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Rain-related Road Damages Are Increasing, Especially At Projects Lacking Good Drainage Plans



Curtains put up were no match for the volume of dirt, stone, and water coming down the new hillside


EDITORIAL

There are plenty of excuses for wear and tear on local roadways during a winter with temperatures that are doing extreme ups and downs while adding to the potential of road-heaving and washouts. But residents are saying that even with a Climate Change factor there is no excuse for the significant additional damage caused by failure to install proper drainage from a construction site to local roadway and to adjacent properties Nor is it an excuse for the DEC to fail in its oversight of these instances, especially when it has so many chances to prevent all of the costly damages and risks to drivers, and in some instances to adjacent homes and waterways. A washout along a curve on a country road is the perfect invitation to a deadly rollover.



One of the driveway entrance to the construction site began to crumble, along with the roadside and gully adjacent to it, from a mixture of several days of rain and dozens of trucks delivering fill .



Damage from the runoff by the entrance



House along the delivery driveway





One of several mountains of fill


The pictures here are of a new development "Prospect Gardens", on Prospect Road, in the Village of South Blooming Grove, with the access on Prospect being a Town road, and the longest in the municipality. It is one of 2 major construction sites in the area where during this past year the builders ignored the need for a complex drainage plan, and when called on it made minimal corrections. One would think that developments of a certain size and on steep slopes, and especially in an area nearly adjacent to significant wetlands would require one or more retention ponds and reliable pipes to move the water cleanly and safely. But several large projects like this in the area don't even have a "POSDEC" and declare they are NEGDEC; that is Negative Environmental Impact Statement, thus requiring much less environmental review (where more effective drainage systems would be identified). This particular developer is also one of several in the area that did massive clearcutting at the beginning of last Spring, and left hundreds of tons of dead and decaying wood right at the outset of local "Fire Season", and then left it sitting (both a terrible eyesore and fire hazard) until last month, about 8 months. At least some of the blame rests at the DEC. Tree cutting is required to be stopped when endangered animals like the Indiana Bat start nesting. But clearing of the residual mess not only has no required time limit, but requires a completed drainage plan (SWPPP Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) from the State. Additional problems tend to exacerbate the collective damage when the thousands of tons of tree residue/branches/roots and trunk are finally removed and there is nothing left to hold the water in place. In areas of and near wetland, constrution companies are bringing in truckload after truckload of dirt and stone to prevent future onsite flooding and level the ground for construction. It's a delicate balance. Developers need their projects to have access to nearby water, but WITHOUT causing pollution an debris in it. To be clear, this instance in Blooming Grove is far from the only place recent sustained rain caused road damage, but the timely pictures are especially descriptive of how it happens. Several construction sites in Chester and elsewhere in Orange County experienced the same issues. In most instances it was clear that not just rain, but rain with poor drainage systems that at least contributed significantly to the damages. While the Town of Blooming Grove has limits on fill that can be brought to a property site per year, Agricultural land has an exemption - special allowance from the State's "Ag & Markets" division, about moving and/or adding soil. But faulty drainage is never permitted, and the DEC has a history of issuing only warnings or minor fines to those who keep cutting down the trees and bulldozing away the vegetation that keeps rain and snowmelt from gaining momentum as gravity brings it downslope. And the mountains of dirt added on a hillside leading down to the gully where the Satterly Creek already creates wetland resulted in several areas of washouts and road surface degradation following last week's storm. The damage is again multiplied by the trucks that deliver the dirt and dump it, then dragging dirt and mud back onto the roadway when they leave. And guess what? Developers are smart enough to retain the Ag Exemption while early site development is going on, even though there will likely never be farming there again, and that's a gray area difficult to parse.



Excessive new drainage coming down the hillside toward Prospect Rd.


BEFORE repair



Temporary road repairs here were done within 2 days, helping to keep drivers safe on this long and winding country road. But there are still more longterm repairs now needed for this road, including a giant pothole 1/4 mi. to the South.


It is not uncommon for municipalities to issue fines when this happens, to make up for the cost to a Highway Department. During an excessively wet Winter, a fine may or may not be issued, causing the Highway Department to either dip into their state-issued CHIPS fund or use some of its local taxpayer funding when there is damage but no fine. What is clear is that unless reasonable standards and better state seasonal protocals about construction related drainage, a better tree-cutting and clearing protocol, DEC grading oversight is and DEC fines are issued to developers that are greater than a slap on the wrist, the damages to roadways from runoff, giant potholes, washouts and potentially toxic runoff and turbidity that disturb protected streams like the Satterly Creek (a tributary of the Moodna ... both of which are used as significant drinking water sources), will just keep increasing as one developer to another says "Well, the other developers got away with it!"


On A Positive Note!


While the other major construction site received a very minimal fine where millions could and probably should have been issued, the DEC received over 100 letters from residents. This caused the project's DEIS Application to be put on hold, pending a rare DEC additional Public Hearing (Date and location yet to be announced).


Once again...Moral of the story! Get involved. Speak up, if you want things to change for the better.


Edie Johnson

Editor

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