Climate change has claimed the Kaaterskill Creek as one of its victims. The deep impact from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee continue to affect the creek and nearby residents.
More than two years later, things are still not quite back to normal in the Catskills. Irene and Lee washed out several bridges, and severely damaged the County Route 47 bridge over the Kaaterskill Creek --- which had to be dismantled. Jeanne Hunter lives in Catskill, close to the Greene County bridge. The WAMC essayist and board member hunkered down in her home as Hurricane Irene passed through in 2011.
Bob Peruzzi with Creighton-Manning, the engineer-in-charge of erecting the new CR 47 bridge, says work began in early September.
The curing period spans 28 days. The bridge components were shipped in sections from Ohio and set into place by Peruzzi's crew.
The Kaaterskill Creek is plagued with chronic problems related to eroison of its banks. Sections of the creek run through very steep terrain, creating conditions where the fast-flowing water loosens large rocks and moves them downstream. The one-two punch from Irene and Lee added fallen trees (roots and all) to the debris being deposited along the creek in places like Hunter and Catksill where roads, homes, churches and businesses are located close to the water.
Columbia & Greene Counties Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Educator Liz LoGiudice says the impact has been profound.
Hunter notes the downstream consequences along the Kaaterskill have been "pretty grim" thanks to a "clogged waterfall" just below the bridge.
Penelope Queen lives across the creek, on the other side of the bridge. Queen says the debris pile itself is nearly 20 feet high.
Gary Harvey is the Greene County Superintendent of Highways. He points out that flooding along the county highway is not caused by the debris, but by the elevation of the roadway.
Greene County officials say the bridge routinely handles nearly 900 cars a day, and is expected to re-open to traffic in early to mid-December. The debris problem at the falls may eventually be cleared out, be it by man or by mother nature, but if history is any guide, the build-up will continue to plague locals as time goes by.