WAMC New York News
7:38 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Fail: The NYS Flood Panel That Never Convened

Albany, NY – A task force that was created about 5 years ago may have been able to help New Yorkers prepare for what followed after Irene grazed the state. But, as we hear in this report from Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas, the members of the panel never met.

Weather throughout upstate New York has been trending more severe: There have been major flooding emergencies in 1996, 2005, 2006 and the current Irene disaster some falling under the paramerters for so-called "100-year floods" meaning waters had breached a level that had only a 1 percent chance of being exceeded in any given year.

It has come to light in recent days that a 14-member New York State Canal Mitigation Task Force created after the 2006 flooding never convened. Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco says its no surprise.

Cornell University Professor Susan Rhia was named to the flood group in 2008 by former Governor David Paterson. She wouldn't go on tape but acknowledged a Times Union report which quotes her as saying she kept asking the Department of Environmental Conservation about meetings, then finally gave up.

Patricia Salkin, Director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, says that panels formed during crisis situations are sometimes soon forgotten.

Would the panel have been able to do anything in the wake of Irene? We may never know...

The state Canal Corporation and the DEC are among the agencies that had a hand in the task force operation. Canal Corporation head Brian Stratton is part of a new flood recovery task force named by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Stratton did not return calls for comment in time for broadcast. The DEC responded to a request for comment via email: "Tropical Storm Irene clearly demonstrates the need for a much broader look at flooding in the state and not just in the Mohawk Valley. Commissioner Martens will be discussing this issue with the Storm and Flood Recovery Task Force and will recommend a more comprehensive approach rather than looking at this issue region by region."