B y Jaime Thomas
More than two years after Hurricane Irene swept through the area, the village became eligible for a grant.
The village board signed a project agreement Dec. 12 that will move along the process of receiving $629,000 for mitigation work along the Mettowee River.
Following the hurricane, Village Clerk Rick Roberts said engineers noted the destabilization of manmade berms, or walls, that surround the river. But FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, initially told the village it could not help unless local officials could prove the berms, which were made in the 1950s, were manmade.
Then Scott Fisher of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service “took the ball and ran with it,” according to Roberts.
“He worked to get funding approved through appropriate funding levels,” Roberts said, adding that the Empire State Development Corporation helped as well. The NRCS will pay 75 percent of the grant and the state will pay the remaining 25 percent.
“That’s $600,000 worth of work we’ll get done at no cost to taxpayers,” Roberts said, speculating that the work might be done by local people and therefore go back into the area economy.
He said contractors will reengineer the riverbank berms by filling in holes, preventing future erosion and removing built-up gravel beds; these berms protect the village’s water supply and well field. Additionally, property will be put back for landowners who lost some during the storm.
He said the Department of Public Works will also work in conjunction with Washington County Soil and Water to ameliorate other problem areas near the Slave Valley Museum.
It was a year-long process to get the grant, but Roberts said it is especially important in a neighborhood that’s been steadily improving.
“If you look at the infrastructure that’s affected, it will be an asset to the cultural campus and area residents,” he said of the grant.