughout Oneida County.”
Congressman Anthony Brindisi said, “I’ve witnessed flooding in these communities going back to my time in the State Assembly. Year after year, homes, businesses, and families were displaced by flooding. It’s been a long time coming; however, thanks to this $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the residents can start to move-on. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I was proud to help secure these federal dollars as part of the bipartisan 2019 Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act. This funding provides an alternative measure to prevent flooding – including acquiring land that is considered essential to protect public safety. This will mean homes in this region will be eligible for buyouts and families can begin to start over. I want to thank local, county, and state officials for working together with me to deliver these crucial dollars.”
The NRCS Floodplain Easement program restores, protects, maintains, and enhances the functions of floodplains, while conserving their natural values such as retaining flood water and ice, improving water quality, and providing valuable fish and wildlife habitats. This program will further implement the state-of-the-art flood mitigation and stream restoration plan developed under Governor Cuomo’s ResilientNY Streams initiative, a comprehensive scientific approach to abating flooding along Sauquoit Creek.
To date, New York State has provided nearly $8 million in support of several high-priority flood mitigation projects along Sauquoit Creek, including a massive floodplain restoration project recently completed in the Town of Whitestown’s Dunham Manor Park. DEC, DOT and OGS partnered closely with Oneida County, Town of Whitestown, and Village of Whitesboro to complete this vital work.
Senator Joseph Griffo said, “It is welcome news that the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Town of Whitestown have executed a Memorandum of Understanding for a voluntary buyout program for those affected by flooding and severe weather in the Village of Whitesboro. Many residents have faced significant hardships, difficulties and obstacles due to the persistent, pervasive and destructive flooding that has taken place in the community. This buyout program offers an important resource that can help individuals and families overcome the significant weather-related challenges that they have experienced and will provide for much needed relief.”
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenshon said, “It is an honor to work with my fellow elected officials to provide this valuable opportunity to the residents of the Village of Whitesboro as they have faced numerous, devastating flooding events over the years. Thank you to the Governor’s Office, my fellow state, federal and local officials for persevering for our residents.”
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. said, “Flood mitigation efforts have consistently been a top priority for myself and my administration. Since 2017 alone, we have instituted multi-million dollar programs tackling long-term mitigation efforts, direct assistance to those affected by flooding and clean up efforts for municipalities devastated by these unpredictable and severe weather patterns. Oneida County has spent, secured or leveraged over $30 million that has gone to over two dozen projects, studies and initiatives to make this community safer from flooding. I knew the efforts needed more money from larger governments, especially for those located in Whitesboro, that is why we worked hand in glove with Whitestown to secure this federal grant and commissioned and funded the inundation study that is one of the main reasons this funding has been secured. This funding is essential to moving the people so often affected by these floods out of harms way once and for all. I look forward to working with the federal government, State of New York, Whitestown and Whitesboro to complete this vital project.”
Town of Whitestown Supervisor Shaun Kaleta said, “The Town of Whitestown has been a leader on the Sauquoit Creek, making flood mitigation and helping repetitive flood loss property owners a priority. Progress on both fronts, including the Town’s Sauquoit Creek Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project and partnership with NRCS, would not be possible without the hard work and collaborative efforts of all levels of government. From the beginning, Governor Cuomo, Congressman Brindisi, County Executive Picente and our partners at the DEC, DOT and OGS, have been by our side, not only helping us come up with sustainable solutions to reduce flooding, but providing the funding and other resources necessary to implement them. Thanks to this strong support and everyone working together, we are making a positive difference and providing both hope and a better future to those devastated by multiple floods.”
Village of Whitesboro Mayor Robert Friedlander said, “For years, the Village of Whitesboro and its residents have seen record floods that have damaged our community almost beyond recognition. Today’s announcement gives us a moment to thank our federal and state champions, Governor Cuomo, Congressman Brindisi, and so many others, for prioritizing our safety and security and giving us the tools and investments our village needed to build back better.”