Yesterday, at the home of Katherine Graves & Tom Ryan, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to swiftly investigate flooding along the Grassy Sprain Brook in Yonkers and provide the best mitigation strategies to prevent future flooding into this residential neighborhood.
Up to 75 homes along the Grassy Sprain Brook have experienced frequent and increasing flooding over the past decade during heavy rains, particularly since recent storms, and Schumer highlighted that this is preventable and must be addressed. The flooding is caused in part due to debris deposited by Superstorm Sandy and Irene, as well as a Sprain Brook Parkway barrier owned by New York State Department of Transportation that diverts heavy rains and floodwaters away from the road but towards these homes. Therefore, Schumer also urged NYSDOT to work with USACE and FEMA on short-term and immediate mitigation measures, like debris removal, in addition to long-term flood-prevention efforts along the riverbank.
Schumer noted that home flooding can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, and with up to 75 homes in the path of Grassy Sprain Brook flooding in this area, action must be taken to decrease the likelihood of future flooding and mitigate the damages if it does occur. The residents and local community have sought help on this issue for years, with numerous serious floods over the past decade, and it was recently brought to Schumer’s attention. Schumer wants federal and state officials to partner and remove debris and other structures to better protect homeowners from this unnecessary burden. Schumer asked the Army Corps of Engineers to work with FEMA and NYS DOT to determine whether future mitigation strategies could be funded by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant program. He urged the federal agencies to coordinate with the NYSDOT to visit the site as soon as possible.
“It seems that every time it rains, the Grassy Sprain Brook floods, impacting the Sprain Brook Parkway and the homeowners on the other bank of the river, whose basements and possessions are at repeated risk of substantial water damage,” said Schumer. “That’s why I’m asking the Army Corps of Engineers to visit this site as soon as possible in coordination with FEMA and New York State, and use the resources at their disposal to determine the best course of action to mitigate flooding, from short-term debris removal to longer-term removal of any structures that may divert water towards these homes. Federal experts should work hand-in-glove with the New York Dept. of Transportation, which owns much of this property, to ensure that we do our best to get these homes out of harm’s way. With thousands of dollars on the line each time it floods, we must do more to stem the tide of persistent and increased flooding along the Sprain River.”
Schumer was joined by local homeowners who have been flooded or otherwise impacted by Grassy Sprain Brook flooding. Since the Nor’easter in 2007 and Hurricane Irene, several homes have experienced persistent flooding. The flooding has resulted in the forced evacuation of Yonkers residents, including emergency watercraft rescue by the Yonkers Fire Department of the elderly, the disabled and even a family with a newborn. Residents have experienced not just financial losses, but also tremendous personal and emotional hardship. At least one of the 32 homes was a total loss – forcing the homeowners to tear it down and rebuild it as they lived elsewhere for a year with their disabled daughter. One resident had to be hospitalized for 5 days after being exposed to the sludge from the sewage and home heating oil from a capsized oil tank.
The debris deposited by storms like Sandy raises the water level and dams the river in certain areas, affecting the normal flow of water. Two of the most significant instances of flooding should warn of the potential damages should the problem continue unaddressed: on April 15, 2007, after a strong Nor’easter, 33 homes flooded and one house was lost and razed; and on Aug 28, 2011 48 homes flooded and many more were threatened. It is generally estimated by the local community that 75 homes are at immediate risk of flooding from the Grassy Sprain.
The Army Corps of Engineers can provide technical assistance to States and other units of local government in areas where flooding continually occurs. For example, the Planning Assistance to States (PAS) Program is authorized by Section 22 of the 1974 Water Resources Development Act. This program authorizes USACE to use its technical expertise in management of water and related land resources to help states and tribes solve water resource problems. Upon request, USACE will cooperate with non-Federal public sponsors in the preparation of plans for the development, utilization and conservation of water and related land resources located within the boundaries of the state. Schumer said that even if this program cannot be utilized, the Corps should make technical experts available for a site visit to assist the State and FEMA in the preparation of a potential Hazard Mitigation Grant proposal.
Schumer noted another contributing factor is a barrier that the New York State Department of Transportation constructed to divert floodwaters from the Sprain Brook Parkway. However, by diverting water away from the Parkway it is instead directed towards these Yonkers neighborhoods. Schumer noted that while keeping roadways safe is a priority, the barrier has unintentionally increased flooding on the residential side of the river. Schumer asked the USACE to coordinate its assessment and recommendations for short-term mitigation efforts with the NYS DOT, and urged the entity to take part in debris removal efforts.
Currently, fallen trees, pieces of concrete, road barriers and other wreckage are damming the rivers and streams in the Sprain River waterway and increasing the persistence and level of flooding. Much of this debris is along the Grassy Sprain Brook riverbank, which has not been cleared or maintained in over a decade. In the past, Schumer has worked closely with FEMA to streamline disaster relief to the Saw Mill River community, which was experiencing a similar increase in home flooding since Sandy and Irene.
Schumer appeared in front of the homes of Tom Ryan & Katherine Graves to make his push. Both home owners have experienced significant flooding over the course of several storms in the past few years. In general, homeowners have experienced tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and damaged, with some homes being completely destroyed and needing to be razed.
Press Release, May 29, 2013