By Kathryn G. Menu
Last Tuesday, Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustee members Ken O’Donnell and Robby Stein met to discuss hurricane preparedness in the village. A few hours later, the sky opened up and poured over six inches of rain, once again bringing floodwaters to several neighborhoods in Sag Harbor.
A week later, a group of Sag Harbor residents approached the village board Tuesday night calling for comprehensive drainage planning in Sag Harbor. This issue has been before the board since Hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter that followed last fall caused thousands of dollars in damage to homes in low lying and flood prone parts of the village.
Angela Scott, a Spring Street resident and vocal advocate for comprehensive drainage and flood mitigation planning in Sag Harbor, opened by thanking the board for taking the issue seriously and offered support as trustees begin to look at potential solutions.
“Clearly, last week, it really hit home and all of those hot spots came to light,” said Scott. “Whatever we can do to help in that process, any expertise we can offer, we are here.”
“Just a tremendous amount of water came down,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “It has pointed to our weaknesses.”
Gilbride noted the village has hired Dvirka & Bartolucci Consulting Engineers out of Woodbury to complete mapping of all the village’s outflow pipes and catch basins as a part of state mandate for reduction in stormwater runoff for municipalities throughout New York. He said he had asked them to look into what could be done to expand drainage control throughout the village, but said on Tuesday he was unsure a proposed plan that looked at just a few areas like the intersection of Spring and Howard streets would go far enough.
“I just want to make sure we don’t authorize something that really doesn’t start to fix the problem,” said Gilbride, rattling through a dozen trouble spots he feels need to be looked at closely.
Gilbride added he believed the village would need to look to the county, the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for aid.
“Whatever these weather patterns are they are certainly crazier than they have been,” he said, adding the board takes this situation very seriously.
Scott wondered if the board would consider a building moratorium in flood prone areas when the project involves changes in topography.
“I think it is important that request be met at this point,” said Scott. “Not permanently, but certainly until you come up with that plan.”
No board member voiced interest in implementing a moratorium.
Robby Stein said he also felt looking at how water moves through the village and how to divert water to wetland areas was more of an issue than specific properties holding water on their parcels. He also expressed concerns about litigation.
Scott asked if the board would consider a moratorium just while they come up with a drainage plan, but Gilbride responded stating he would hope the other village boards involved in approving projects — the planning board, zoning board of appeals, harbor committee and historic preservation and architectural review board — would be mindful of drainage issues.
“Something the six inch rain pointed out to me the other day was that Sandy was one incident, the six inch rainfall was a whole other issue, so I believe what we should all be doing here is gathering information for a much bigger plan,” said Gilbride.
“We have to be prepared for a four-inch rain, a six-inch rain and a 10-inch rain,” he said. “We have to be prepared for storms and floods.”
Resident Rosemary Clemens asked if the board would consider allowing community members and government officials to form a group to look at drainage solutions.
Environmentalist and Noyac resident Larry Penny suggested the board look at a flood prevention valve system, which trustee Ken O’Donnell noted the village was already exploring, and agreed with Clemens a committee should be created to deal with flooding in the village. Penny also suggested the village look at grants from the county and state and get its own computer mapping system.
“I am a firm believer we are going to have a one and a half foot sea level rise by 2050,” said Penny. “I think you should appoint a committee that starts looking at this problem comprehensively, meets regularly and starts putting together a strategy.”