FEMA to provide assistance to impacted Adirondack counties
By Gwendolyn Craig
Hard-hit by flooding earlier this month, Hamilton and Essex counties are moving slowly toward restoration of services although road closures remain.
The state Department of Transportation said crews are working to install a temporary bridge over Fishing Brook on State Route 28N in the town of Long Lake. It expects to reopen the route between the town and Newcomb by early August.
Once reopened, the one-lane road will usher over alternating flows of traffic before a temporary bridge is moved to a new alignment. DOT has “expedited the design of a new bridge to replace the original structure, which was severely damaged by torrential rains earlier this month.” Repairs continue on various segments of State Route 28N and Route 30 in Long Lake.
Crews are also working on storm-related repairs to the shoulders of the Adirondack Northway including on the Exit 28 ramps and at U.S. Route 9, DOT said.
Damaged roads and paths at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Newcomb Campus have closed the area to the public. Several long-term wildlife, climate and scientific monitoring projects conducted on the campus’s 15,000-acre Huntington Wild Forest are also on hold or revised, said Stacy McNulty, associate director.
Students, who were in the process of studying small mammals by capturing and tagging them, cannot conduct their research at long-used study sites because of road damage. Trails at the college’s Adirondack Interpretive Center are closed for the time being.
The situation was frustrating for McNulty, who said “ the exact thing we should be studying, a storm unprecedented in living memory, or at least in hundreds of years,” has made it nearly impossible for researchers to get to their sites and document what happened. Some of the research sites may not be accessible for the rest of the year based on the amount of damage, she said.
McNulty said the average weekly rainfall in July at the Huntington Wild Forest is one inch. At the beginning of July, there were eight inches of precipitation.
“It goes without saying how this will impact research (ours and that of other institutions), operations, lodging, harvesting, educational programming, public access and other functions,” said Mark Lichtenstein, executive operating officer and chief sustainability officer at the college. “It also has created barriers for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey to access their research areas.”
McNulty said some of the research will resume eventually, “but right now, science has to wait for us to safely get back out.”
Help could soon be on the way.
Essex, Hamilton and Clinton counties are among several New York municipalities receiving federal disaster assistance for storm damage this month.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said President Joseph Biden approved the major disaster declaration for New York because of the heavy rains July 9 to 10, FEMA announced on Monday.
“Public assistance federal funding is available to the state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding,” FEMA said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state has also reached out to the U.S. Small Business Administration to pursue low-interest recovery loans, according to a news release.
“After devastating floods caused extreme damage across Upstate New York this month, I’m thankful President Biden has approved my request for a Major Disaster Declaration,” Hochul said. “My administration will work directly with FEMA in the coming weeks to ensure our local government partners receive the critical funding they need to begin the recovery and rebuilding process.”
Essex County Chairman Shaun Gillilland and Hamilton County Chairman Brian Wells said they were grateful for the federal and state support.
The state Department of Financial Services has a disaster hotline to provide assistance to impacted residents. It is (800) 339-1759. More ways to provide or seek assistance are available here: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2023/07/central-adirondack-flooding-how-you-can-help.html.