Deal reached to keep Gilboa from overflowing

By Charlie Kraebel/Recorder editor

SCHOHARIE — In advance of Hurricane Sandy’s potential to cause widespread damage across upstate New York, officials announced Friday that an agreement has been reached to lower water levels behind the Gilboa Dam to keep the Schoharie Creek from overflowing its banks.

At a news conference in front of the Schoharie County Courthouse, Assemblyman Peter D. Lopez, R-Schoharie, said the measures were taken to avoid a repeat of last year’s massive floods that wreaked havoc from the Schoharie Reservoir to the Mohawk River in Montgomery County.

Officials continue to closely monitor Sandy’s path, which could bring both a nor’easter and tropical storm-force winds and severe rainfall to the region by early next week.

Lopez on Friday acknowledged that the deal to decrease water levels in the Schoharie Reservoir is precautionary in nature.

“I’m not here to say the sky is falling,” Lopez said, “[but] we can’t control what Sandy will do.”

Officials noted the Schoharie Reservoir, located near the Schoharie-Delaware county line, is at near-capacity, holding nearly 18 billion gallons of water. 

The plan — the result of a deal between the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Power Authority and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection — allows for the release of water into the Shandaken Tunnel in Greene County, which runs into the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County.

Lopez said the Ashokan is about 78 percent full and should be able to handle the water being released from the Schoharie Reservoir.

The water has been held back by the Gilboa Dam because the structure is in the midst of a muti-million dollar reconstruction project.

Last August, several communities along the Schoharie Creek sustained heavy losses from floods caused by Tropical Storm Irene. The village of Schoharie was among the hardest hit, although several homes in Montgomery County, particularly in the town of Charleston, suffered heavy damage or were wiped out altogether.

In addition to Lopez, representatives of U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said Friday that both offices have been in direct contact with state and federal officials to prepare for Sandy’s arrival. Both congressmen have also been receiving regular updates of the hurricane’s path.

Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harold Vroman said the Gilboa Dam will be a “top priority throughout this weather event.”

“Now is the time to update your family communication plans, check your emergency supplies and stay informed,” he said.