Peach Lake flooding highlights need for infrastructure improvements


Flooding near Peach Lake following Tropical Storm Ida. Image courtesy of Warren Lucas.

The effects of climate change hit home last week when the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought devastating flash flooding to the region. While North Salem was largely spared the worst effects, flooding around Peach Lake highlighted the need for infrastructure improvements to better prepare for more severe weather events.

Flooding impacts in Peach Lake. Image courtesy of Warren Lucas.

Last Thursday, North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas met with New York state senator Pete Harckham to view the damage around Peach Lake. “The problem is two-fold,” Harckham explained to The North Salem Post. “Peach Lake is a basin; run-off flows in. And outflow is in the town of Southeast, and there are issues with that culvert.”

The culvert Harckham referenced is a 30” pipe installed three decades ago. The pipe runs north out of Peach Lake, ending at Cobb Road in Southeast. Lucas said the culvert is undersized, which doesn’t allow for proper stormwater runoff. “Four inches of rain takes multiple days to get through the pipe,” Lucas said. A video Lucas posted to YouTube shows how much the pipe slows the water from leaving the lake.

“It’s been one of my biggest problems in town from an emergency point of view. It’s been in my hazard litigation plan since 2014, Lucas said, though he clarified that since the culvert empties out within Southeast, final responsibility sits with the Southeast town government. Replacing the Cobb Road culvert was listed as a medium priority issue in Southeast’s 2015 Hazard Mitigation Plan. The Southeast highway department was named as the lead agency responsible for the work, and the recommendation was that the culvert be replaced with a larger size pipe.

Harckham said that he has been working both Lucas and Southeast Town Supervisor Tony Hay to address the issue, and recently helped secure a $100,000 reimbursement grant to help fund the replacement of the culvert.

New York State Sen. Pete Harckham meets with North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas and Jim Bohren in Peach Lake. Image courtesy of Gabby Yonnatelli.

“This is the partnership of government; we all work together,” Harckham said.

The need for government agencies to work together will be even more important as the rate and severity of climate change-related incidents increase. Harckham noted the critical need to harden infrastructure throughout the region, such as the Metro-North railroad. “As sea levels rise, the Hudson River will naturally rise,” he said. “What are we going to be doing to elevate hundreds of miles of Metro North track along the Hudson River?” Following Ida, Metro-North’s Hudson line was shut down due to flooding on the tracks.

For area homeowners who were severely impacted by last week’s storm, Harckham said that they may be eligible for FEMA assistance. “The governor declared a state of emergency which makes New York eligible for FEMA grants,” he explained. “Homeowners can contact my office for that help.”

“All of this is really daunting, which is why New York took the lead on the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, so that we can, in a serious way, address our carbon emissions in a very short amount of time,” Harckham said. “Scientists are saying we are essentially running out of time.”

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