Public Hearing - February 25, 2020

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       2      ------------------------------------------------------

       3                        PUBLIC HEARING:

                            EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS

       7      ------------------------------------------------------

       8                       Legislative Office Building
                               Van Buren Hearing Room A - 2nd Floor
       9                       Albany, New York

      10                                 Date:  February 25, 2020
                                         Time:  10:00 a.m.

      12      PRESIDING:

      13         Senator Rachel May, Co-Chair

      14         Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Co-Chair



      17         Senator Pamela Helming

      18         Senator Patty Ritchie

      19         Senator James Tedisco



      22         Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon

      23         Assemblyman Robert Smullen

      24         Assemblyman Mark Walczyk



              SPEAKERS:                               PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Dan O'Hara                                17      20
       3      Director
              NYS Division of Homeland Security
       4        and Emergency Services

       5      James Tierney                             53      61
              Deputy Commissioner
       6      NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

       7      Erik Backus                              102     111
              Professor of Civil and Environmental
       8        Engineering, and Director of
                Construction Engineering,
       9        Clarkson University
              NYS Center of Excellence in
      10        Healthy Water Solutions

      11      Tom Harvey                               132     138
              Director of Planning
      12      Ontario County, New York

      13      Elizabeth Wolters                        150     153
              Deputy Director of Public Policy
      14      New York Farm Bureau

      15      Rob Carpenter                            163     170
      16      Long Island Farm Bureau

      17      Blanche Hurlbutt                         172     176
              Executive Director
      18      New York Association of
                Conservation Districts








       1             SENATOR MAY:  Hello, everyone, and welcome.

       2             Thank you for joining us.

       3             I am Senator Rachel May from the

       4      53rd Senate District, and I represent Madison

       5      and Oneida counties, as well as parts of

       6      Onondaga County, including the city of Syracuse.

       7             I also chair the Legislative Commission on

       8      Rural Resources, which is a joint bipartisan

       9      commission of the State Legislature, with a mission

      10      to promote the viability of rural communities.

      11             On behalf of the Commission, I host this

      12      hearing today on flooding, together with my

      13      co-chair, Assemblyman Santabarbara.

      14             And the purpose of this hearing is to examine

      15      the effectiveness of current flooding emergency and

      16      mitigation efforts, and to discuss the need for

      17      future assistance due to the increase in extreme

      18      weather events.

      19             Coastal flooding and river flooding pose a

      20      growing threat to New York's environmental, social,

      21      and economic systems.

      22             All across New York, new flooding patterns

      23      have revealed vulnerabilities in our infrastructure,

      24      our agricultural systems, and ecosystems.

      25             Major storms, from "Irene," "Lee" and


       1      "Sandy," to the most recent Halloween storm, have

       2      inundated communities and inflicted billions of

       3      dollars in damage on homeowners, businesses, and

       4      communities.

       5             The Halloween storm's flash flooding, heavy

       6      rains, and strong winds destroyed 18 homes and

       7      damaged hundreds more in and around my district.

       8             State and local governments estimated that

       9      more than $33 million in response costs and

      10      infrastructure damage was caused by the storm.

      11             On December 20th, the federal government

      12      approved assistance to New York, to allow

      13      governments and certain non-profits to receive

      14      federal dollars to cover debris removal, implement

      15      emergency protective measures, and repair and

      16      rebuild infrastructure, such as roads, schools,

      17      parks, and hospitals; however, FEMA notified the

      18      state that it would deny its request for assistance

      19      to individuals.

      20             New York has seen an annual increase in

      21      precipitation every year since 1900, and extreme

      22      storms in the northeastern United States now

      23      generate approximately 27 percent more moisture than

      24      they did a century ago.

      25             Climate change has made heavy rainfall events


       1      more frequent and more intense, and this trend is

       2      projected only to continue.

       3             In addition to heavy downpours, New York's

       4      coastline has seen a sea level rise of over a foot

       5      in the same time period.

       6             It's estimated that precipitation will

       7      increase 12 percent by 2050, with sea levels on

       8      New York's coastal areas growing by 2 1/2 feet.

       9             Continuous flooding of Lake Ontario has

      10      prompted emergency declarations to be issued for a

      11      number of adjoining counties.

      12             It is our duty to protect our constituents,

      13      land, and waterways.  We must look at strengthening

      14      current infrastructure.

      15             This is why I've introduced legislation to

      16      require water-level monitoring systems to be

      17      installed on dams rated as "high hazard," upon the

      18      request of nearby municipalities.

      19             New York State currently ranks eighth in the

      20      country for the most high-hazard dams.

      21             The average age of New York's dams is

      22      69 years old, well above the average.  And I have

      23      one in my district that goes back more like

      24      150 years.

      25             I was excited to see the Governor's Restore


       1      Mother Nature Bond Act proposed in this year's

       2      Executive budget, that would produce funding for the

       3      removal, alteration, and rightsizing of dams and

       4      culverts.

       5             This proposal would also support stream and

       6      wetland restoration, land acquisition, forest and

       7      habitat preservation, and water-quality improvement

       8      work.

       9             We must also look at maximizing funding to

      10      combat flooding damage from both federal and state

      11      government resources.

      12             Unfortunately, the Executive budget proposed

      13      discontinuing $72 million in capital funding for the

      14      Governor's Office of Storm Recovery.

      15             Today I'm excited to hear from a range of

      16      stakeholders, to speak on flooding issues and, what

      17      I'm hoping for, potential solutions.

      18             We have representatives from the agricultural

      19      industry, soil and water conservation districts,

      20      local government, state government, and academia.

      21             Before I turn it over to my co-chair, I want

      22      to welcome Senator Tedisco, and I also want to note

      23      about our process.

      24             The Chairs will be given 10 minutes per

      25      witness for questioning.


       1             Each other member will be given five minutes

       2      per witness, and witnesses will be limited to

       3      10 minutes of opening testimony.

       4             We do have copies of your written testimony,

       5      which is part of the record.  So we encourage you to

       6      be concise and visit your main points in your oral

       7      testimony.

       8             Thank you.

       9             SENATOR HELMING:  Rachel, I just wanted --

      10             SENATOR MAY:  Oh, sorry.  I didn't see you.

      11      Sorry.

      12             Senator Helming is here too.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Thank you,

      14      Senator May.

      15             Good morning, everybody.

      16             I'm Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.  As

      17      Senator May indicated, I'm the Assembly Chair of the

      18      Legislative Commission on Rural Resources.

      19             I represent the 111th Assembly District,

      20      which includes Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady

      21      counties.

      22             I'm joined by my colleagues on the

      23      Assembly side, Assemblymember Smullen and

      24      Assemblymember Walczyk.

      25             Thanks for being here, both of you.


       1             I want to thank all of you for attending the

       2      hearing, and I want to thank Senator May and my

       3      Senate colleagues as well.

       4             As you heard, today's hearing is very

       5      crucial, especially to the rural areas of our state

       6      in Upstate New York.

       7             Many of those communities that we represent,

       8      flooding is a serious, persistent issue, and it

       9      poses a real danger.

      10             And we have seen over the years, with extreme

      11      weather and climate change, how it has really taken

      12      a toll on our communities in a number of way.

      13             Year after year, floods put health and safety

      14      at risk, families at risk.  We've seen the damage to

      15      homes, to properties.

      16             And that toll adds up over time, and our

      17      communities not only face the physical challenges of

      18      rebuilding, but also the financial aspect that comes

      19      with it, following the damage, for repair, response,

      20      and recovery.

      21             In addition to the extreme weather events

      22      that Senator May talked about, I just want to talk

      23      about, just quickly also mention, that ice jams have

      24      been a persistent problem as well.

      25             Many communities live near -- have -- are


       1      situated near rivers throughout Montgomery County in

       2      my district, Schenectady County.  And our waterways

       3      continue to be threatened by ice jams around this

       4      time of the year when we see the freeze and thaw

       5      cycle.

       6             In fact, last year, New York ranked number

       7      two in ice jams nationally with 20 events.

       8             And in 2018 we led the way with 27 ice-jam

       9      events.

      10             That's very significant.

      11             And I've seen the effects of ice jams

      12      personally because, in my district in the

      13      Schenectady area, and the city of Schenectady,

      14      there's been a long history of ice jams along the

      15      Mohawk River.  A lot of it has made the news because

      16      of the damage that it has left behind.

      17             But the truth is, it affects generations of

      18      families, businesses; forcing people out of their

      19      homes.

      20             And as I said, that financial component, the

      21      millions of dollars in property damage, and the

      22      threat to our -- the health and safety of our

      23      community.

      24             After the last ice jam a few years back,

      25      I have a civil engineering background, and I -- I --


       1      I know, over time, we have been able to solve

       2      problems like this with modern technology.

       3             And there is ice-jam mitigation measures that

       4      can be installed, and things that we can do to

       5      mitigate the damage from flooding.

       6             The cost to research these options and

       7      implement the effective mitigation measures can

       8      actually save a lot of money in the recovery costs,

       9      recovery efforts, cleanup costs, and infrastructure

      10      repairs.

      11             We have to also understand that this flooding

      12      damages infrastructure that's already in place.

      13             So I know DEC is here.

      14             I've written letters to them, and the

      15      U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to urge more research

      16      on ice-jam prevention measures, and other mitigation

      17      measures, to make our communities more resilient.

      18             I'm also encouraged to see, this year, the

      19      State's proposal to invest $300 million in a

      20      redesigned Erie Canal, including $65 million for

      21      flood mitigation along the Mohawk River.

      22             So that's -- I'm very pleased to see that.

      23             That provides us with a pretty good starting

      24      point.

      25             And although we've seen some progress made,


       1      the work of this Commission will focus on what still

       2      needs to be done to protect our rural communities.

       3             So with that, I welcome stakeholders, state

       4      officials, and community members who have come out

       5      today, to take the time to speak with us on this

       6      issue.

       7             It is possible to get ahead of the problems.

       8             And your testimony here today will help us

       9      plan for the future, and help create feasible,

      10      long-lasting solutions to mitigate flooding across

      11      the state.

      12             Thank you, all, for attending.

      13             And with that, I'll turn it back over to

      14      Senator May.

      15             SENATOR MAY:  Great.  Thank you.

      16             And let me ask my colleagues -- oh, and we've

      17      been joined by Senator Ritchie as well.

      18             If you have any opening remarks you'd like to

      19      make?  Anything?

      20             SENATOR RITCHIE:  I'm all set.

      21             SENATOR TEDISCO:  Sure.

      22             Well, first of all, let me thank you,

      23      Senator May and Assemblyman Santabarbara and all my

      24      colleagues who represent districts that are rural,

      25      and appreciate the significance of this Commission,


       1      and the hearing today, and the work you guys are

       2      doing.

       3             And, Director O'Hara, I thank you for the

       4      work you're doing with your office, and for taking

       5      the time to be here with us and give us some

       6      testimony.

       7             I represent the 49th Senatorial District.

       8      It's about 4,000 square miles.  And the storm was

       9      pretty devastating in a large part of that.

      10             Part of it did dodge a bullet, but, areas

      11      like Saratoga, especially Hamilton and Herkimer

      12      counties, got hit by the bullet, and some serious

      13      things happened there, but they've happened in the

      14      past.  And they seem to happen over and over again.

      15             Maybe this was the most serious type of

      16      flooding and activity that took place in those

      17      areas.

      18             And I guess what we're saying here, is we

      19      want to mitigate the flooding to begin with, in

      20      every way possible and any way we can.  But we also

      21      want to be especially prepared for the floods, and

      22      see what we can do after, to bring them back to

      23      wholesomeness.

      24             And I can't thank the workers in all those

      25      counties, in the towns and villages, who worked


       1      together to make that -- those communities whole

       2      that I represent after this devastation.

       3             It was a fantastic thing to see.

       4             But we can't continue to count on their

       5      efforts because it's only going to get worse if we

       6      don't make it better in many ways.

       7             This also highlighted another concern I have,

       8      and I think many of us have in some of our rural

       9      areas, and that is the fact --

      10             And maybe you can help us promote some of

      11      this.

      12             -- is to have a real web infrastructure and a

      13      real broadband infrastructure into those areas.

      14             We were promised that would be a statewide

      15      thing.

      16             And I have parts of my district that not only

      17      don't have broadband or web infrastructure, they

      18      don't have cell phone usage.

      19             I get into the middle, in the Adirondacks, of

      20      Hamilton County and I have no contact with anybody.

      21             And I say this tongue in cheek sometimes, but

      22      my constituents in many areas, although it's a

      23      serious thing, I suggest that sometimes we think

      24      they need homing pigeons or smoke signals in an

      25      emergency.


       1             And these are emergencies, and we have to

       2      know where they are and what's happening in these

       3      flooded areas, just like we have to know if a

       4      burglary takes place, or if there's a fire, or if

       5      there's an accident.

       6             And so anything you can do to promote that

       7      into our rural districts, and make sure we're

       8      covered, we get the coverage, I think that's

       9      extremely important.

      10             I thank you for the opportunity to be here,

      11      and I look forward to listening to your

      12      presentation.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And

      14      Assemblymember Smullen will give opening remarks.

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  Thank you,

      16      Chairman May, as well Assemblyman Santabarbara, all

      17      my colleagues here.

      18             I'm Robert Smullen.  I represent the

      19      118th Assembly District, which is Fulton,

      20      Hamilton, the upper part of Herkimer County,

      21      nine towns in St. Lawrence, and six towns in

      22      Oneida County.

      23             Prior to that, I was the executive director

      24      of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District,

      25      a New York State public-benefit corporation, which


       1      helps manage and regulate the flow of rivers and two

       2      watersheds in Upstate New York.

       3             And being new to office, but also being not

       4      new to emergencies, I want to, first of all, commend

       5      all of the -- our state partners who responded to

       6      the emergency.

       7             The reason I say that is, is that everyone

       8      came out.

       9             Whether it was the Division of Homeland

      10      Security and Emergency Services, the Department of

      11      Environmental Conservation, the National Guard, they

      12      brought equipment, they brought manpower.  They

      13      mobilized a lot of the civil-society organizations

      14      that the went out and really took care of the people

      15      of the district that I represent.

      16             They were hard-hit by these two rain bombs,

      17      one that hit Hamilton County and one that hit

      18      Herkimer County, and caused a lot of flooding and a

      19      lot of damage.

      20             Now, regarding that damage, one of the

      21      lessons that we've learned from this, and I want to

      22      address in public so everyone knows, is that we

      23      think that preventive stream restoration can be a

      24      way to mitigate the problems up front.

      25             An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of


       1      cure.

       2             The old-timers tell you:  We used to go out

       3      there and we used to clean these creeks and these

       4      waterways and these culverts up, and it would reduce

       5      the amount of damage that could potentially happen.

       6             I've been dialoguing with three separate

       7      organizations at the county level:  The

       8      department -- the Emergency Services Department, the

       9      soil and water conservation districts, as well as

      10      the county legislators.

      11             And we are in a process of initiating a

      12      process of stream restoration, which I think the

      13      idea is very sound.

      14             And we'd appreciate the support of the

      15      Commission, but also our state partners, to be able

      16      to actualize that, which is, to go in ahead of time,

      17      to be able to try to get ahead of these storms, is

      18      what we're thinking.

      19             But I'm very much looking forward to this

      20      conversation, this hearing.

      21             The people of the 118th Assembly District

      22      were hit very hard, and they're somewhat

      23      disappointed that FEMA is not returning federal

      24      resources to the community.

      25             So that's something that, at the state level,


       1      we need to make sure that we double-down on, in

       2      making sure that our State goes back to the federal

       3      government and makes sure that our citizens are

       4      taken care of.

       5             Thank you very much, and I appreciate the

       6      opportunity to hear your testimony today.

       7             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

       8             And just before we get started, I want to

       9      acknowledge the staff of the Commission on Rural

      10      Resources:  Director Hal McCabe and Lucy Shepherd,

      11      who have done amazing work to make this happen, but

      12      also, in general, to -- to be the eyes and ears

      13      about issues of -- that face our rural communities

      14      all over the state.

      15             So with that, I invite Commissioner O'Hara to

      16      begin.

      17             DAN O'HARA:  Thank you.

      18             Good morning, Chairwoman May and

      19      distinguished members of the Commission.

      20             I'm Dan O'Hara, director of the New York

      21      Office of Emergency Management within the Division

      22      of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

      23             I appreciate the opportunity to appear before

      24      you here today to discuss the tremendous work of our

      25      team, as well as how that works, specifically


       1      relates to the number-one natural threat facing

       2      New York:  Flooding.

       3             I am sure most, if not everyone, in this room

       4      has seen and understands the widespread damage that

       5      flooding can cause.

       6             From the destruction of property and

       7      infrastructure, to the disruption of water, sewer,

       8      and telecom services, floodwaters can devastate an

       9      entire community in only a few hours.

      10             Complicating matters further, not only is

      11      New York vulnerable to different forms of flooding

      12      given our geography, but approximately 90 percent of

      13      the state's population lives in a waterfront

      14      community, whether that be near a lake, river,

      15      ocean, or otherwise.

      16             While these basic realities have made it

      17      important that all levels of government work to

      18      strengthen their shorelines and infrastructure, as

      19      we are seeing under the leadership of Governor Cuomo

      20      in the REDI Commission, it is also critical that

      21      communities, first responders, and all New Yorkers

      22      are prepared and know how to recover.

      23             That's where we come in.

      24             Throughout the year, state and local

      25      emergency management officials are regularly in


       1      contact, in working to plan for the next natural

       2      disaster; however, planning only goes so far when

       3      you are dealing with an unpredictable situation.

       4             Whether it is daily update calls with

       5      officials, on-the-ground visits by state agency

       6      leaders to oversee response operations, or

       7      otherwise, New York has made a concerted effort to

       8      ensure open lines of communication with our partners

       9      before, during, and following a disaster.

      10             Through these efforts, state and local

      11      partners can work together to identify new and

      12      existing flood-prone areas, improve the efficiency

      13      of asset delivery and deployment, and ensure a rapid

      14      response to unforeseen problems.

      15             We must also ensure our first responders are

      16      properly trained for flood response.

      17             Thanks to your support in previous budgets,

      18      the state's preparedness and training center is now

      19      home to a world-class swift-water rescue training

      20      facility, which provides specialized training

      21      opportunities which are difficult to find anywhere

      22      else for first responders.

      23             Since the facility's inception, more than

      24      1100 state and local first responders have been

      25      trained.


       1             And training isn't just for first responders,

       2      either.

       3             It's just as important that the public know

       4      what to do because, after all, emergencies don't

       5      wait for help to arrive.

       6             Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the

       7      division partnered with the National Guard and the

       8      Red Cross to establish the Citizens Preparedness

       9      Corps in 2014.

      10             This program trains New Yorkers in an

      11      all-hazards approach to prepare for and respond to

      12      emergency situations.

      13             Since the program's inception, nearly

      14      334,000 New Yorkers have received this training,

      15      with more than 56,000 in 2019 alone.

      16             I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to

      17      appear today, and I will be happy to answer any

      18      questions that you may have.

      19             Thank you.

      20             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you, and thank you for

      21      your brevity.

      22                (Off-the-record discussion.)

      23                (Back on the record.)

      24             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you for your brevity.

      25             This is a Tuesday, it's our busiest day at


       1      the Capitol.  And I know many of us will have to get

       2      up and leave for committee meetings every now and

       3      then, and that kind of thing; so I appreciate your


       5             So I have a few questions.

       6             You mentioned coordinating across agencies,

       7      or working together.

       8             Can you be a little more specific how -- what

       9      kinds of lines of communication are there between

      10      different agencies when it comes to flooding?

      11             DAN O'HARA:  Well, there's a couple of

      12      approaches, Senator, that we do.

      13             When we talk about "state agencies," we have

      14      a multiagency coordination call on a regular basis

      15      with various key state agencies that are part of the

      16      DPC (the Disaster Preparedness Commission); those

      17      key agencies that have the right resources and

      18      assets to respond to an event.

      19             So, for example, we have a potential

      20      snowstorm that may hit some of the lake-affected

      21      areas up in the western and northern part of the

      22      state.

      23             So we will do -- today and tomorrow, we will

      24      have coordinating calls with those key state

      25      agencies, understanding where their assets are, what


       1      additional assets they will bring into theater to

       2      that impacted area, in the event they need some

       3      additional resources.

       4             What we also do for the counties, is we

       5      connect with the county emergency managers; we talk

       6      with them, check in.

       7             We have regional directors and regional

       8      coordinators out there across the 56 counties in the

       9      state of New York, in different regions.  And we

      10      will talk and communicate with them, to determine

      11      what their needs may be.

      12             And then we will put our stockpiles on

      13      notice, and we will make sure that we have the

      14      availability for the right resources should they be

      15      needed.

      16             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

      17             So that may have answered my second question,

      18      because you mentioned that you do planning before,

      19      during, and after.

      20             When you talk about "before," you mean, when

      21      there is a weather prediction of some kind where you

      22      can anticipate storm, or do you actually do some

      23      kind of gaming out of possible problems way in

      24      advance, where you think, this is an area that could

      25      get hit, we're going to try to figure out what


       1      the --

       2             DAN O'HARA:  Well, there's four phases in the

       3      life cycle of emergency management:  You have the

       4      preparedness, you have the response, you have the

       5      recovery, and the resilience.

       6             I like to add a little extra piece to that,

       7      and that's called the "awareness end."

       8             So our job at the Office of Emergency

       9      Management is to make sure that we're tracking --

      10      through our watch center and our operations center,

      11      that we're tracking weather -- current weather

      12      conditions.  And we track them, generally, on a week

      13      out; we look to see what may be actionable.

      14             We'll address those with a particular plan as

      15      that storm or potential threat develops.

      16             In regards to long range, using Lake Ontario:

      17             We're all familiar with 2017.

      18             We were lucky in 2018.

      19             We had a bad 2019.

      20             We're preparing for 2020.

      21             We prepared; we were active 125 days.

      22             That's, almost, 33, 34 percent of the year we

      23      were active in our emergency operations center

      24      because of Lake Ontario.

      25             As soon as the activation was over, we began


       1      planning for 2020, because we can't predict what the

       2      lake is going to do.

       3             We have -- we can track, you know, various

       4      metrics.

       5             We can't fully predict what it will do, but

       6      we have to be prepared.

       7             We've already been in communication with the

       8      eight county emergency managers.

       9             The REDI leadership has already been out

      10      there, talking to the impacted areas that will be

      11      receiving grant awards.

      12             We're already making sand bags.

      13             We're already pre-deploying at strategic

      14      locations.

      15             Pumps out into the theater, in anticipation

      16      if we don't see a change in the lake levels.

      17             So we do forecast things further out, and we

      18      take the right preparations in anticipation of what

      19      we may see.

      20             It's easy to bring things back.

      21             It's more difficult to get them out there

      22      during the event.

      23             SENATOR MAY:  Right.

      24             Just to change gears just a little, I have a

      25      question about floodplain mapping.


       1             Do you feel like there's adequate mapping of

       2      where the potential flood threats are?

       3             DAN O'HARA:  In our office, you know, we work

       4      well with other state agencies when we look at flood

       5      mapping.

       6             We have a geographical information system,

       7      and we've got good, pretty solid, data of what we've

       8      seen out there.

       9             You know, one of the things that we

      10      continuously work on is the integration, you know,

      11      of other data across the state of New York, when

      12      local municipalities may make planning and zoning

      13      changes, and what impacts that may have on some of

      14      the watersheds in those particular areas.

      15             So it's a constant evolution of

      16      communicating, particularly with the locals, the

      17      local county emergency management offices, and

      18      making sure that they know what's going down at the

      19      lower municipalities, you know, at the villages, the

      20      hamlets, and the towns, and any changes that they

      21      make, that could have an impact, again, on those

      22      river and streams and those watersheds, that

      23      ultimately have an effect when volume and velocity.

      24             We have, ultimately, more pervious area

      25      across the state.  Water's got to go somewhere.


       1             So it's important that we have that data.

       2             SENATOR MAY:  And then you mentioned the

       3      grants.

       4             I know $30 million were allocated for

       5      small-business -- or, business owners, and

       6      25 million for -- for homeowners related to the

       7      Lake Ontario flooding last year.

       8             Are you involved in allocating those?

       9             Because I'm getting questions about when

      10      those are going to appear.

      11             DAN O'HARA:  The Office of Emergency

      12      Management, our primary responsibility in those four

      13      cycles is, really, the preparedness and the response

      14      end.

      15             SENATOR MAY:  Okay.

      16             DAN O'HARA:  You know, we have -- within the

      17      division, we have a section that gets involved in a

      18      lot of the recovery and the resiliency end of it.

      19             SENATOR MAY:  Okay.  Thank you.

      20             That's all I have.

      21             Do you want to take it away?

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Great.  Thank you.

      23             Thank you, Commissioner; thank you for your

      24      testimony.

      25             First of all, thanks for-- I want to thank


       1      you for the great job on the citizens' preparedness

       2      training that's throughout our state.

       3             I've held a lot of those events in my

       4      district, and people really learn a lot from what

       5      the -- the information that's provided, and come up

       6      with things they can do on their own while they're

       7      waiting for help.

       8             So thank you for that.

       9             I just wanted to -- I guess on the question,

      10      Senator May mentioned, the mapping.

      11             So are there -- there -- there is efforts

      12      underway to rework the flood mapping, the flood

      13      zones?

      14             Is that -- I know that was started at some

      15      point.

      16             And back when I was in civil engineering

      17      years ago, I think that was -- that process was done

      18      off of crude mapping.  And now it's more defined.

      19             Is that process still going on?

      20             DAN O'HARA:  It's my understanding that the

      21      state agencies responsible for that, continuously

      22      looking at updating those maps.  And then they

      23      filter it through -- in through the geographical

      24      information system into our office so we have those

      25      updates.


       1             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And are those

       2      flood zones being redefined, as far as where we

       3      expect flooding to occur, with the -- with regard to

       4      the storm events, the 100- to 500-year storm events?

       5             These events are being redefined because

       6      they're happening more frequently; right?

       7             DAN O'HARA:  Right, I can't speak to that.

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.

       9             DAN O'HARA:  I think that you'll have to --

      10      when -- when the other state agencies talk a little

      11      bit, with DEC and others, that have more input into

      12      that.

      13             We're recipient of that data.  That helps us

      14      in our [indiscernible cross-talking] --

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And that was my

      16      question.

      17             DAN O'HARA:  -- yeah, that -- once we get

      18      data, that helps us in our preparedness posture.

      19             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.

      20             DAN O'HARA:  If we anticipate there's going

      21      to be a storm coming, that 100-year inundation, the

      22      500-year flooding, that gives us a flavor to overlay

      23      what infrastructure is in that potential impacted

      24      area.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  So that


       1      information does get to your office --

       2             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

       3             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- as it's

       4      updated?

       5             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

       6             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  So the use of

       7      stream gauges also, that information, that data,

       8      comes to --

       9             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

      10             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- okay.

      11             So is that what triggers the response, or is

      12      it the weather forecast, and --

      13             DAN O'HARA:  That can trigger a response.

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- okay.

      15             DAN O'HARA:  You know, I believe you

      16      mentioned, and I apologize if I get it wrong, but,

      17      you know, the -- when we talk about, we have rivers

      18      that we're looking at ice jams.  We've identified

      19      64 locations.

      20             And we're very proactive, based on a lot of

      21      history and based on a lot of experience.

      22             You know, when we have events, we always do

      23      an after-action review, and we learn.  We want to

      24      try to get better at everything that we do and the

      25      services that we deliver.


       1             And we active -- we have a working group that

       2      we kick off early -- early fall.  And we monitor,

       3      63, 64 locations across the system, using the river

       4      gauges, using visual.

       5             We have data, a collector wrap, that we feed

       6      the information back in, and we can track.

       7             And we work with a lot of the locals because

       8      they have the intimate knowledge of where some of

       9      these risks are.

      10             We have strategically located long-arm-reach

      11      excavators along some of those higher potential

      12      areas.

      13             We've done a radius around those particular

      14      streambeds, that, if we see an ice jam start to

      15      collect, we can strategically partner with DOT, OGS,

      16      or another state agency, to move that equipment to

      17      the potentially-impacted area, so if we have to

      18      break it up before it creates a problem, we're out

      19      there doing that.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And you mentioned

      21      a coordination with agencies.

      22             The Canal Corporation also is --

      23             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

      24             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- in contact?

      25             So that is all coordinated on how


       1      [indiscernible cross-talking] --

       2             DAN O'HARA:  Yes, they're -- they're part of

       3      our -- when we do the multiagency coordination

       4      calls, they're part of that discussion.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Stream gauges, we

       6      just mentioned.

       7             But, are there other measures that could be

       8      an early-warning system, that maybe we haven't

       9      looked at yet, that could be installed, or be a part

      10      of our warning, our preventive measures, down the

      11      road, are there things that we're looking at?

      12             DAN O'HARA:  There may be.

      13             We certainly can take a look at that --

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.

      15             DAN O'HARA:  -- to see if there's some other

      16      options.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  But nothing

      18      identified now?

      19             I know, with ice --

      20             DAN O'HARA:  Not that I'm -- not that I'm

      21      aware of in our office.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- with ice jams,

      23      I think they're -- in Buffalo there was a --

      24      mitigation measures installed, with piers into the

      25      river.


       1             Is that -- are you -- have you been

       2      monitoring --

       3             DAN O'HARA:  (Shakes head.)

       4             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- no?

       5             DAN O'HARA:  I'm not familiar with that.

       6             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay, because

       7      I thought that might be a solution for some of our

       8      areas in our district.

       9             Okay.

      10             And I think the -- I guess the last question

      11      is, as far as budget, you know, the budget is coming

      12      up, are there things we should be looking at to

      13      support your efforts?

      14             DAN O'HARA:  You know, one of the things

      15      that -- in the budget that I know has been proposed,

      16      we've identified a couple of gaps, you know, for

      17      equipment across the system.

      18             And I would appreciate your support, you

      19      know, to fill those, where we've identified the

      20      equipment gaps, support for that.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.  Great

      22      [indiscernible].

      23             That's all I have, Senator May.

      24             Thank you, Commissioner.

      25             DAN O'HARA:  You're welcome.


       1             SENATOR MAY:  Great.  Thank you.

       2             Senator Helming has a question.

       3             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you, Senator May.

       4             Dan, it's great to see you again in dry

       5      conditions.

       6             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  I want to thank you and

       8      your team.  You have just been incredible, in terms

       9      of dealing with the flooding along the southern

      10      shore of Lake Ontario, but, also, the microburst

      11      experiences we've had in Seneca County, we've had

      12      some in Ontario County.

      13             I think we'll hear more about those later.

      14             I just wanted to touch a couple of things.

      15             Real quick:  The REDI Commission, that formed

      16      and focused primarily on Lake Ontario and the

      17      St. Lawrence River flooding?

      18             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  Okay.

      20             So is -- then, in terms of microburst

      21      planning, and assisting communities with resiliency

      22      planning and preventative practices, what -- can you

      23      talk about what's being done in that area?

      24             DAN O'HARA:  Well, Senator, from a

      25      preparedness standpoint, one of the things that is


       1      very important within the Office of Emergency

       2      Management, we have a training and exercise section,

       3      and we also have a planning section.

       4             And we have hired additional individuals, and

       5      put them out in the respective regions, planners and

       6      trainers, to assist, because, back -- back several

       7      years ago, Governor Cuomo had asked us to put

       8      together a program.  It was a community assessment,

       9      CEPA (the community assessment preparedness

      10      assessment).

      11             And what we did in the state of New York, as

      12      you're familiar, there's 62 counties.

      13             If you break those counties -- the

      14      five boroughs of New York, you break those out, that

      15      you've got the 57.

      16             We actually have done assessments in

      17      partnership with those counties, and recognized

      18      where their strengths are, and where there's

      19      opportunities for improvement.

      20             And as a result of those opportunities for

      21      improvement, we recognize that, planning, continuity

      22      of operations, there's critical components and

      23      elements that counties just sometimes aren't

      24      positioned, given the structure that their emergency

      25      management office has set up.


       1             So we've been working with them, and as part

       2      of that process, it's the preparedness end; it's

       3      identifying where their vulnerabilities are, what

       4      resources they need ahead of time, to pre-position.

       5             And then, in partnership with us, as I -- as

       6      I mentioned earlier at the onset of my presentation,

       7      you know, when we forecast out, we now know where

       8      those gaps are.

       9             A few years ago, the approval of the budget

      10      authorized additional plow equipment, for example,

      11      that we strategically put down on Long Island.

      12             We recognize Long Island has a little more

      13      challenge with removing snow versus people up in

      14      Buffalo.

      15             You look at where the equipment --

      16             SENATOR HELMING:  Dan, I only get

      17      five minutes, so I want to keep going.  I appreciate

      18      it.

      19             But -- so when -- I think the planning and

      20      the training that your office offers is absolutely

      21      fantastic.

      22             My concern -- and I think you're very

      23      familiar with my district:  The six counties, very

      24      rural.  More miles of canal than any other area.

      25      Four of the Finger Lakes.  Hundreds and hundreds of


       1      Lake Ontario shoreline.

       2             My concern, what I've seen, and I think

       3      you've probably seen it as well, is that some of our

       4      first responders, most of them are volunteer fire

       5      departments.

       6             I don't believe that they are properly

       7      equipped to handle some of the flooding that comes

       8      up.

       9             I think they need to have more equipment

      10      available in the community; not rely so heavily on

      11      the State to disburse or figure out where things are

      12      going to go.

      13             In 20-- last year, over $500,000 was cut to

      14      local volunteer fire departments in my district

      15      alone, cut from the budget.  They got nothing.

      16             So, as part of your risk assessment, when

      17      you're in communities, are you assessing what tools

      18      they have or don't have, what they do need?

      19             And are you helping them secure funding for

      20      those needs?

      21             And, also, I'm going to take that a step

      22      further.

      23             Senator Tedisco mentioned the need for

      24      broadband services and cellular services.

      25             I think we both saw, for instance, in


       1      Seneca County, what happens when you have people who

       2      are trapped.

       3             Trapped, and you don't have cellular service

       4      available, it's a very scary situation.

       5             And it's been two years now.

       6             What are we doing?

       7             How are we helping those communities, again,

       8      secure the resources that they need?

       9             DAN O'HARA:  Sure.

      10             I can't speak to your budget, the budget

      11      cuts.

      12             But what I can say is, one of the sections

      13      within the Division of Homeland Security and

      14      Emergency Services is the Office of Interoperable

      15      Emergency Communications.

      16             If communications is a gap, we will work with

      17      those local communities and help assist what funding

      18      options may be, or grant opportunities that may be,

      19      available.  And we've worked with them in the past.

      20             SENATOR MAY:  Okay, Assembly.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  I want to just

      22      acknowledge Assemblymember Buttenschon is here.

      23             And Assemblymember Walczyk will ask the

      24      question.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you, Co-Chairs.


       1             And thank you, Director O'Hara, for your time

       2      today.

       3             You and your department has done a phenomenal

       4      job, I think, in some of the response.

       5             I represent northern Jefferson and

       6      St. Lawrence counties; everything in America that

       7      touches the St. Lawrence River.

       8             And I know you've seen firsthand the

       9      devastation that the high water has done.

      10             You're probably looking at the numbers day by

      11      day, as I am and my constituents are.  And we're

      12      looking at another season of flooding.

      13             You talked quite a bit about pre-positioning

      14      of equipment, which I'm very encouraged by.  And it

      15      sounds like your AARs have been successful.  And

      16      there's a lot of lessons learned.

      17             I recently learned that, with FEMA, you can

      18      request pre-position to trailers.

      19             I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit

      20      about what are our workability is with the federal

      21      government right now, and what the trigger points

      22      for making those requests are?

      23             And then, also, whether there's something the

      24      Rural Resources Commission, or the Legislature at

      25      large, can do to advocate for additional


       1      pre-positioned resources for those huge flooding

       2      events that we know are going to be a logistical

       3      nightmare?

       4             DAN O'HARA:  I think the most important

       5      thing, the best way I can address, sir, your

       6      question, is we work hand in hand with the county

       7      emergency managers.

       8             We also will communicate with the other

       9      municipal officials.

      10             We have, the Governor's regional reps are out

      11      there communicating.

      12             We also have a legislative rep within the

      13      Division of Homeland Security and Emergency

      14      Services.

      15             So the first is, really, to understand, you

      16      know, what -- what the local municipality is looking

      17      for.

      18             We have an incident-management system called

      19      New York Responds, which is the database that we

      20      collect all the requests that come in.

      21             Based on those requests, and we've already,

      22      to date, I believe we've got 15 requests already in

      23      from various counties along Lake Ontario, asking for

      24      pre-positioning of those resources.

      25             So we're in preparation right now of doing


       1      that.

       2             We've already stood up two sandbag operation.

       3      We're making sandbags.  We already have a stockpile

       4      of 56,000-some-odd filled sandbags already that

       5      we're going to start.

       6             One of the things that we learned last year,

       7      was many of these municipalities, during the summer

       8      months, their departments of public work don't work

       9      on Fridays and Saturdays.

      10             So we've gotten smarter in working with them,

      11      as part of our planning process, is to set up a

      12      methodical system, where we'll start dropping in

      13      resources on every Monday or every Tuesday or every

      14      Wednesday so they have the supply.

      15             With respect to FEMA, you know, we have a

      16      partnership with them.

      17             If the State, if we get into a catastrophic

      18      event, and that we need those additional resources,

      19      we will reach to them.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  A quick follow-up on

      21      sandbags, because I think this is important as we

      22      talk about hardening the shoreline and the work that

      23      we're doing.

      24             You know, the Governor has made it very

      25      clear, he doesn't want to dump good money after bad.


       1             And I see sandbags as that temporary fix.

       2             And we're looking at it -- on Lake Ontario,

       3      we're looking at a seasonal, perhaps longer-term

       4      issue, with high water and flooding.

       5             Are there other resources, aside from

       6      sandbags and AquaDams, that we can invest in as a

       7      state; boulders, riprap, that sort of thing?

       8             What's your interface with the

       9      REDI Commission and the DEC, talking about some

      10      of those things, that harden our shoreline, but

      11      that can also be pre-positioned, sort of, for

      12      emergency situations?

      13             DAN O'HARA:  When the REDI Commission, the

      14      leadership was out there, you know, a month ago,

      15      visiting with a lot of the recipients who received

      16      the grants, that was part of the discussion.

      17             I was out on the western side of the state.

      18      I sent a representative on the eastern side.

      19             And when I was there, part of the discussion

      20      is exactly that; is part of some of this resiliency

      21      effort, they're going to be putting in different

      22      types of riprap, different types of boulders.

      23             There is a lot of engineering terminology

      24      that I'm just not familiar with.

      25             But the technology is there, the rocks, the


       1      right material is there.  To prevent, further

       2      dredging will help.

       3             You know, if you look at Lake Ontario, it's

       4      like an ocean.

       5             And if you understand the science behind it,

       6      and depending on wind action, creating the wave, the

       7      fetch, if there's any obstructions as it travels

       8      across the lake, that's what creates some of the

       9      waves.

      10             If you can put the dredging out off the

      11      shoreline, the waves will break under the water body

      12      to minimize the impact of wave action.

      13             So there's -- a lot of that is being done as

      14      part of the scoping and design of these REDI

      15      projects currently.

      16             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you.

      17             DAN O'HARA:  You're welcome.

      18             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

      19             Senator Ritchie.

      20             SENATOR RITCHIE:  Good morning.

      21             DAN O'HARA:  Morning, Senator.

      22             SENATOR RITCHIE:  I'd just like to start off

      23      by adding my voice to everyone else who has thanked

      24      you for such wonderful, I think, attention that your

      25      agency has given to those of us that were dealing


       1      with the flooding.

       2             I represent 150 miles of shoreline,

       3      St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, in St. Lawrence

       4      County, Jefferson, and Oswego.

       5             It has been very trying and very

       6      heartbreaking for the people that I represent.

       7             In '17, I think all of us believed it was

       8      going to be a -- just a short-term event, which did

       9      not happen.

      10             And in '19, I think we were all better

      11      prepared, but I think we still learned a few

      12      lessons.

      13             I know that I recently have gotten a request

      14      from one of my county board of legislators, asking

      15      if we could make sure that sandbag and other --

      16      sandbags and other resources could be made available

      17      earlier.

      18             I know you just said that you're deploying

      19      some of that now.

      20             And sometimes there's a little bit of a

      21      disconnect.  You know, a lot of the communities that

      22      I represent are small.  They don't really have maybe

      23      the resources or the people to deploy the sandbags

      24      and some of the other alternatives.

      25             So, do you deal directly with just the


       1      emergency management site at the county?

       2             And would they already have a list of you

       3      know, tentative plans on what you're going to

       4      deploy?

       5             Since they're asking me to see if I can

       6      intercede to get resources out earlier, since it

       7      looks like we're going to have another bad year.

       8             DAN O'HARA:  Senator, what I would say is,

       9      we're not going to let bureaucracy get in the way of

      10      progress.

      11             And the normal protocol would be for the

      12      municipal jurisdictions, the lesser municipality --

      13      the villages, the hamlets, the towns -- to work

      14      through their county emergency management.

      15             But our objective is to make sure, from the

      16      State's perspective, that everybody is prepared.

      17             So, through communications, we will deal with

      18      the county, we will deal with other municipal

      19      officials, to ensure they get the right resources.

      20             The Governor's regional reps are out there

      21      communicating -- excuse me -- on a regular basis

      22      with the local electeds, to ensure our governor --

      23      or, the legislative rep that works within the

      24      division is communicating with the Legislature,

      25      talking to your staff.


       1             If there's anything or any concerns that

       2      you're hearing, please let us know, because it's a

       3      partnership.

       4             I was mayor of a small municipality,

       5      Baldwinsville, New York.  And we've had our

       6      challenges with flooding, and I know how devastating

       7      it can be, and it's not pretty.

       8             So anything we can do to help people, we want

       9      to do.

      10             The Governor has made emergency management a

      11      top priority.

      12             And I can assure you that it's been made

      13      clear to me that that is a priority, and we need to

      14      make sure the resources are getting out there.

      15             SENATOR RITCHIE:  Well, I think for some of

      16      these small communities, they're just overwhelmed,

      17      because the damage is extreme, and they only have so

      18      many resources in such a small budget to deal with

      19      any of it.

      20             One of the issues that we did run up against

      21      last year was the AquaDams.  There were not enough

      22      available for long stretches.

      23             So, just wondering, will there be more

      24      AquaDams available this time around?

      25             DAN O'HARA:  We're in the process of


       1      purchasing more AquaDam, yes.

       2             And one of the lessons that we learned,

       3      again, we always do these after-actions, is we've

       4      got to find out, and we're working through a

       5      process, to better facilitate, you know, getting,

       6      particularly, if it creates adjoining properties,

       7      where have you've got to get the buy-in, you know,

       8      what's the public interest? and working through some

       9      of those formalities.

      10             But, at the end, yes, we are buying more

      11      AquaDam.

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Okay.  Thank you very

      13      much.

      14             DAN O'HARA:  You're welcome.

      15             SENATOR MAY:  Thanks.

      16             The Assembly.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Assemblywoman

      18      Buttenschon.

      19             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Thank you very

      20      much.

      21             Director O'Hara, my colleagues had stated you

      22      were very helpful.

      23             I represent the Utica-Rome area, including

      24      Frankfort and Whitestown, that was devastated at the

      25      Halloween floods of 2019.


       1             And you and your team created many updates

       2      for us very quickly, so I sincerely appreciate that.

       3             We are still faced with the challenges, not

       4      only from that flooding, but many of those

       5      individuals, that was their sixth time being flooded

       6      within that area.

       7             So it is a constant issue that needs to be

       8      addressed.

       9             In your testimony you talk about 64 areas

      10      across the state that are identified as areas of

      11      concerns or hotspots.

      12             Would this -- the Mohawk Valley be one of

      13      those?

      14             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.  There's several places

      15      along the Mohawk that we check on a regular basis.

      16             Sauquoit Creek, there's other areas down in

      17      that -- in your jurisdiction that are on the system.

      18             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

      19             And could you tell me specifics of what type

      20      of preparedness, training, or steps are being taken

      21      within the Mohawk Valley at this time, and,

      22      currently, as so many of my colleagues stated, that

      23      this will continue?

      24             DAN O'HARA:  You know, one of the things

      25      we're -- you know, as I mentioned, at our state


       1      preparedness training center, I talked about the

       2      swift water rescue facility that we have out there.

       3             We're training a lot more first responders.

       4             And we utilized that in the Halloween storm,

       5      and we pre-positioned swift water rescue teams

       6      strategically across what those potential impacted

       7      areas were, or are, to make sure that, if we needed

       8      to deploy them, we would.

       9             And, again, some of that is, is getting the

      10      local emergency first responders to the state

      11      preparedness training center, getting them the right

      12      training that they need, and, again, working through

      13      any of the challenges that they may have.

      14             We also identify, we strategically located,

      15      down near the Sauquoit Creek, for example, a

      16      long-reach-arm excavator.

      17             It's -- we've got the ability, that should

      18      something accumulate along the CSX bridge area,

      19      we've got the capacity and the capability to start

      20      removing some of that debris to keep the water

      21      flowing.

      22             So those are the types of preparedness

      23      efforts that we're making.

      24             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And that long-arm

      25      is there now?  Or you say it's --


       1             DAN O'HARA:  I'd have to -- it's somewhere in

       2      that general vicinity.

       3             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

       4             DAN O'HARA:  Somewhere in that general

       5      vicinity.

       6             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And that is a

       7      follow-up question in regards to, I know my

       8      Colleague Santabarbara talked about equipment, and

       9      your needs of equipment.

      10             And how quickly can those be moved?

      11             And, strategically, where they're located?

      12             And maybe a little bit more specific of what

      13      your equipment needs are?

      14             DAN O'HARA:  As part of our plan, what we do

      15      is, we ensure -- it's great to have a piece of

      16      equipment.  But if we don't have an operator, or, if

      17      you have to move it, you don't have the right truck

      18      to move it, that becomes a challenge.

      19             So that's always part of our design.

      20             Within an hour, we can get somebody to that

      21      particular location.

      22             We've a great partnership with the Department

      23      of Transportation, great partnership with the

      24      Canal Corporation.  They've got residencies in those

      25      jurisdictions, that we can call upon them and


       1      they'll dispatch accordingly.

       2             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And more

       3      specifically, though, to those equipment ask,

       4      because, obviously, if flooding's happening in the

       5      Mohawk Valley, it could be happening across other

       6      areas at the same time.

       7             So your equipment needs are...?

       8             DAN O'HARA:  One of the -- one of the -- if

       9      you look at this year's budget, we put in again, we

      10      identified, I'll use 6-inch pumps --

      11             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

      12             DAN O'HARA:  -- as an example.

      13             That's a gap that we've recognized across,

      14      particularly for the Lake Ontario flooding.  We had

      15      to rent quite a few 6-inch pumps to support the

      16      local communities.

      17             To ensure their critical infrastructure,

      18      their sanitary sewer pump stations, or their water

      19      pump stations weren't getting flooding, we had to

      20      get more 6-inch pumps.

      21             That's a -- some certain trailers, to move,

      22      and have the flexibility to move, equipment out of

      23      the stockpiles quicker.

      24             That's a -- that was a gap that we

      25      identified.


       1             I'm going to call it "a Bobcat," but there's

       2      a more technical term to it, when you start putting

       3      AquaDam out along the shoreline, where the terrain

       4      is a little different.  You know, you may be in

       5      sand; you may be some marsh, swamp area.  You've got

       6      to have the right tracks to your -- to make sure

       7      that you can strategically move the equipment that

       8      you need to put out to prevent, you know, that flood

       9      mitigation barrier, to put it out quickly.

      10             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And you utilize

      11      private vendors also if you don't have enough

      12      equipment?

      13             DAN O'HARA:  We follow the State finance

      14      rules of engagement.  And we'll use private if

      15      that's what we have to do, yes.

      16             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And how does that

      17      work?

      18             Do you feel that the process of getting the

      19      equipment you need is substantial?

      20             DAN O'HARA:  Yes, yes.

      21             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

      22             Thank you very much.

      23             DAN O'HARA:  You're welcome.

      24             SENATOR MAY:  Senator Helming had one more

      25      question, I think, to ask you.


       1             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

       2             Dan, when we talk about resiliency planning,

       3      mitigation measures, and we think about

       4      Lake Ontario, I mean, the best thing we could do is

       5      release more water.

       6             We know right now that the water levels are

       7      high.  Looks like we are going to flood again.

       8             You said we're preparing, but, do you have

       9      any idea?

      10             I think it was a month or so ago, I sent a

      11      letter to the Governor, I reached out to a number of

      12      agencies, and strongly suggested that the Governor

      13      work to delay the start of the shipping season so

      14      that we can continue to release water.

      15             Do you have any idea where we are on that?

      16             DAN O'HARA:  I can't -- I can't speak

      17      specifically to it.  What I can give you is a

      18      general understanding that I have.

      19             I know there has been discussion with

      20      representatives that are on the IJC, that have made

      21      that pitch to delay the shipping season.  And I know

      22      that dialogue is ongoing right now.

      23             What I do know is, they've increased the

      24      outflow of Lake Ontario, and that's good.

      25             SENATOR HELMING:  I have been monitoring the


       1      outflows, and it seems like it fluctuates.

       2             You know, in one day they may say they

       3      increased it, and then they bring it right back down

       4      again.

       5             So I am very concerned, as are you, I know --

       6             DAN O'HARA:  Yes.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  -- about the potential for

       8      flooding this year.

       9             Thank you.

      10             SENATOR MAY:  All right.

      11             Well, thank you so much for your testimony,

      12      and for your very good work on behalf of

      13      New York State, and hope to see you back.

      14             You're not quite in my district in

      15      Baldwinsville, but pretty close.

      16             DAN O'HARA:  Well, thank you for having me;

      17      I appreciate it.

      18             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

      19             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

      20             And next up we have deputy commissioner for

      21      water resources from DEC, James Tierney.

      22             JAMES TIERNEY:  Good morning.

      23             My name is Jim Tierney.  I serve as deputy

      24      commissioner of the water -- of water resources at

      25      the New York State Department of Environmental


       1      Conservation.

       2             And, Chairwoman May, I respectfully submit

       3      this testimony on behalf of DEC concerning flood

       4      mitigation.

       5             And as you know, it's an increasing concern,

       6      particularly in the context of climate change which

       7      is worsening flood events and extreme weather.

       8             In recognition of the flood risks our

       9      communities -- to our communities, and the fact that

      10      climate change has arrived, Governor Cuomo has

      11      directed an enormous and unprecedented response.

      12             And I'll skim through a few of these things

      13      because I know you're familiar with them, and I want

      14      to be careful of your time.

      15             First, of course, is the Restore Mother

      16      Nature Bond initiative, a $3 billion initiative that

      17      was one of the highlights of the State of the State

      18      Address.

      19             Restore Mother Nature funds would be targeted

      20      toward proactive measures to make New York the

      21      national leader in efforts to adapt to the

      22      unavoidable impacts of climate change.

      23             With these funds, New York would implement

      24      numerous projects that provide co-benefits with

      25      respect to flood resilience, water quality, the


       1      recreation economy, and aquatic habitat.

       2             Much of that work would be in rural

       3      communities.

       4             You're also familiar with the REDI Commission

       5      work, and the $300 million effort there.

       6             DEC was a proud partner in that initiative.

       7             And there's some 130 projects that are

       8      actually under design and are at the

       9      engineering-report phase.

      10             That's in addition to the money that's

      11      available for homeowners and for businesses that are

      12      being operated.

      13             DEC is managing about one-third of

      14      the projects that were approved under the

      15      REDI Commission.

      16             There's also, thanks to you, the Clean Water

      17      Infrastructure acts, now amounting to $5 billion

      18      goal, over time, subject to your approval.  And a

      19      lot of that money also works to mitigate flooding.

      20             We call it the "green infrastructure

      21      approach," which holds and slows water on the

      22      landscape; flood mitigation on the landscape.  And

      23      tens of millions of dollars are being dedicated,

      24      both by New York State DEC and the Environmental

      25      Facilities Corporation, to those efforts.


       1             The $300 million environmental protection

       2      fund, that was in the budget again this year, and

       3      thanks to you, was approved last year, includes

       4      significant funds that are distributed to flood

       5      abatement.

       6             Much of that money goes to soil and water

       7      conservation districts in that regard, for example.

       8             I saw a number of my friends from soil and

       9      water conversation districts here today.

      10             They are the mainstay of implementation

      11      efforts on flood programs around the state.

      12             We, of course, with the EPF (the

      13      environmental protection fund), have programs for

      14      the Mohawk River, the Hudson River, Lake Champlain,

      15      and the Great Lakes, and the like.

      16             And one of their core missions, as we've

      17      designed these programs, is flood mitigation.

      18             I can go on about the DEC rangers and the

      19      environmental conservation officers, our efforts to

      20      manage debris, address oil spills and chemical

      21      releases, during storms.

      22             DEC runs the dam safety program in New York.

      23      We have expert engineers that make sure that nothing

      24      goes wrong with those dams when they're under

      25      extreme pressure.


       1             And I'm sure, as an engineer, you're glad to

       2      hear that, Assemblyman Santabarbara.

       3             And then we also serve as liaison to FEMA on

       4      floodplain maps.

       5             And what we -- now, these are FEMA

       6      flood-insurance maps.  That's a technical term.

       7             And, of course, we much like to have updated

       8      maps, digitized maps, the 100-year flood, and the

       9      500-year flood, which, as many of you know, is not a

      10      flood of biblical proportions.

      11             If you're within a 500-year flood zone, you

      12      have a worse risk of getting a flood than you do --

      13      a worse risk of having a flood than your house

      14      catching fire.

      15             And I think everybody has fire insurance who

      16      owns a home.

      17             DEC owns and operates 106 Army Corps flood

      18      projects, including 100 miles of levies, pumps,

      19      gates, and the like.  And we manage all the flood

      20      control and coastal hazard projects along the coast,

      21      stemming from Staten Island, all the way out to

      22      Montauk Point.

      23             But I want to focus in on what the problem

      24      is, and how we're trying to get our arms around it

      25      as part of your efforts, and how this affects rural


       1      resources.

       2             It's obvious that water is very heavy.  It's

       3      62 pounds per cubic foot.

       4             When a wall of water is moving down a valley,

       5      or surging to the shore, it can really move things.

       6             It moves barns, homes, boulders, businesses,

       7      and it can also, importantly, diminish our topsoil.

       8             So it's a very important issue for our

       9      farmers.

      10             Surfaces that shunt water, known as

      11      "impervious surfaces," dramatically increase peak

      12      flood intensity.

      13             Now, a good rule of thumb of that that we use

      14      under the engineering protocol, is that about

      15      one acre of asphalt generally shunts -- you know, it

      16      shunts 13 times the water of an acre of natural

      17      meadow or forest.

      18             So to give you a sense of how development

      19      affects it.

      20             Older bridges and culverts are frequently too

      21      small to pass high flows, resulting in streams

      22      backing up, blowing out the roads, or even heading

      23      down Main Street, as we've seen in numbers of rural

      24      communities.

      25             The National Academy of Sciences has


       1      estimated that we've lost 60 percent of our wetlands

       2      in New York since colonial times.

       3             Wetlands store massive amounts of storm

       4      waters on the landscape.

       5             And then there's climate change, with the

       6      well-documented forecast that we have gotten from

       7      the -- you know, the different national academies

       8      around the world, and in New York, and from the

       9      UN -- I mean, and -- I'm sorry, in the

      10      United States, and the UN, the remarkably frequent

      11      100-year storms, the intensifying hurricanes, and

      12      the unthinkable super-storms.

      13             I heard somebody refer to it as a

      14      "rain bomb."

      15             And that, in fact, is the case, in some

      16      instances, with "Hurricane Harvey" dropping just an

      17      incredible amount, in one storm, of 45 inches in

      18      much of the Greater Houston area.

      19             So in the rural environment, one of the key

      20      concepts for flood mitigation is a catch phrase we

      21      use, "Slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in.

      22      Calm the waters."

      23             And, frankly, sometimes you just have to get

      24      out of the way if you're in a very dangerous area.

      25             These projects involve engineering and


       1      landscape practices under the school of thought

       2      known as "green infrastructure."

       3             Think of constructed wetlands, storm

       4      detention ponds, stream-side berm removals that

       5      allow the streams to flow into their floodplains.

       6             Protecting existing wetlands from being

       7      filled, retrofitting roads and roadside ditches, so

       8      that they hold and slow the water, again, with the

       9      overall approach to diminish the peak flood and

      10      capture that on the landscape.

      11             And just before -- you know, as a final

      12      comment, I want to get into one thing I think is

      13      very important in our rural communities.

      14             It is the New York -- it is Governor Cuomo's

      15      Resilient New York Streams Program.

      16             DEC is in the phase process of developing

      17      61 state-of-the-art flood mitigation and habitat

      18      restoration studies.  This includes ice-jam

      19      abatement.

      20             Sauquoit Creek, Assemblywoman, as you

      21      mentioned, is one such stream -- or, creek.

      22             It involves advanced modeling, hydraulic

      23      analysis, and we deploy experts to do this on a

      24      watershed basis.

      25             It doesn't take forever.


       1             It's more like 2 1/2 to 3 months, as opposed

       2      to 3 years, for the study to come back.

       3             But the goal is to eliminate the flooding

       4      that would occur in the 100-year storm, taking into

       5      account the impact of climate change and global

       6      warming and increased precipitation.

       7             And what we do is, we get very specific set

       8      of recommendations, on a very specific list of

       9      projects, at specific locations, that result in

      10      benefits that we can actually quantify for town

      11      supervisors and county officials.

      12             They love this.

      13             And these stream studies are already drawing,

      14      as we know in Sauquoit Creek, fairly significant

      15      amounts of implementation grants in the field.

      16             And, if approved, the Restore Mother Nature

      17      Bond Act would allow for a lot of these

      18      stream-restoration projects to be implemented across

      19      the landscape.

      20             Thank you very much for your time.

      21             I'd be glad to answer any questions.

      22             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

      23             Thank you for that very clear and interesting

      24      testimony.

      25             So I have a background in environmental


       1      sustainability, and so I'm thrilled to hear about

       2      the emphasis on looking at whole streams and whole

       3      watersheds and green infrastructure.

       4             I think they are absolutely key as well.

       5             So I had a couple of questions.

       6             Oriskany Creek is one, it's in my district.

       7             I don't know if that's one you have done this

       8      kind of study of, but it certainly could use it.

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  Oriskany Creek rings a bell.

      10      I think that's on the list.

      11             SENATOR MAY:  Starts in Madison County, down

      12      near the town of Hamilton.

      13             JAMES TIERNEY:  We -- we -- I will get you --

      14      I will get you that, for sure.

      15             But I know that that's one's been a problem.

      16             And if you had ice jams, we're addressing

      17      that as well.

      18             I noted the question earlier:  Ice jams can

      19      also be abated.

      20             And we have some of the leading ice-jam

      21      experts in the country working on our stream

      22      studies.

      23             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah, it flows through the

      24      village of Clinton, and that's where they've had

      25      really terrible flooding issues.


       1             But -- and this question came up a little bit

       2      earlier, but, dredging raises a lot of issues.  And

       3      that's what they want to do in the village of

       4      Clinton, is more dredging.  And there's a lot of

       5      debate about that.

       6             And I'm wondering where you think dredging is

       7      useful to manage flooding, especially in creeks?

       8             JAMES TIERNEY:  Senator, dredging is a

       9      case-by-case analysis for what -- sometimes it has

      10      caused terrible problems, and sometimes it can be

      11      effective when, say, there's a lot of rock cobble

      12      that's up against a culvert or a bridge actually

      13      causing a barrier.

      14             You also don't want to lose the rock cobble

      15      in the stream, because you can turn the stream muddy

      16      for months on end if you hit a clay lens that isn't

      17      protected by a rock cobble.

      18             So all the anglers and trout fishers, you

      19      know, very annoyed.

      20             There are ways of doing that.

      21             And what the -- these stream studies, and the

      22      approaches that we use, including training, we have

      23      emergency stream response training, we have training

      24      that we're doing all across the state, on proper

      25      sizing of culverts and bridges, and the like.


       1             It's an "it depends" type of answer.  We have

       2      to come in there with the science.

       3             We're not against it, we're not for it.

       4             But I have seen an instance where somebody --

       5      some community in the Catskills spent $300,000

       6      dredging out stone cobble from a stream in the

       7      village of Phoenicia.  It made flooding worse.  And

       8      the next storm, it just filled right back in.

       9             And it turned out it was two bridges that

      10      were causing the real problems for flooding.

      11             So it is a case-by-case assessment.

      12             SENATOR MAY:  I appreciate that diplomatic

      13      answer.

      14             There is hot debate within my own staff about

      15      this, and this will -- you know, everybody will feel

      16      better for -- because of your answer.

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  Very good.

      18             SENATOR MAY:  You talked about some of the

      19      100-year-flood and 500-year-flood issues.

      20             My understanding is, FEMA doesn't do --

      21      doesn't have flood maps for a lot of

      22      Upstate New York.

      23             Is that true, and is that something that

      24      you're working on?

      25             JAMES TIERNEY:  Our goal, and the pressure we


       1      put on FEMA, is what we would like, Senator, is maps

       2      that are fully digitized; that anybody can pull up

       3      on their computer and see in an emergency or another

       4      situation.

       5             A lot of them are not there yet.

       6             We want to have the 500-year-storm and the

       7      100-year-storm levels, with the infrastructure

       8      that's within it, and know, for example, if there's

       9      a hospital or a nursing home or other facilities in

      10      danger.

      11             Much of that information does exist and it's

      12      disbursed.

      13             We also want to have on the FEMA maps the

      14      high-risk areas; the areas where there's, you know,

      15      really violent flows during storms, so that we --

      16      our first responders are aware.

      17             We have that in some areas, we don't have it

      18      in others.

      19             A lot of people know where these areas are on

      20      the local and county level, and can respond already.

      21             But it's -- you know, FEMA -- FEMA puts

      22      resources in.  They tend to take a long time.

      23             We liaison with the communities quite a bit,

      24      and it is controversial.

      25             If you're not in the FEMA floodplain, and


       1      then, all of a sudden you map into, you may have

       2      flood-insurance requirements.

       3             It's a requirement if you're having a federal

       4      mortgage.

       5             And so it is controversial.

       6             And sometimes I get the sense that there's

       7      some -- you know, some hesitancy on the part of FEMA

       8      to take that step and put that information out

       9      there.

      10             SENATOR MAY:  Okay.  Thanks.

      11             And, finally, I just wanted to ask about the

      12      grants in -- from the REDI Commission.

      13             The business owners and homeowners, when are

      14      they going to see that?

      15             And did you get more applications than you

      16      have funding for?

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  You know, I wish I had the

      18      answer.

      19             I know the entity handling the business

      20      grants is, you know, Empire State Development

      21      Corporation.

      22             The entity handling the homeowner grants is

      23      Homes of Community Renewal.

      24             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  HCR.

      25             SENATOR MAY:  Oh, okay.


       1             JAMES TIERNEY:  And, you know, this is --

       2      REDI was a very big deal to us.

       3             And I just have to say, it was very

       4      heartening the way the whole state pulled together;

       5      the communities, the partnerships, and the local

       6      communities.

       7             And what we've learned from the local

       8      communities on what to do, and what were the

       9      priorities under REDI, it was really something.

      10             And what's great is, getting, you know,

      11      schooled every day by local officials and local

      12      citizens who, you know, after, you know, 30 years of

      13      this work -- type of work, I learn something new

      14      every day, given what they know and how they would

      15      approach it.

      16             That was a terrific, you know, endeavor.

      17             SENATOR MAY:  Great.

      18             All right, thank you very much.

      19             Assemblywoman Buttenschon.

      20             Assemblyman Santabarbara had to go to a

      21      committee meeting, but he'll be back.

      22             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Yes.

      23             Thank you for your testimony, and

      24      I appreciate your comments.

      25             Could you elaborate a little bit more on the


       1      Sauquoit Creek, because it -- I mean, obviously, it

       2      covers so many areas?

       3             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, Assemblywoman,

       4      I actually went back and looked at the historic data

       5      on Sauquoit Creek.  They had at least 30 floods of

       6      record, and they've been hit hard repeatedly.

       7             Working with the town of Whites --

       8             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Whitestown.

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- Whitestown, and a

      10      terrific, you know, supervisor we have there,

      11      Shaun Kaleta, we did a stream study, which is the

      12      first phase, to identify what to do.

      13             We've designed a lot of the projects.  We

      14      have team -- we have a whole team working on it.

      15      And we've gun -- we've begun fairly significant

      16      implementation efforts.

      17             My rough estimate is, we have probably --

      18      it's probably already drawn as much as $7 million in

      19      implementation funds to that program.

      20             And if Tom Snow was here, who's one of our

      21      lead on the Sauquoit Creek effort, we believe, that

      22      after we deal with the CSX rail bridge, the

      23      floodplain benches, and the other programs up and

      24      down the creek, that we will not have flooding on

      25      that creek at the 100-year-level storm after we


       1      implement this program.

       2             And we're very far along toward that.

       3             And Sauquoit Creek would actually be a very

       4      good model across the state for coupling state

       5      resources with real initiatives by local officials

       6      and county officials to make it actually happen.

       7             So I find it, probably, you know, one of the

       8      most promising, you know, riverine

       9      flood-restoration, flood-mitigation --

      10      stream-restoration, flood-mitigation, efforts I've

      11      seen.

      12             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And I appreciate

      13      your efforts.

      14             As you understand, do you have a time frame

      15      on that?

      16             Is -- I speak to my constituents that have --

      17      are not in their homes.  They're living in hotels,

      18      still.

      19             So when it happens once, twice, and

      20      six times, they've lost faith.

      21             JAMES TIERNEY:  Right.

      22             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And they're very

      23      concerned.

      24             I understand the Commission, and the

      25      collaboration is wonderful.  But the process of that


       1      time frame that you just explained, with the

       2      benches, with other factors.

       3             As you know, the issues we have with the

       4      bridge are probably not going to be resolved.

       5             They made it quite clear that they have no

       6      desire to remedy that bridge.

       7             So I'm just looking at it in a sense of what

       8      time frame do you see?

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, some of the projects

      10      are underway.

      11             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Right, we have

      12      the Dunham Manor benches.

      13             JAMES TIERNEY:  And we've managed to purchase

      14      the land, thanks to the Town, for a very large

      15      floodplain bench restoration project down near the

      16      bridge where there's a lot of flooding.  It's a CSX

      17      bridge.

      18             We're punching culverts -- additional

      19      culverts under the bridge to move more water

      20      through.

      21             And we have locations up and down --

      22      additional locations up and down that stream where

      23      we would do additional work and we know we can get

      24      there.

      25             There's even talk, I know it's sensitive, but


       1      I think the local community wants to do it, on a

       2      series of homes that are through, and they would

       3      like to be bought out.

       4             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Oh, absolutely.

       5             JAMES TIERNEY:  And we're looking at, with --

       6      the Natural Resource Conservation Services has a

       7      program that might allow that.

       8             Of course, we would be doing

       9      willing buyer-willing seller floodplain management.

      10             But that's something that's being actively

      11      explored.

      12             Until something like Restore Mother Nature's

      13      in place, this is sort of, you pull money from

      14      different grant programs.  You know, the green

      15      infrastructure grant program, WQIP, you find a

      16      federal grant, and you cobble it together.

      17             You know, DOT has some money into this

      18      program, for example.

      19             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Yes.

      20             JAMES TIERNEY:  So we -- we -- it's --

      21      it's -- we're pulling this together because we

      22      want -- because we know how badly the Sauquoit Creek

      23      community has been hit.

      24             And we hope that -- again, that that serves

      25      as a model, and sort of a template, for how we move


       1      forward with Restore Mother Nature.

       2             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  So would there be

       3      a time frame if you were to --

       4             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, I know that -- well --

       5      you know, I'll get you that.

       6             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

       7             JAMES TIERNEY:  Because, I mean, there's a

       8      series of projects underway.  And it does take time

       9      to -- they've been identified what to do.  Then it

      10      takes time to design it, get the blueprints and

      11      specs, get them out, and then the implementation.

      12             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Okay.

      13             JAMES TIERNEY:  And so we're going through --

      14      we have a number underway.  I think a few are done.

      15             And then, you know, and another additional

      16      plan.

      17             You know, getting our hands on the 16-acre

      18      parcel was a lot of negotiations for that big

      19      floodplain bench down near the bridge.

      20             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  And I appreciate

      21      your efforts with our farmlands, as I've heard from

      22      various farmers throughout the area, and the

      23      concerns that you're addressing.

      24             I do just have one final comment.

      25             They're very concerned, always a priority,


       1      as, again, their homes are the concerns they have.

       2             And -- and -- and they just look at the

       3      balance in regards to ensuring that, our wildlife,

       4      and someone's home and quality of life, an equal

       5      balance, that they continue to remind me of.

       6             JAMES TIERNEY:  Health and safety first.

       7             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  So thank you

       8      again.

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  Health and safety first.

      10             ASSEMBLYWOMAN BUTTENSCHON:  Thank you.

      11             SENATOR MAY:  Thanks.

      12             Senator Helming.

      13             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

      14             JAMES TIERNEY:  Hi, Senator.

      15             SENATOR HELMING:  How are you?

      16             JAMES TIERNEY:  I'm very good.  Thank you.

      17             SENATOR HELMING:  Good.

      18             Just going back to the Environmental Bond Act

      19      of 2020, the Restore Mother Nature program, do you

      20      know how this funding is going to be broken down, or

      21      how it will be awarded?

      22             JAMES TIERNEY:  I do not.

      23             I've seen -- I've read the budget language.

      24             And, of course, there's some particular

      25      items, like, getting our hatcheries updated and made


       1      state-of-the-art.

       2             But I think the general rule of thumb that's

       3      easiest to remember, Senator, is we are going to be

       4      looking for projects at the intersection of

       5      resiliency, habitat, possibly the recreational

       6      tourism, and water quality.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  Okay, good.

       8             If I could just stop you there.

       9             Probably going to be a competitive-grant

      10      program.

      11             And as someone who represents very rural

      12      areas, small communities, I always have a concern

      13      about these small rural communities being able to

      14      compete on the same level as larger communities that

      15      have full-time staff on board who do nothing but

      16      being focus grant-writing.

      17             So I ask you to do whatever you can to put

      18      language in there, or some sort of assistance, that

      19      is going to equalize the playing field and help our

      20      rural communities.

      21             Do you know if there's money in the budget

      22      for the septic-system rebate program?

      23             JAMES TIERNEY:  There is money.

      24             There's original 75 million in the

      25      Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 for the


       1      septic rebate program.

       2             SENATOR HELMING:  That was something I was

       3      very proud to push to get in there.

       4             But -- so it is going to continue to be

       5      available?

       6             And is it -- are there restrictions to

       7      certain locations who may apply?

       8             Or --

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  The restrictions originally,

      10      and we're constantly looking at that, where water

      11      bodies that were actually affected, their water

      12      quality was affected by septic effluent, under the

      13      state DEC's prior water-body list, and a certain

      14      distance from there.

      15             SENATOR HELMING:  I'm not trying to be rude.

      16      I only have five minutes.

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  Oh, sure, no.

      18             SENATOR HELMING:  But -- so we just talked

      19      about, you mentioned, how flooding impacts

      20      infrastructure, including septic systems.

      21             So there's -- I get it, that we're looking at

      22      water bodies that are impacted by failing septic

      23      systems.  But the potential is there for that to

      24      happen, really, in any community along the lake.

      25             So whatever we can do to get more funding for


       1      septic-system rebate programs, to get public sewer

       2      systems around our lakes, I think is incredibly

       3      important.

       4             JAMES TIERNEY:  Oh, and Senator, there's

       5      about 55 million in REDI, it's just that: sewer

       6      systems and septic sewering.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  Do you believe that

       8      Plan 2014 should be repealed?

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  Uhm --

      10             SENATOR HELMING:  Yes or no?

      11             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- I'm -- it's a -- it's a --

      12      it's a great question.

      13             And if it was -- the question would be:  If

      14      it was repealed, would anything change on the lake

      15      right now?

      16             And, right now, during this entire flood

      17      situation, if the IJC experts were in here, and the

      18      Army Corps experts, they've been operating off-plan

      19      [indiscernible cross-talking] --

      20             SENATOR HELMING:  I've talked to them.  I've

      21      held meetings with them.  I've held a public

      22      hearing.

      23             I am just curious:  You, deputy commissioner

      24      of the DEC, do you think that Plan 2014 should be

      25      repealed?


       1             JAMES TIERNEY:  Uhm --

       2             SENATOR HELMING:  And I'll skip over that, so

       3      you don't have to answer that.

       4             JAMES TIERNEY:  Thank you.

       5             SENATOR HELMING:  But what I do want to talk

       6      about is, one of the reasons -- my understanding is,

       7      one of the reasons why 2014 was implemented was for

       8      the restoration of wetlands.

       9             Now, I understand the importance of restoring

      10      wetlands.

      11             But as the Assemblywoman said, we've got to

      12      have balance in some of these things that we do.

      13             In the budget that's proposed right now, is

      14      there language that changes the way that wetlands --

      15      wetland permitting is going to be done, or anything

      16      regarding wetlands?

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  The budget does have a

      18      provision on that.

      19             And what the budget would do, is maintain

      20      what is generally referred to as the "12.4-acre

      21      limit," and say -- and regulate wetlands based on

      22      their criteria as opposed to mapping.

      23             Wetlands move all over the place.

      24             And the estimate is, by -- we have an

      25      opportunity to protect wetlands by moving away from


       1      regulatory mapping, to regulating them based on, you

       2      know:  Are they there?  Are the hydric soils there?

       3      Is it wet?  And having moved into a particular area.

       4             SENATOR HELMING:  And after living through,

       5      how many years now, of Plan 2014, with the primary

       6      focus being restoring wetlands, I am concerned about

       7      the unintended consequences.

       8             And I'm wondering who weighed in on the

       9      language that's in the budget?

      10             A couple of other things.

      11             When we talked about communities, and it's

      12      great that we get the money in the budget, I think

      13      it's a shame how we have to fight to get the money

      14      out for our communities, out of the budget.

      15             And, also, I think something that doesn't get

      16      taken into consideration for our counties or our

      17      small villages, our cities, and our towns, is the

      18      tax cap.

      19             So it's great that this money is being

      20      available, but it would be nice -- I guess the

      21      question is:  If a community is making improvements

      22      based on preventative measures, to address flooding,

      23      or whether it's to put in updates to sewer systems

      24      or septics or water-treatment plants, are those

      25      expenditures exempt from the tax-cap calculation?


       1             JAMES TIERNEY:  You know, I'm sorry, Senator,

       2      I don't know the exact answer to that question.

       3             What I do know is, that the WQIP grant

       4      program has been very successful in channeling money

       5      to our hard-pressed rural communities for

       6      clean-water infrastructure, both for drinking water

       7      and for, of course, wastewater.

       8             SENATOR HELMING:  So do all of our

       9      communities now have waste -- or, water-treatment

      10      plants that have adequate filtration systems on

      11      them, to address the impacts of flooding, whatever

      12      may be flushed into the lake, or even for blue-green

      13      algae?

      14             JAMES TIERNEY:  No, but we're getting there.

      15             SENATOR HELMING:  Are they -- are those

      16      communities then prioritized when we apply for

      17      grants?

      18             JAMES TIERNEY:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  They are?

      20             There's like an extra point, or something,

      21      they receive?

      22             JAMES TIERNEY:  There's extra scoring, extra

      23      points, if you're -- if the waste-water treatment

      24      system is causing a problem.

      25             And we're also looking at, we have an


       1      asset-management program underway, so people can

       2      identify facilities at risk of flooding, to try and

       3      get ahead of those as well.

       4             SENATOR HELMING:  I'm going to try to sneak

       5      in one more real quick question.

       6             JAMES TIERNEY:  Sure.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  Do you feel that

       8      large-scale solar, wind, and even waste projects

       9      have the potential to impact topography and,

      10      potentially, contribute to exasperated flooding

      11      conditions?

      12             JAMES TIERNEY:  I don't believe so.

      13             If Jared Snyder was here, our deputy

      14      commissioner for air and energy, there's engineering

      15      techniques to manage those things very effectively

      16      on the landscape, I believe.

      17             SENATOR HELMING:  Okay.

      18             I ask that because, in -- the Governor, in

      19      his 30-day budget amendment, Section JJJ, has

      20      proposed changes to Article 10, the siting process

      21      for certain energy projects, which, again, most

      22      people talk in terms of solar and wind.  But it can

      23      include trash burners, waste energy, incinerator

      24      projects.

      25             And I'm just, again, curious.


       1             There's the creation of Article 23, which

       2      would, basically, exclude any public input, and what

       3      that would do to, sometimes it's the people on the

       4      ground.  It's the farmers, it's the local

       5      homeowners, who know how certain lands work or

       6      function, whether they flood or not flood.

       7             And when these big projects are proposed, if

       8      they don't have the ability to contribute input to

       9      it, I'm concerned it could -- this may be a

      10      stretch -- but it could -- we could be losing out on

      11      valuable information that would help us determine on

      12      whether or not an area is prone to flooding if it's

      13      stripped for, say, a waste-energy project, or some

      14      other large-scale solar or wind project.

      15             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, thank you.

      16             I'll have to note that as a comment because

      17      that's not an area that I'm up to speed enough to

      18      testify intelligently.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

      20             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah, I'm going to interrupt,

      21      and send it back to the Assembly.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yes, I had to step

      23      out just for a committee meeting, but I missed some

      24      of your testimony.

      25             But I do want to circle back on the


       1      stormwater pollution prevention.

       2             There are new regulations in place now, and

       3      I did attend your, sort of, briefing on that in

       4      Albany.

       5             Are those -- those measures fully implemented

       6      at this point?  Or is it something that's still in

       7      progress, as far as calculating runoff and

       8      stormwater basins, and those types of things for

       9      development?

      10             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, we have something

      11      that's called the "stormwater general permit" and

      12      "construction activity permit."

      13             And what that does is, if there's new

      14      construction, it makes you develop a stormwater

      15      pollution-prevention plan, to, essentially, hold the

      16      water on the landscape.

      17             And as an engineer, you know that.

      18             From a parking lot, to a big, you know, a

      19      mall, and the like, how do you hold it so it doesn't

      20      get shunted off?

      21             And we have an entire program on exactly how

      22      that would work.

      23             Now, the green infrastructure program that we

      24      mentioned, that's to retrofit a lot of the

      25      landscape, between roadways, older parking lots,


       1      older development areas, and manage that.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Is that required,

       3      though, for new construction, or just anytime you

       4      get a permit?

       5             JAMES TIERNEY:  If you -- if you have a new

       6      construction, you have to get coverage; they call it

       7      "coverage."

       8             It's sort of an odd term --

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yeah.

      10             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- but basically saying, you

      11      have to do work within a generally-known rule book

      12      on how you manage construction activity, and then

      13      the post-construction stormwater runoff.

      14             As you know, there -- an incredible amount of

      15      sediment can come off a construction site --

      16             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure.

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- during a major storm.

      18             And so what we want to is anticipate that,

      19      batten down the site.  And then, afterwards, make

      20      sure that you don't lead to higher peak storm flows

      21      in the adjacent streams.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And, I guess, with

      23      regard to what we're talking about here today with

      24      flooding, do you believe that's helping mitigate

      25      localized flooding?


       1             JAMES TIERNEY:  Yes.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  It is.

       3             Okay, and is that being tracked somewhere?

       4             Is there data behind that?

       5             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, the data -- the data is

       6      that, our "blue book," we call it, which are the

       7      engineering practices, can demonstrate, through

       8      engineering calculations, how much water is being

       9      captured, and the peak runoff reductions.

      10             We also were talking a little bit about

      11      stream restoration projects --

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yep.

      13             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- where we believe, through

      14      these green infrastructure practices, floodplain

      15      benches, anything and everything [indiscernible]

      16      that would hold water on the landscape, slow it down

      17      and infiltrate it, also does something that's a

      18      quantifiable level of reduction once those projects

      19      are implemented in reducing impacts.

      20             There's even been instances where, a bridge

      21      that was too small acts like a dam during high

      22      flows.  And I've seen it, you know, back up and go

      23      down Main Street Illium.

      24             You know, that has to be fixed.

      25             So there's all sorts of things that can cause


       1      flooding.

       2             But when it gets to holding water on the

       3      landscape, the school of engineering, landscape

       4      architect engineering, known as "green

       5      infrastructure," has gotten -- you know, has grown

       6      exponentially.

       7             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yeah.

       8             JAMES TIERNEY:  And -- and -- and those tools

       9      and those techniques are now available.

      10             And through programs like Restore Mother

      11      Nature, we're on the cusp of getting a lot of

      12      that -- you know, having the resources to bring that

      13      to scale that we need, particularly in the -- you

      14      know, with oncoming, you know, worsening weather,

      15      extreme weather, with climate change.

      16             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And -- yeah, and

      17      the regular -- I did engineering 15 years ago, so

      18      it's changed quite a bit with the new regs.

      19             What about wetlands, that's the other factor;

      20      right?

      21             Are we -- is there more stringent regulations

      22      on preserving wetlands?

      23             JAMES TIERNEY:  Yes, with -- with -- with

      24      wetlands, what -- they've always been regulated if

      25      they're 12.4 acres in size and mapped.


       1             The budget takes away the "and mapped" and

       2      says, they're regulated if they're wetlands of

       3      12.4 acres in size and they have the -- those --

       4      they have those features.

       5             So if it -- you -- you know, they would be,

       6      you know, hydric soils, wetland vegetation, that

       7      capture the spring runoff, we'd like to protect

       8      those.

       9             And in the budget there's a provision that

      10      says, we're going to do that, like we do with

      11      salt-water wetlands down on Long Island, where we

      12      rate them base -- regulate them based on their

      13      features, as opposed to these regulatory maps that

      14      can be cumbersome, they can be dated, and not really

      15      tell the story of where those wetlands are and what

      16      needs to be done to protect them.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.

      18             And I think I'm just about out of time, but

      19      one more.

      20             I'll ask you the same question I asked the

      21      commissioner.

      22             So wetland -- or, not the wetland.

      23             The -- the flood-zone mapping is being

      24      updated.

      25             How far along is that?  Do you know?


       1             Because I know the original maps that

       2      I worked with years ago, they were so crude, that

       3      you didn't know where that line was.

       4             But I know they're more accurate now.

       5             Are we -- how far along are we?

       6             50 percent?  Or --

       7             JAMES TIERNEY:  I can get you the specific,

       8      you know, extent that we're long -- we're along.

       9             What we're aiming for with FEMA are digitized

      10      maps, where there's a thin line that shows exactly

      11      where the 100-year storm is, exactly where the

      12      500-year storm; you can pull it up online.  You're

      13      not dealing with those old blueprints --

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yeah, yes, yes.

      15             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- that drive everybody

      16      crazy, and with the thick blue line that doesn't

      17      really tell you where it is.

      18             And we're getting those updated.

      19             But as we mentioned a little bit earlier, had

      20      a dialogue on this, we are the liaison to FEMA.

      21      They're [indiscernible] -- there's FEMA floodplain

      22      maps.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure, yeah.

      24             JAMES TIERNEY:  And we push FEMA to get to

      25      the point where we would like them to be, and


       1      provide this information.

       2             We also do, I think, a good job working with,

       3      like, Dan, and other state agencies, and, of course,

       4      the county emergency managers, of knowing where

       5      these particularly sensitive areas are, in the

       6      high-velocity flood zones, so that we can get there

       7      during a flood and, you know, warn people, get

       8      people out of harm's way, and take proactive

       9      measures to try and dissipate that in future storms.

      10             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Those maps are

      11      available to the public, you said, digitally?

      12             JAMES TIERNEY:  Oh, FEMA floodplain maps are

      13      available.

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And where could --

      15      well, I could follow up

      16      [indiscernible cross-talking] --

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  They're -- they're -- they're

      18      on the website.

      19             And, you know, FEMA has them.

      20             They're used for all the flood insurance.

      21             So it's, really, FEMA, it's sort of

      22      interesting, because they look at it as, oh, those

      23      are our flood-insurance maps --

      24             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  That's what they

      25      call them?


       1             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- as opposed to, our --

       2      necessarily, our hazard-response maps.

       3             It's really -- you know, it's a gigantic, you

       4      know, flood-insurance agency in many ways.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  It's on the

       6      website, you said; right?

       7             JAMES TIERNEY:  Yes.

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.

       9             All right, thank you.

      10             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

      11             I have a follow-up question about the

      12      Restore Mother Nature Bond Act.

      13             We've all read the language, but it's pretty

      14      vague.

      15             And so the question is:  How do we advocate

      16      for specific things to be in there, and, both,

      17      beforehand, so that we make sure it has the support

      18      to get in the budget, but also, afterwards, to make

      19      sure that it's being used the way we think it should

      20      be?

      21             JAMES TIERNEY:  Oh, in the Restore Mother

      22      Nature Bond?

      23             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah.

      24             JAMES TIERNEY:  It's -- well -- well, as you

      25      might imagine, Senator, there's lots of ideas.


       1             And I -- I -- I -- I have to confess

       2      ignorance on exactly how the money is going to be

       3      deployed, whether it is to specific projects,

       4      categories, or regions.

       5             And what I can say, given my years of

       6      experience, is there's no end of work to be done.

       7             What our job, as a technical agency, as sort

       8      of a -- you know, a -- a -- you know -- a -- and

       9      looking at this, and trying to make sure that the

      10      money is deployed to solve the most significant

      11      problems.

      12             Wherever possible, deploy it in the way that

      13      solves co-benefits.  If you can solve two, three, or

      14      even four problems with one project, that can be

      15      done through intelligent design.

      16             And to make sure that there's -- as with

      17      REDI, that we take advantage of local know-how in

      18      how we design the project, so that the local

      19      governments and individuals who know best where the

      20      problems are can point things out, to make sure that

      21      incredibly important intelligence is taken into

      22      account in how we use those funds.

      23             And that was the rule book that you saw

      24      under -- under -- under the Resiliency and Economic

      25      Development Initiative.


       1             And I have every sense that that type of

       2      sensitivity to local interests and concerns will

       3      continue forward, ground up.

       4             SENATOR MAY:  But you don't have any idea of

       5      what portion of that money would be earmarked

       6      towards a -- some of these flood-related --

       7             JAMES TIERNEY:  I do not, Senator.

       8             But, it's -- it's -- it's an important

       9      question, and I acknowledge it as important.

      10             But I personally don't have that information.

      11             SENATOR MAY:  Okay.  Thank you.

      12             JAMES TIERNEY:  Thank you.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Assemblymember

      14      Walczyk.

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you for being

      16      here.

      17             Climate-smart communities have a 50 percent

      18      match, which can be especially challenging in areas

      19      like I represent, and a lot of the rural areas of

      20      New York State.

      21             Do you think that that's something that can

      22      change in the future, especially, specifically, for

      23      rural or impoverished areas?

      24             JAMES TIERNEY:  Well, of course, we'll bring

      25      that back to Jared Snyder, our deputy commissioner


       1      for air and energy, who is sort of the chain -- you

       2      know, up the chain of command on climate-smart

       3      communities.

       4             I can say this:

       5             Under our WQIP grant program for clean-water

       6      infrastructure at New York DEC, just for those

       7      concerns, priority issue -- priority matters for

       8      hard-pressed rural areas and hard-pressed cities,

       9      we've upped the grant, in some instances, to a

      10      75 percent grant.

      11             And then you can take that and you can go to

      12      the Environmental Facilities Corporation, if you're

      13      hard-pressed, and get additional grant money and a

      14      zero-interest loan.

      15             So there are -- there is a template, where

      16      you have, you know, communities that -- for a

      17      variety of reasons, just don't have the resources to

      18      take on these problems.  And we've tried to be very

      19      sensitive to just those concerns.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  I want to shift gears

      21      and talk about flooding for a second, obviously, the

      22      topic of the day.

      23             The area that I represent, Jefferson and

      24      St. Lawrence counties, the topography is constantly

      25      changing.  You can go from the sandy, to soil, to


       1      rock, you know, in a matter of, you know, feet, let

       2      alone miles.  And I have a 120-mile border with

       3      Canada.

       4             What is the -- what's the DEC doing to

       5      develop best practices, with homeowners especially?

       6             You know, the Governor has had a big

       7      investment with the REDI Commission.  Wants to make

       8      sure that the restorations that we're doing are

       9      going to be solid and we have a resilient shoreline

      10      for years to come.

      11             How do you determine that when there's so

      12      many different topographies along the different

      13      zones of the REDI Commission?

      14             JAMES TIERNEY:  That's -- that's a great

      15      question.

      16             What we -- we did under REDI, is we did have

      17      that -- we have a two-pager that, basically, listed

      18      all the data that would be available for something

      19      like a -- you know, local public-works

      20      commissioners, county experts, county engineers,

      21      town engineers, and the like.

      22             And we have that data out there.

      23             We're very far along on specific guidance for

      24      homeowners.

      25             And we've committed to developing for


       1      lakeshore -- for St. Lawrence River and Lake

       2      Ontario, a handbook, a full-blown engineering

       3      handbook, that's underway, and we have the funding

       4      to do it, on exactly what to do in different

       5      circumstances.

       6             Now, of course, there's 132, I believe,

       7      projects that have been identified under REDI.

       8             A lot of them address -- are set to address

       9      those issues up and down the coast, at least the

      10      worst ones that were brought forward during the

      11      REDI Commission.

      12             I know our work's not done, and we're heading

      13      into a bad year, clearly.

      14             And so -- you know, so we have gotten a lot

      15      of information out there.

      16             And as part of the REDI program, we learned a

      17      lot.

      18             With our -- the consulting engineers we

      19      brought in, the consulting engineers that are

      20      working on each of individual projects, we're trying

      21      to make sure that they're imbued with all the

      22      information so that they have, you know, intelligent

      23      decision-making.

      24             And it can be confounding, because some parts

      25      of the lake and river can be higher and lower than


       1      other parts.  There's not one average water level.

       2             If you're sheltered, you have a different

       3      need for protective levels than if you're right in,

       4      you know, a dynamic wave-action area.

       5             So it does come down to, you know, we need

       6      our engineers to be really informed, and we need to

       7      make sure that they're tuned to the case-specific

       8      risks in a particular area.

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  That's encouraging.

      10             Do you have a publish date for the -- for the

      11      handbook?

      12             JAMES TIERNEY:  The handbook, I've seen

      13      drafts of it.  It's fairly far along.

      14             I don't want to get my engineering team mad

      15      at me, but I think it -- you know, it should be

      16      ready soon.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Good.

      18             Well, yeah, and I'm sure they understand the

      19      urgency.

      20             JAMES TIERNEY:  Absolutely.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Your discussion makes

      22      me segue into a next point.

      23             We know that there will be a lot of permits.

      24             The interface with Army Corps has been

      25      challenging at times, very functional at other


       1      times.

       2             Could you talk a little bit about what you're

       3      doing to expedite permitting processes for flooded

       4      areas?

       5             And, also, you know, this is kind of a

       6      statewide issue, and not just for permitting here

       7      and dealing with REDI Commission issues; but, also,

       8      for permits, you know, across your department, and

       9      the many things that you handle.

      10             Do you think the DEC has adequate staffing?

      11             Would you ask the Legislature to provide

      12      additional staffing, you know, from SPDES permits,

      13      to the things that you're taking on here?

      14             Your department seems to take on more and

      15      more every year, but I don't necessarily -- I mean,

      16      you're doing more with less, is the way that I see

      17      it.

      18             If you could speak to expediting the

      19      permitting process for the flooding, and then to

      20      staffing.

      21             JAMES TIERNEY:  Great question.

      22             What we -- what we do, in general, is we have

      23      a number of different protocols.

      24             We've been through a lot of these rodeos.

      25      Right?


       1             So we have emergency permits that we issue

       2      during major flood events.  We've done that,

       3      where -- which allows for people to know what is

       4      just simply allowed: to stabilize a home, or act in

       5      a particular area.

       6             And we do training.  We do emerge -- in

       7      streams, in particular, you have a lot of emergency

       8      stream response training.

       9             And those general permits can be issued in

      10      the field very quickly by our permit staff who are

      11      out there.  We put people in trailers; we have

      12      people very accessible to do that.

      13             Our engineering and administrative staff are

      14      just, basically, deployed during a high-water event.

      15             You know, so we view ourselves as people,

      16      respond during the storm with our rangers and

      17      ECOs, and we're out there the day after, helping

      18      people put pieces back together, and giving them

      19      advice on best practices.

      20             You know, so, for example, I've -- I -- you

      21      know, a number of years ago, one community engaged

      22      in what somebody referred to, pejoratively, as

      23      "recreational bulldozing" after a storm.

      24             They turned a stream that was very sinewy

      25      into a straight flume.


       1             Well, when that fills up with water, it just

       2      hammered the downstream communities.

       3             It was a bad practice.

       4             So we try and engage to stop that type of

       5      activity, while letting people act quickly to

       6      protect their home, stabilize things, and keep that

       7      in place.

       8             We're well-practiced at this point.  And it's

       9      gotten, obviously, more intense over the past --

      10      over the recent years.

      11             So I think that we're in a good position on

      12      how we handle our administrative functions, our

      13      permitting and our regulatory protocols, and deploy

      14      very quickly to do that.

      15             I also have the Army Corps colonel for the

      16      Buffalo district on speed dial.  And we have meshed

      17      the Department of State, DEC, and the Army Corps

      18      crew permitting teams for all the REDI projects, in

      19      order to make things as streamlined and rapid as

      20      possible.

      21             And, frequently, we're able to get to the

      22      point where the Army Corps says, within this

      23      framework, we'll take your permit.

      24             And kind of, basically -- they do still have

      25      to issue their own permit.  But, basically, okay,


       1      Steve, you know, [indiscernible] within that

       2      framework, you're good to go.

       3             And so you can move forward with a lot more

       4      dispatch, which is needed.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  You didn't -- staffing?

       6             JAMES TIERNEY:  Staffing?

       7             Well, you know, the Governor's budget is my

       8      bible on such things.

       9             And, you know, DEC did get 47 additional

      10      staff in the last budget, and I'm grateful for

      11      that -- proposed in the last budget.  It hasn't

      12      arrived yet.

      13             SENATOR HELMING:  Why not?

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  I'm just going to

      15      circle back on one quick question.

      16             So, as far as ice jams, there are -- there

      17      was at least one project that I know of, where you

      18      successfully installed --

      19             JAMES TIERNEY:  I'm sorry, I missed that?

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- ice-jam

      21      mitigation measures, I think there's one project

      22      that I know of, in Buffalo, with the piers that were

      23      installed.

      24             Was that a project DEC was involved with?

      25             JAMES TIERNEY:  I -- I -- we -- we did not do


       1      the project.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  But you're

       3      familiar with it?

       4             JAMES TIERNEY:  It's -- yeah, there's piers,

       5      sometimes they put, like, big pilings --

       6             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Pilings, yes.

       7             JAMES TIERNEY:  -- out there.

       8             There's also, of course, in Schenectady,

       9      we're very interested in what can be done with the

      10      Visher's Ferry Dam, and -- and -- you know, and as

      11      part of the canal -- we mentioned canal task force.

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And that's the one

      13      I wrote the letter to you guys about when the

      14      flooding happened two years ago.

      15             But I think we did get funding to at least

      16      look at that.

      17             JAMES TIERNEY:  Yes.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  But I guess -- are

      19      there mitigation measures that are out there that

      20      are working, that you know of?

      21             JAMES TIERNEY:  There's measures out there,

      22      that engineers have told me will work.  And,

      23      basically, the mechanism is to spread the ice out,

      24      as opposed to channelize it.

      25             And, also -- and certain mechanisms have the


       1      water flow with more force in order to clear out the

       2      ice on a regular basis.

       3             Particularly with the Schenectady area, we

       4      have an entire stream --

       5             This is very exciting for me.  I don't know

       6      about everybody else.  But for you, probably.

       7             -- we have entire -- that stream flood

       8      restoration mitigation program, we're doing it for

       9      the entire main stem of the Mohawk.

      10             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Oh, okay.

      11             JAMES TIERNEY:  So that will take into

      12      account what conceivably can be done.

      13             It's our largest study of the 61 that we have

      14      underway.

      15             But we have the funding available.  We've

      16      done a lot of the data and hydraulic analyses

      17      already.

      18             We got another [indiscernible] of funding

      19      from the Mohawk River Basin program.

      20             And that is -- you know, we've had

      21      engagements with the communities.  We've tried to

      22      gather up all the local knowledge.  And we're seeing

      23      what we can do, using this geomorphic stream

      24      restoration techniques, for the entire main stem of

      25      the Mohawk.


       1             That, coupled with what Canals is doing,

       2      gives us huge amounts of information that may be

       3      very actionable to help hard-pressed Schenectady

       4      from flooding.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure.

       6             Well, you know Schenectady is my home, so I'm

       7      very interested in seeing.

       8             The Stockade area really suffers --

       9             JAMES TIERNEY:  Absolutely.

      10             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- from flooding.

      11      And that ice, when it comes, it just blocks

      12      everything.

      13             And it's amazing how big those chunks of ice

      14      get.

      15             I think that's all I have, unless...?

      16             JAMES TIERNEY:  Thank you very much.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Thank you for your

      18      testimony.

      19             Thank you.

      20             Next, from Clarkson University, professor of

      21      civil and environmental engineering, and director of

      22      construction engineering, Professor Backus.

      23             Yes, thanks for being here.

      24             Welcome.

      25             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Well, thank you, very


       1      much.

       2             Well, thank you to the Honorable

       3      Senator Rachel May, as well as, of course, yourself,

       4      Honorable Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara, and

       5      members of both chambers, and the Commission for

       6      Rural Resources, for calling this hearing, accepting

       7      both written and oral testimony that we'll be giving

       8      today in examining the effectiveness of current

       9      flooding and mitigation efforts, and discuss the

      10      need for future assistance due to the increase in

      11      extreme weather events.

      12             On a personal note, I want to extend

      13      appreciation to Assemblymember Walczyk who was my

      14      company commander in my Army Reserve combat engineer

      15      battalion not too long ago.

      16             As I'm sure you recall in 2019 budget,

      17      New York State designated Clarkson University and

      18      SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

      19      (ESF) to co-lead a new Center of Excellence in

      20      Healthy Water Solutions.

      21             This center is charged with delivering

      22      synergistic problem-solving on a wide range of water

      23      issues impacting the Empire State.

      24             Clarkson's world-class technical and

      25      engineering expertise in water systems, and ESF's


       1      world-class technical in watershed ecosystem

       2      management and solution development, uniquely

       3      positioned the Center of Excellence, or "CoE," to

       4      create and leverage partnerships across public and

       5      private partnerships.

       6             New York State's water assets are a source of

       7      international identity; points of pride for the

       8      state and the country, and of strategic importance

       9      to the state's global economic position, now, and

      10      into the future.

      11             New York is rich in uniquely diverse rivers

      12      and streams, lakes and ponds, estuaries, the

      13      Erie Canal waterways, and major coastlines along the

      14      Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, making it the

      15      internationally well-known tourist destination that

      16      New York State is.

      17             Imminent and serious threats of these assets

      18      from multiple sources, including, and especially,

      19      flooding, call for an integrating and coordinated

      20      effort to preserve and improve the quality and

      21      quantity of clean and healthy water resources, as

      22      well as innovations, to ensure the protection.

      23             Flooding, one of the most common natural

      24      disasters, can occur at any time of the year, and

      25      occurs due to interactions of precipitation, snow


       1      and ice melt, soils, and land cover or land use.

       2             In New York, many population centers and

       3      their associated infrastructure are concentrated

       4      along rivers and their valleys, reflecting the value

       5      of water as a resource and the importance of

       6      strategies to mitigate risk due to floods.

       7             Further, many roadways in New York are

       8      located within the FEMA's 100-year floodplain.

       9             Climate change or climate variation pose

      10      significant challenges in forecasting floods, and

      11      have been linked to an increase in occurrence of

      12      historically low-frequency, but very-large-magnitude

      13      events.

      14             While this has been typical to focus on

      15      precipitation intensity, and how that may increase

      16      in the future, it's also critical to understand how

      17      precipitation may change in conjunction with other

      18      factors.

      19             Across New York, these causative flood

      20      mechanisms can vary even across very short

      21      distances.

      22             The economic impact of floods is ultimately

      23      linked to the presence of humans and infrastructure.

      24             As population and related infrastructure

      25      continues to expand along waterways, the economic


       1      impact of floods expected to increase in the future.

       2             For instance, the average annual loss of the

       3      flood damage in the United States for the 20-year

       4      period, from 1981 to 2000, was $4.3 billion

       5      according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

       6             Further, EPA has made it clear that failing

       7      to protect our waters from pollution has resulted in

       8      the loss of over $1 billion in tourism annually, has

       9      caused widespread fish-kills from the result of

      10      harmful algal blooms, or "HABs," and has depressed

      11      home values, while simultaneously increasing the

      12      cost of maintaining clean drinking water for our

      13      fellow citizens.

      14             As concluded in a 2018 study by the National

      15      Institute for Building Sciences, mitigation saves.

      16             By "saves" we mean, across the spectrum of

      17      mitigation efforts in savings.

      18             For instance, the execution of River Rhine

      19      flood-mitigation efforts have an up to 8-to-1

      20      benefit-to-cost ratio, meaning, for every dollar

      21      spent on mitigation, eight dollars are avoided in

      22      future costs.

      23             Similarly, for [indiscernible] hurricane

      24      surges, the ratio is 7-to-1.

      25             Making critical investments the right way in


       1      the present, therefore, can yield significant public

       2      and private financial benefits in the not too

       3      distant future.

       4             Beyond the economics, we also know that,

       5      through mitigation efforts, hundreds of lives have

       6      been saved, thousands of cases of storm-related PTSD

       7      have been averted, and millions of injuries have

       8      been prevented in the past.  This will certainly be

       9      true in the future.

      10             The faculty affiliated with the Clarkson SUNY

      11      ESF Center for Excellence in Healthy Water Solutions

      12      are currently actively engaged in filling the

      13      knowledge gaps that will enable us to develop

      14      improved tools to determine the flooding impact on

      15      New York State infrastructure, the environment, and

      16      the economy.

      17             This work is critical to New York State, as

      18      it enables us to make the right choices sooner, to

      19      know better what resources we need to protect, and

      20      what resources will need attention in the future.

      21             The following are some of the areas that the

      22      faculty and CoE are focusing on:

      23             Risk analysis and forecasting;

      24             Integration of user-inspired research and

      25      development communities -- in communities;


       1             Limiting mobilization of contaminants;

       2             And my own work in the area of resilience

       3      planning.

       4             Let me take a few moments to highlight two of

       5      these areas that my colleagues are engaged in.

       6             First, the National Water Model is a recently

       7      developed modeling framework that complements

       8      existing National Weather Service flood-forecast

       9      models, while also providing potential

      10      flood-forecast information at other locations that

      11      do not have traditional model forecasts.

      12             In New York, about 100 locations on large

      13      rivers and waterways have the said traditional flood

      14      forecasts.

      15             The vast majority of streams and rivers in

      16      more remote locations, including rural zones,

      17      however, have no flood forecasts.

      18             Dr. Charles Kroll, a CoE faculty at SUNY

      19      ESF, is currently comparing the National Water Model

      20      to observations of low stream flows through droughts

      21      as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric

      22      Administration-funded project.

      23             However, future work could include the

      24      assessment of the National Water Model against high

      25      stream flows, to assess the potential for making


       1      flood predictions for numerous inland water bodies

       2      across the state, not just large rivers.

       3             Secondly, Dr. Ian Knack at Clarkson has

       4      worked with a number of industrial partners and

       5      government agencies to conduct a series of studies,

       6      using numerical models, to understand and evaluate

       7      flood risk, potential flood levels under extreme

       8      events, and development of operational and forecast

       9      tools to assist city planners and emergency-response

      10      personnel.

      11             For instance, in the North Country, on the

      12      St. Regis Mohawk Reservation located at the

      13      downstream end of the St. Regis River, Clarkson

      14      Drs. Hung Tao Shen and Fengbin Huang, with support

      15      of the Mohawks, analyze historic data, and conducted

      16      numerical models to evaluate the ice-transport and

      17      jamming-process impact, and consequences, of the

      18      Hogansburg Dam removal, as well as what possible

      19      flooding mitigation approaches could be considered

      20      for the situation.

      21             The Center of Excellence in Healthy Water

      22      Solutions received initial funding allocation of

      23      $125,000 in last year's budget.

      24             The first 10 months, the CoE has made

      25      significant outreach to public and private


       1      [indiscernible] in healthy water solutions across

       2      the state.

       3             Based on early input and resources, the

       4      center has ignited new provisional patents

       5      addressing HABs, and field tested new innovation --

       6      innovative technologies to treat emerging

       7      contaminants of PFAs and PFOs.

       8             Responses and requests for support to better

       9      manage land resources, to reduce loading of

      10      stressors to and from water bodies, including flood

      11      prediction, ice-jamming, structural scour, and

      12      [indiscernible] mitigation, are also all in

      13      progress.

      14             Full funding for the Center of Excellence in

      15      Healthy Water Solutions, along with all the other

      16      CoEs, to a million dollars per year, would

      17      significantly increase the center's contributions

      18      towards preparing New York State to an ever-changing

      19      environment in protecting public health from

      20      flooding and land-management issues.

      21             Thank you again to the Honorable

      22      Senator Rachel May and Honorable Assemblymember

      23      Angelo Santabarbara, other Commission members, and

      24      the staff, for the opportunity to present testimony

      25      at this hearing.


       1             As researchers who collaborate with public-

       2      and private-sector leaders, and especially as

       3      educators of the next generation of technology

       4      leaders, we take seriously the public trust from the

       5      investments we receive.

       6             As emerging problems and projects are

       7      identified, we welcome full funding in FY 20-21

       8      budget of the Center of Excellence in Healthy Water

       9      Solutions, to provide additional support and

      10      expertise to align with the State's and the people's

      11      needs.

      12             We believe, together, we must show the

      13      nation, and the world, that New Yorkers can do this

      14      important work to protect and preserve healthy

      15      waters.

      16             It is a work they are depending upon

      17      New Yorkers to lead.

      18             I look forward to responding to your

      19      questions and/or take questions back to my

      20      colleagues for an individual follow-up.

      21             Thank you.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Thank you for your

      23      testimony.

      24             As I was reading through your written

      25      testimony, I see the statewide ice-jam challenge


       1      that we talked about is discussed in here.

       2             And I hope to see that launched, and to get

       3      some students engaged in actually trying to identify

       4      some -- some -- some newer solutions.

       5             But, with regard to a couple things I wanted

       6      to mention:

       7             You talked about many of the roadways in

       8      New York being in the 100-year floodplain.

       9             That seems -- I guess, what percentage --

      10      based on your analysis, what percentage of the major

      11      roadways are actually in that floodplain?

      12             Because that seems like something that needs

      13      to be looked at.

      14             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  It's a significant

      15      number.  I don't have the exact number.  We can get

      16      certainly get that for you, Assemblyman.

      17             In regards to the quantity, it's definitely

      18      majority.

      19             You know, most of our roadways were

      20      constructed, if you look at traditional roadway

      21      construction in New York State --

      22             Again, I was born and raised here.

      23             -- they were built along logging trails,

      24      especially in places like the Adirondacks and the

      25      Catskills.  They're often built along -- going to


       1      and from towns that along our riverways and

       2      streamways, mainly because that's where our industry

       3      was.

       4             And so the consequence, either they're

       5      directly in the floodplain themselves; i.e., the

       6      roadbed is in the floodplain, or, it has supporting

       7      infrastructure; for instance, bridges, culverts, and

       8      so forth, that are in danger of failure, as well as

       9      being in the floodplain in a flood event.

      10             Again, I can't give you a precise number, but

      11      it's certainly, definitely, more than 50 percent.

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  That's a good

      13      piece of information to know, though.

      14             I'm going to be looking into that.

      15             And, yeah, with bridges, you know, once the

      16      water rises above the bridge, that's it.

      17             It's not simply a matter of just raising the

      18      roadway either.  It may be -- that may not be

      19      possible.  It may be that you have to relocate or

      20      redesign these roads.

      21             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Yeah, one of the things

      22      that we did as a project, I worked with

      23      Chase Winston in the town of Sherburne.  He's a Town

      24      highway superintendent.  And we looked at his

      25      culverts.  We did a whole inventory of every culvert


       1      in the town for him as part of a project with him,

       2      to then identify all the watersheds that went into

       3      it.

       4             We actually found that, again, there was a

       5      comment made earlier, that there was inadequate

       6      culverts in those locations.

       7             That kind of project identified quickly that,

       8      in addition to thinking about, just, "as I have a

       9      culvert problem, to fix it," I need to rethink about

      10      what size that is, and adjust things.

      11             And a lot of times it's also looking at

      12      adjusting infrastructure, like, nearby bioswales

      13      that would lead into those culverts, and things of

      14      that nature, that you need to look at.

      15             So some of the green infrastructure that was

      16      mentioned by DEC would be very applicable in those

      17      cases.

      18             So, again, it's a very contextual-based

      19      approach that must be taken in these situations.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  I guess in -- you

      21      talk about the storm events, and, certainly, the

      22      storm events have changed, with climate change,

      23      and -- but what our previous speaker talked about,

      24      the localized measures, the stormwater control, the

      25      erosion control, preserving wetlands, how much of an


       1      impact do you think that has on these major events,

       2      or does it -- are these major events going to happen

       3      anyways?

       4             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  They -- they -- events

       5      are [indiscernible] -- obviously increasing.

       6             We can look at the climate models.  We

       7      understand --

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  The stormwater

       9      ponds can only hold so much; right?

      10             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Right, but -- exactly,

      11      somewhat.

      12             -- but, at the same time, by developing more

      13      aggressive stormwater infrastructure that abates the

      14      amount of high-volume, high-velocity flows, you have

      15      less chance of downstream events occurring as

      16      catastrophically.

      17             And that's just the -- that's the science and

      18      the engineering behind it.

      19             So it's a both/and, it's not an either/or.

      20             We have to look at both the stormwater

      21      measures that are going to abate, and do the best we

      22      can to control it, understanding that we're going to

      23      have higher-velocity flows and higher-volume flows

      24      that are going to occur, Assemblyman.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And I want to


       1      circle back to the challenges, and forecasting these

       2      events has been more challenging in recent times.

       3             And you mentioned low-frequency,

       4      large-magnitude events.

       5             Can you just walk me through that?

       6             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  So when we look at risk

       7      analysis --

       8             And I actually just did a vulnerability

       9      assessment for a small municipality in the

      10      North Country.

      11             -- we look at two factors, primarily.

      12             One is:

      13             What is the frequency of an event that would

      14      occur?

      15             What are we seeing?

      16             How is that changing?

      17             And, we're looking at the magnitude, or the

      18      catastrophic nature, of what that is?

      19             How bad will it be, if you will, in layman's

      20      terms?

      21             What we're seeing is, you look at things like

      22      the ice storm in '98, and we've seen increasing ice

      23      storms because, as temperatures warm, there's

      24      actually more moisture in the air.  It also means

      25      there's heavier ice.  So some places in this area,


       1      if you're in the Mohawk Valley, as elsewhere, are

       2      seeing these storms that are having greater --

       3      greater impact when they occur because, instead of

       4      snow, which is relatively dry relative to the ice,

       5      there is more weight you have to contend with.

       6             So those types of things are going to -- so

       7      we're seeing more and more of that.  And those are

       8      just, basically, what's happened.

       9             The impacts of that, from the design

      10      perspective, you know, National Grid is contending

      11      with this in terms of their lines.

      12             We're looking at across all of our

      13      infrastructure, and what now we have to really

      14      evaluate ice weight, not just snow weight, when we

      15      start looking at those things.

      16             And that's having a huge impact in how we

      17      start designing things as engineers.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure.

      19             Okay.

      20             And I think my time -- I want to ask one more

      21      question.

      22             So the other thing I wanted to just circle

      23      back to:  So the flood forecasts don't exist

      24      everywhere?

      25             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  In many places they do


       1      not.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  So they -- how do

       3      we -- what's the best way to catch up on that?

       4             I mean, we should have forecasts everywhere.

       5             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Right, ideally.

       6             And that's what I was mentioning to my

       7      colleague down at ESF, is working on trying to use

       8      the National Water Model, which is a new emerging

       9      technique and framework that tries to understand

      10      water flows better, to enable us to do better

      11      flood -- you know, flood analysis so we can get to

      12      those lower-flow places.

      13             You know, the Mohawk River's getting -- has a

      14      model.

      15             But you'll get to someplace, like in the

      16      upper to the Chub River, they don't have a model.

      17             And that's a huge issue, especially for

      18      places like Lake Placid, where I'm working right

      19      now.  And Whiteface is not getting enough water out

      20      of the Ausable River to make up for the snow that's

      21      not falling anymore.

      22             And so it's a huge cost we have to start

      23      thinking about from our tourism perspective.

      24             And obviously you know, the Olympic region is

      25      a huge part of that tourism drive for the state.


       1             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Is that -- that's

       2      something that -- is that something that's underway?

       3      Or is it something that is -- I know --

       4             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  It's not --

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- when I did

       6      projects, like, if we looked our a section of the

       7      river, we would just turn that over to FEMA, or

       8      whoever, to update the maps.

       9             But is that how this is progressing, or is

      10      there a larger initiative that's underway somewhere?

      11             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  -- so, NOAA (National

      12      Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) does have

      13      some grants out.  And that's where Dr. McCall [ph.]

      14      is working from.

      15             It needs more funding.  We just don't have

      16      adequate funding to support that at this time.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Does that come

      18      from the State, though?  Or is that --

      19             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Right now it's federal

      20      funding --

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Federal.

      22             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  -- that's supporting his

      23      work.

      24             But the Center of Excellence funding would

      25      support additional initiatives along those lines.


       1             And so being able, again, to get to the

       2      one-million-dollar level for the Center of

       3      Excellence would be very helpful and to start

       4      looking at that.

       5             And as you think about the priorities that

       6      are put forward to the center, or requests to the

       7      center, are probably more appropriate, we can get

       8      that into the right mix.

       9             And, again, with some of the ice-jamming

      10      issues go right along with those as well.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Got you.

      12             Okay, I'm going to turn it over to my

      13      colleague because I'm out of time here.

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you, Chairman.

      15             And thank you, sir.

      16             We've come a long way from a green tent on

      17      Fort Drum --

      18             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  That's right.

      19             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  -- wearing camo, where

      20      your battalion's motto, and it was awesome to have

      21      you as a battalion commander, was "Fight to Build."

      22             And sometimes we fight to build here in

      23      Albany, and a big part of that is today.

      24             So thank you for your service in uniform.

      25      You were an awesome leader there.


       1             It's awesome to see you serving out of

       2      uniform, and continue to push New York State in the

       3      right direction.

       4             So, thank you for your written and oral

       5      testimony, first and foremost.

       6             I recently got named to the

       7      Birkholz Institute Nutrition Task Force for

       8      St. Lawrence River and the whole Great Lakes system.

       9             So, some of your written testimony, I'm

      10      probably going to be sharing on a conference call

      11      sometime soon, because I think, while we can

      12      criticize New York, we're far ahead of many of the

      13      midwestern states that eventually are sending us

      14      water.

      15             And your "contaminant" section is especially

      16      pertinent there.

      17             Are you familiar with Rates, and the group

      18      that's worked on the Rio Grande?

      19             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Absolutely.  Absolutely,

      20      very familiar.

      21             Well, I knew Jim Bonner very well, who ran

      22      that company.  And, of course, you know, some of the

      23      folks in the program right now.

      24             Yes, sir.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Can you talk a little


       1      bit about monitoring equipment, whether it's

       2      contaminants or for flooding, and what we need as

       3      far as resources and direct resources, finances from

       4      the State, and infrastructure, to put those devices

       5      out there?

       6             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  I can speak to some of

       7      that, in terms of the general approach and needs

       8      that I think makes some sense, from my perspective.

       9      And we may need to get back some answers specific to

      10      the technology because I'm not the wiz-guy on that.

      11             In regards to the needs, we need better

      12      understanding of what is in our waters.

      13             As you mentioned, Dr. Twist is working in

      14      the St. Lawrence, and looking at latents -- latent

      15      chemicals that were in there, mercury content, and

      16      things like that.

      17             Those are going to emerge in the

      18      Hudson River, they're going to emerge in the

      19      Mohawk River, they're going to emerge out in, you

      20      know, the Niagara River; and we need to look at

      21      what's going on with that.

      22             And so to have the technologies that can look

      23      at what's happening in our waterways.

      24             Now, Rates has got a suite of different

      25      sensing capabilities that have been deployed, for


       1      instance, in Rio Grande Valley down in Texas.

       2             We've done some of that work in the

       3      Hudson River, specifically out of our Beacon Campus.

       4             And we are looking to expand that some more.

       5             In terms of specifics on what we would need

       6      for resources, I think we'll have to get back to you

       7      on the specifics on it.

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Okay, great.

       9             And then I wanted to conclude by talking

      10      about a thing that is, you know, most important to

      11      me, especially as we head into another flooding

      12      season on Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River.

      13             And, you know, three years ago people were

      14      asking:  Is this the new normal?

      15             And I think that question is out the window

      16      now.

      17             Everyone's watching what's going on in the

      18      Upper Great Lakes, and that water is all headed this

      19      way.  And we know what kind of winter we've had, and

      20      everyone else has had.

      21             So -- and looking at the levels today, what

      22      can -- and it's similar to the question that I had

      23      for our representative from the Department of

      24      Environmental Conservation:  What do you think are

      25      some best-design practices when we're talking about


       1      residents who have built right on the water?

       2             And you've seen, you live there, you know all

       3      of the various situations that we've got.

       4             How do you -- how do you -- from the

       5      strategic level, not even the tactical level, how do

       6      we tackle this?

       7             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  I think it's going to be

       8      a com -- you know, there's no one silver bullet for

       9      any of these things.

      10             This is a really -- it's a complicated, both,

      11      an engineering task, in terms of the immediate

      12      triage, if you will, of what's going on with, you

      13      know, individual residences, municipal buildings.

      14             Infrastructure we've built along our

      15      waterways, we built it there for lots of reasons,

      16      because that's been an economic-driver.  It's been a

      17      resource to allows us to get transport to and from

      18      our sites.  It's really important for the state.

      19             So we have to look at the engineering

      20      challenges, and some of those best practices are, is

      21      some of it is hardening?

      22             You had mentioned things like riprap, and

      23      things like that, earlier, from the earlier

      24      testimony.

      25             Those are still only some techniques.


       1             We think we need to look at staging,

       2      stepping.

       3             We have to look at different approaches to,

       4      you know, whether it be [indiscernible], or

       5      different platforms, that are put out into the

       6      waterways to control flows.  Some of it can

       7      be weather -- for specific ice-jamming, that

       8      Assemblyman Santabarbara has -- may have some

       9      interest in here, in the Mohawk area.

      10             So we have to look at whether the kind of

      11      structure is jetties and things like that, that may

      12      need to be done.

      13             I've been encouraged by a lot of the Corps of

      14      Engineer work.  We actually had a presentation

      15      recently from them, on talking about some different

      16      ways they're looking at how they do near-shore

      17      construction, to allow for some of these things to

      18      be done.

      19             So there's that.

      20             There's also going to have to be some

      21      discussions about, you know:

      22             What are the zoning laws?

      23             What are some of the guidance you can have

      24      about how we think about the riverine areas, and how

      25      those are managed more effectively?


       1             And it really needs to come from the bottom

       2      up, from the local legislation -- local level,

       3      whether it be municipalities or at the town and

       4      county level, up to the State, and reinforcing,

       5      enabling them to really rethink how they have

       6      established that layering of guidance and law, to

       7      allow them to do that, because that directly affects

       8      the -- what people will do and what they won't do.

       9             And then, of course, I mean, the challenges

      10      and the economy are part of that.

      11             And, again, I'm not an expert in any of those

      12      areas, so I will hesitate to speak to that.  But

      13      I think that's definitely another part of it that's

      14      part of the play.

      15             And I think, if we look at several different

      16      aspects of that together, I think it may require

      17      additional study.  Again, we have expertise, both at

      18      ESF and at Clarkson.  We can certainly look at these

      19      things, to come up with some different things, from

      20      the economic, through the engineering, through some

      21      of the more social- and policy-related issues.

      22             I think that would be very good for the State

      23      to understand, and be a model for the nation,

      24      frankly, given that we really are a state blessed

      25      with everything you've got, from the ocean, to the


       1      inner lakes, and everything else.

       2             So...

       3             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you.

       4             I just -- I just want to conclude, and I know

       5      my time's expired, but, thank you and Clarkson and

       6      SUNY ESF for the great work that you've done.

       7             I know there's a financial ask here.

       8             And, you know, the Governor's made it clear

       9      that he doesn't want to throw good money after bad.

      10             We know that, in any project, if you cheap

      11      out on engineering, you're going to see it in change

      12      orders in the end.

      13             And when you're talking about

      14      New York State's environment and our future, this

      15      isn't the time to cheap out.

      16             You're the experts.  We need to continue to

      17      do your R&D that's going to make our water cleaner

      18      and our shoreline more resilient.

      19             So thank you very much.

      20             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  You're welcome, sir.

      21             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah, just very quickly:

      22             Sorry I was -- I had to be out during most of

      23      your testimony.  But I want you to know I'm fighting

      24      to make sure that we get -- we keep the Center of

      25      Excellence going, and -- and get more funding for it


       1      next year, because I think the work you're already

       2      doing is pretty amazing.

       3             And Assemblyman Santabarbara has assured me

       4      your testimony was really interesting, so I'm

       5      looking forward to reading it.

       6             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Thank you, Senator.

       7             SENATOR MAY:  I don't know if this question

       8      was asked before, but I am really interested in this

       9      3 million -- $3 billion bond act, and if there are

      10      specific things we should be asking for, we should

      11      be pushing for, to be included as part of that

      12      funding?

      13             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  I can't speak to it; I'm

      14      not knowledgeable in the bond act itself, Senator.

      15             I apologize, I've not read up on that.

      16             I will say that, one of the things to really

      17      think about is ways we can use communities as

      18      testing beds for different new ideas as we come out

      19      of -- what we're coming out of the Center of

      20      Excellence.

      21             Whether it be our HABs research; whether it

      22      be our PFOs, PFAs; whether it be some of these flood

      23      mitigations; an opportunity for those communities to

      24      try some things that are not in standard practice

      25      yet, but we are testing, we have good evidence, and


       1      we have good, you know, research being done in those

       2      areas.

       3             Giving them the opportunity to do that, that

       4      would be very helpful.

       5             Ah, one last thing, yeah, Kelly's reminding

       6      me, we have a Bass Master Tournament coming up.  So

       7      if you could help with that, that would be great.

       8             SENATOR MAY:  That would be good to know.

       9             OFF-CAMERA SPEAKER:  Bass fishing is

      10      [inaudible].

      11             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Yeah, yeah, world-class

      12      fishing is an important part of the state too.

      13             SENATOR MAY:  I'm wondering if, to what

      14      extent your -- when you're doing research, and --

      15      collaborative research, the kind of collaborative

      16      research you do, is governance part of the question

      17      that you're looking at?

      18             Or is it mostly just, you know, the technical

      19      side of things?

      20             Because that feels like, in watershed

      21      management, for example, something where we really

      22      need models and best practices.

      23             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Certainly, both for our

      24      colleagues at SUNY ESF and at Clarkson, we are

      25      absolutely looking at that, because one of our


       1      questions is:  Is the regulatory structure, or is

       2      the guidance that's available, the best guidance,

       3      and the right guidance, for the situation?

       4             As we were -- Assemblyman Santabarbara was

       5      bringing up, asking about, kind of, what are the

       6      best things to think about?

       7             How do we look at, you know, dealing with

       8      roadways and adjustments?

       9             They're very contextual-based, so there's not

      10      always a cookie-cutter answer for these.

      11             We need to be able to really adapt to the

      12      situation that's there.

      13             And, so, as we look at that, we have to look

      14      at not just the technical solution, but there's

      15      other parts of that that may be limiting us, that

      16      enable us to do that.

      17             So we are looking at those questions.

      18             Sometimes they're not as well-resourced in

      19      terms of looking at some of those questions, or

      20      there's some things that could be done, not

      21      necessarily from the State, but other places, that

      22      can enable us to do it.

      23             But other than that, they're definitely being

      24      looked at, Senator.

      25             SENATOR MAY:  Great.  Thank you.


       1             Senator Helming, did you have anything?

       2             SENATOR HELMING:  Yes, please.

       3             I want to thank you for being here, for your

       4      testimony.

       5             And I'm sorry I had to step out, I had

       6      another meeting.  But I will read the presentation

       7      that you left for us.

       8             I too wanted to echo what Senator May said

       9      regarding the Centers of Excellence.

      10             I think you have a proven model.  You're

      11      producing excellent information.

      12             And I will be a strong supporter and advocate

      13      for maintaining those Centers of Excellence.

      14             I was curious, on the topic of, you know,

      15      working with other agencies, or other organizations,

      16      if you will, and thinking about roadways, culverts,

      17      and so many of the areas where our -- say, our town

      18      highway superintendents or our county highway

      19      superintendents are involved, do you partner with

      20      the Cornell roads programs?

      21             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Absolutely.

      22             So we actually presented at their annual

      23      highway conference two years ago, talking about some

      24      of our capabilities.

      25             Chase Winston, who is a town supervisor in


       1      Oneida County, town of Sherburne, was our

       2      co-presenter.  And we worked with them to help deal

       3      with some of their culvert issues.

       4             And so, absolutely, Cornell Local Roads is

       5      part of the family of folks we work with.

       6             Personally, that's one of my partners.  And

       7      we've worked through how we can think about

       8      roadways, and other infrastructure tied to roadways

       9      that can be improved, whether it be for water issues

      10      or other issues that they have.

      11             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

      12             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  No problem.

      13             Thank you, Senator.

      14             SENATOR MAY:  Great.

      15             Thank you for your testimony, thank you for

      16      being here, and for the good work that you're doing.

      17             ERIK BACKUS, P.E.:  Thank you.

      18             SENATOR MAY:  Next up we have the director of

      19      planning for Ontario County, Tom Harvey.

      20             TOM HARVEY:  Thank you.

      21             And taking direction from the Chair, I will

      22      summarize my comments.

      23             And I'm not here today to talk about

      24      shoreline mitigation and/or repair and reaction.

      25             I'm here to talk about the causal effects.


       1             And, you know, you don't solve flooding

       2      problems at the shoreline.  You solve them up in the

       3      watershed.

       4             And we need to take a look at what we do in

       5      our watersheds, and how our regulations and our

       6      programs affect our reactions.

       7             The state of our current stormwater

       8      regulations, implementation of our stormwater

       9      facilities, and those regulations through local

      10      planning boards, outdated data on which

      11      stormwater-runoff calculations are made by the

      12      engineering community, and a scarcity of funding for

      13      stormwater remediation projects, all contribute to

      14      the problem in our rural areas.

      15             So let's talk about the DEC Stormwater

      16      Phase II regs.

      17             If you're building a new residential

      18      subdivision, your standard is a 15-year-design

      19      storm.

      20             Senate Helming mentioned earlier,

      21      microbursts.

      22             And I'm telling you right now, those

      23      overwhelm a 15-year-design facility.

      24             There is no guidance in the regulations from

      25      the engineering community to think about, when those


       1      facilities are overburdened, how does the water run

       2      through that residential subdivision?

       3             And I'll tell you what happens now.

       4             It runs -- finds the lowest point.  It runs

       5      into -- down somebody's driveway, into their garage,

       6      and in their front door.

       7             Happens every year in Ontario County.

       8             The regs don't have a clear responsibility or

       9      guidance to accommodate existing stormwater flows,

      10      and, especially, detention, where there's not a good

      11      understanding by the engineering community of that

      12      responsibility.

      13             We worked on a project in our office with our

      14      Office of Economic Development, a redevelopment

      15      project straddling the village of Shortsville and

      16      the town of Manchester line.  It involved a

      17      300,000-square-foot new facility.  And the first

      18      site plans that were submitted completely ignored

      19      all the upland stormwater flows.

      20             Every spring, there was natural detention

      21      that happened on this property.

      22             The property was -- you know, the engineering

      23      plans were all grated to completely eliminate that

      24      stormwater detention.

      25             If it wasn't for the fact that county


       1      planning was involved in that project, the end of

       2      the -- design of the facilities would have been a

       3      third of the size that they needed to be, and

       4      property -- industrial property neighboring a

       5      densely-populated residential area.

       6             I think another deficiency in the stormwater

       7      regs, is there's no requirement to take a look and

       8      model the upland flows.

       9             And, again, we talked about that example.

      10      And I've got several others, happens every day.

      11             There's a lack of understanding and

      12      implementation of the DEC in the existing regs by

      13      many municipal boards.

      14             Once an engineer in front of a local board

      15      says, "Hey, the design meets DEC Phase II stormwater

      16      requirements," click, off the review goes.

      17             And we don't look at the watershed.  We don't

      18      look at what's happening downstream.

      19             We just address what happened in our

      20      stormwater mitigation for a 15-year-design storm on

      21      our property.

      22             Many local boards also errantly assume --

      23             And I've got to tell you, it happened to me

      24      in a planning board meeting last night.

      25             -- that, when each lot in a subdivision is


       1      less than an acre, oh, we don't even need to

       2      register for the statewide general permit for

       3      stormwater discharges during construction.

       4             Blatantly not true, but local boards don't

       5      understand that.

       6             There are very few zoning laws and

       7      subdivision regulations that have language in them

       8      that talk about no net increase in stormwater flows.

       9             And when they do, they still rely on a

      10      10-year- or 15-year-design storm.

      11             They concentrate mostly on positive drainage;

      12      get the water off of your property.

      13             Rainfall intensity, those engineering calcs,

      14      or standards, that are used for calculating runoff

      15      amounts, they need updating.

      16             You know, I'm glad to hear there's work being

      17      done on that, but that's part of the problem.

      18             We've taken advantage in Ontario County, many

      19      times, and many of our partner agencies as well, of

      20      water-quality-improvement program funding.  And

      21      we've done several very successful projects over the

      22      years.

      23             Unfortunately, last year, some changes in

      24      that program seemed to make some of our projects

      25      ineligible, such as the Kashong Creek detention


       1      project called for in the Seneca Lake Watershed

       2      Management Plan.  It was rejected as a strictly

       3      stormwater-management project, and not eligible for

       4      funding, just at the time when, again, the problems

       5      in the watershed, fix it in the watershed.

       6             And it's making it harder for to us get

       7      funding.

       8             And, again, the long history of being

       9      involved in agricultural operations personally, and

      10      a big fan of agriculture, very important for our

      11      rural character, a good healthy environment, but,

      12      some of our practices that are accepted, tiling,

      13      ditching, there is no requirement to replace that

      14      stormwater detention that happens naturally on our

      15      agricultural land.

      16             And those pieces of the project, even when a

      17      farmer wants to do it, they're not eligible for

      18      funding.

      19             You know, we want to get -- be very efficient

      20      in our agricultural operations, and in our doling

      21      out of scarce financial resources.

      22             But some of those little niceties that really

      23      impact downstream need to be funded, and taken a

      24      look at.

      25             And I'm not saying that happens -- has to


       1      happen on every individual farm.  But, again, the

       2      watershed, or that local stream's watershed, or --

       3      needs to be reviewed, and detention built into that.

       4             So I'm just going to summarize:

       5             You know, expanded funding is needed for

       6      stormwater mitigation projects up in the watershed

       7      where it's the most effective.

       8             State regulations do need to be updated, and

       9      to ensure that new development is having no net

      10      impact on stormwater discharge rates and quality, to

      11      eliminate the need for future after-the-fact

      12      mitigation.

      13             More education and guidance is needed for

      14      local planning boards and design professionals, to

      15      clearly understand the state regulations and

      16      properly implement those stormwater regulations at

      17      the local level.

      18             And, again, we need to stop approving designs

      19      for new facilities that don't adequately incorporate

      20      stormwater-mitigation projects throughout our

      21      watershed.

      22             The problem just isn't at the shoreline.

      23             Thank you.

      24             SENATOR MAY:  All right, thank you.

      25             It's great to hear from a fellow stumpy.


       1             I read your recommendations as, basically, we

       2      need more SUNY ESF graduates in local government and

       3      zoning.

       4             Is that -- would it be summarized to that?

       5             TOM HARVEY:  Thank you.  Good to hear.

       6             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah.

       7             So do you have a recommendation?

       8             So you have a lot of complaints about using

       9      the 15-year design.

      10             What design, what would you replace it with?

      11             TOM HARVEY:  Oh, that's a great.

      12             And, again, I will defer to my engineering

      13      colleagues.

      14             But it's certainly something that needs to be

      15      looked at in the guidelines.

      16             I know it's 15 years a foot of, you know,

      17      free board, et cetera, et cetera.

      18             But, you know, we're seeing, again and again,

      19      we work very closely with our emergency management

      20      office.

      21             It's our department that wrote the County's

      22      emergency management plan.

      23             And, again, every year we see the results of

      24      these little microbursts, even in a small watershed,

      25      bigger watershed.  And it impacts people that have


       1      those 30-year mortgages.  They're getting flooded

       2      two or three times during that period.  And it's

       3      because those stormwater infrastructure in their

       4      neighborhood is overburdened.  And no thought was,

       5      how does that excess water move through a

       6      subdivision?

       7             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah.

       8             TOM HARVEY:  And -- yep.

       9             SENATOR MAY:  Well, thank you for calling

      10      attention to that.

      11             And I do know, you know, a lot of our local

      12      governance in New York makes it hard to do

      13      sustainability planning at a regional level, or to

      14      address issues upstream, or, you know, up in the

      15      watershed, before they get to the shore.

      16             But I appreciate your work on doing that.

      17             And I'm trying to do it here in the

      18      Legislature too, so I know I'm not alone.

      19             So, are there any other questions?

      20             SENATOR HELMING:  Yes.

      21             Go ahead.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  I just wanted

      23      to -- well, I want to thank you for your testimony,

      24      and, yeah, I'm going to look into that 15-year.

      25             I wonder how they came up with that


       1      [indiscernible cross-talking] --

       2             TOM HARVEY:  Well, it's kind of a compromise,

       3      you know.

       4             And -- and -- you know, in New York State, we

       5      have a long history of wanting to encourage

       6      development.  And, in many cases, you know, we don't

       7      have a lot of impact fees, and other things.  And

       8      the people are very afraid of the fact that, if new

       9      development had to carry its actual cost of its

      10      impact, we would discourage development.

      11             But, you know, we need to think about that.

      12             You know, my brother, many years ago, moved

      13      to Michigan.  And, visiting one time, and he said,

      14      Well, you know, how much is a lot?

      15             And I said, Well, you know, an acre, you can

      16      buy that, you know, put a house on it.  You know,

      17      buy in a rural area for, you know, ten,

      18      fifteen thousand dollars.

      19             And he looks at me and he goes, In Michigan,

      20      you'd pay $80,000 for that lot, because you'd have a

      21      school impact fee and a drainage impact fee.

      22             And, you know, he couldn't believe how

      23      inexpensive it was to develop.

      24             And this is from, you know, a state that, you

      25      know, has a lot of gray-belt issues, and not a lot


       1      of new development.  But, still, they understand

       2      that new development carries impacts, and it's

       3      cumulative.

       4             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure.

       5             And rainfall intensity, I think you're right,

       6      because when I was doing engineering, I don't think

       7      those numbers -- those number -- the calculations

       8      have been the same for a very long time as far as

       9      calculating rainfall.

      10             TOM HARVEY:  Yes, they have.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  I don't think it's

      12      ever changed, even before my time.

      13             And I guess they're the same calculations

      14      now.

      15             So that's a good thing to point out, that it

      16      should be looked at at this point, because we are

      17      seeing changes, climate change, and

      18      [indiscernible cross-talking] --

      19             TOM HARVEY:  Yeah, you scratch your head.

      20             And, again, I'm a chair of a local planning

      21      board.  And, you know, I look at a subdivision that

      22      we approved, and was constructed 15 years ago, or, a

      23      stormwater facility that we designed on the FL --

      24      Finger Lakes Community College campus.  And design

      25      exceed those standards.


       1             But, you know, in 15 years, the 50-year, the

       2      100-year, storm has been exceeded, you know, six, or

       3      four, times.

       4             And, obviously, in the small watershed of,

       5      you know, a couple hundred acres, or 20 acres, those

       6      numbers just, you know, don't add up to reality.

       7             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yeah, and that's a

       8      good question for DEC and the engineers, if that's

       9      something --

      10             TOM HARVEY:  Community.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  -- we have more

      12      data now too.  So, I mean, there's more history, as

      13      far as how rainfall behave -- you know, rainfall

      14      behavior, and what these patterns are.

      15             So I think that's something I will look into,

      16      and ask them if they have plans do that at some

      17      point, just update those numbers.

      18             And, we'll look into the grants --

      19      water-quality grants being more accessible.

      20             And I think the -- the agriculture, you

      21      talked about, yeah, that's interesting to me.

      22             So that they're kind of exempt from a lot of

      23      these regulations?

      24             Is that --

      25             TOM HARVEY:  Yeah, I mean, you know, you get


       1      funding, or you do a project to tile your field.

       2      And, you know, it takes away that water-retention

       3      capacity of the soils because, you know, you're

       4      trying to get on the good farmland, and you get a

       5      short window of opportunity there -- right? -- and

       6      appreciate the motivation of the agricultural

       7      operators.

       8             But at the same time, there are downstream

       9      impacts that go along with that.  Right?

      10             And, you know, again, those are -- there is

      11      no requirement to think about that, or plan it at a

      12      watershed basis.  So that throws back to the local

      13      municipality.

      14             And larger-project grant funding, to say,

      15      gee, you know, water quality in the Canandaigua Lake

      16      watershed is an issue.  We need to -- you know,

      17      we're getting too much erosion from this particular

      18      stream.  We've got to go looking for a site and do a

      19      stormwater and water-quality improvement mitigation

      20      project somewhere.

      21             And those cost -- you know, those additive

      22      little decisions that get made create the need for

      23      these big projects.

      24             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And I know there's

      25      been some funding, at least in my district, for


       1      erosion control and water quality, that farms have

       2      applied for and received on a project-by-project

       3      basis.

       4             But the Farm Bureaus I think are up next, so

       5      maybe that's a question we can ask them.

       6             But, thank you for your testimony.

       7             That's all I have.

       8             TOM HARVEY:  Thank you, sir.

       9             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you for being here

      10      today, Tom.  I really appreciate you making the

      11      trip.

      12             You had talked about local land-use boards,

      13      planning boards, zoning boards, et cetera.

      14             In your opinion, it sounds like you believe

      15      that they play a role in helping to prevent

      16      flooding.

      17             What can the State do to help?

      18             I think you mentioned, like, possibly

      19      educating local planning board members? local town

      20      board members?

      21             TOM HARVEY:  Yeah, I think, you know,

      22      certainly, and, you know, we do have -- we host

      23      every year training from the state -- department of

      24      state, local government services.

      25             But, there's not a lot of targeted training,


       1      even from that group, that talks about stormwater

       2      issues and stormwater mitigation.

       3             A lot of the code enforcement officers get

       4      training through -- sponsored by the soil and water

       5      conservation districts, and other programs, even

       6      Cornell Cooperative Extension.  But it often doesn't

       7      translate to what's available for planning boards.

       8             And -- and I think -- you know, I'll just say

       9      it:

      10             Oftentimes these rural boards don't have a

      11      lot of resources.  They try to keep costs down.

      12             They may not have a town engineer looking at,

      13      or engineer hired by the town looking at, these

      14      plans and bringing up these issues, because they're,

      15      again, trying not to discourage development.

      16             And, you just don't see a depth of review of

      17      the -- of stormwater mitigation in these projects,

      18      and they all add up.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  Tom, I just want to have

      20      you clarify for me:  Is there any reason why that

      21      the local land-use boards couldn't add review

      22      criteria for looking at the entire watershed?

      23             TOM HARVEY:  Well, again, it's an entire

      24      watershed for the stream, the ditch, the upland

      25      area.


       1             But, you know, you have to carefully word it

       2      so you're not asking somebody to look at the whole

       3      Canandaigua Lake watershed.  Right?

       4             But, you know, there is nothing preventing

       5      that.

       6             I think the fear is, that they're adding

       7      engineering costs and burden on individual

       8      applicants.

       9             And I see a very -- a reluctance to do that.

      10             SENATOR HELMING:  Yep.

      11             And just if you would, if you're comfortable

      12      with it, just talking for a moment on watershed

      13      organizations; watershed councils, watershed boards,

      14      and the role that they play in flood prevention,

      15      mitigation, et cetera.

      16             TOM HARVEY:  One of our very significant

      17      partners are the local watershed agencies, such as

      18      Canandaigua Watershed Council, and they do projects

      19      independently.

      20             We team with them.

      21             We're doing one now on the FLCC campus to

      22      address Fallbrook and their stormwater projects.

      23             They're very important.

      24             We work with Honeoye, we work with the Seneca

      25      Lake Intermunicipal Organization as well, that


       1      watershed management group, and SLAP 5 partners in

       2      the past.

       3             So, you know, very, very important work that

       4      volunteers do, in many cases, to elevate the

       5      public's understanding of the issues, and the

       6      importance, whether it's, you know, home lawn

       7      fertilization, or these bigger stormwater projects.

       8             So, great partners, and very important.

       9             SENATOR HELMING:  I just wanted to mention

      10      too, I agree with you that, the watershed councils,

      11      the watershed boards, around the Finger Lakes play

      12      an incredible role in protecting water quality,

      13      flood mitigation, et cetera.

      14             And it's incredibly important that the

      15      funding be restored, or maintained, in the budget

      16      for the employees of those watersheds.

      17             You have to have someone who's a full-time

      18      employee, who's really rounding up all of the

      19      municipal agencies and organization.

      20             In Ontario County, around Canandaigua Lake,

      21      how many municipalities do you work with?

      22             It's got to be, 14? 17?

      23             TOM HARVEY:  You know, I think there are

      24      seven in the watershed.

      25             There are 26 municipalities just in


       1      Ontario County.

       2             The Seneca Lake Intermunicipal Organization,

       3      you know --

       4             SENATOR HELMING:  So there are a number?

       5             TOM HARVEY:  -- that one is, like, 52.

       6      I mean, it's a staggering number.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  And I believe they got

       8      funding one year, and it wasn't [indiscernible] --

       9             TOM HARVEY:  Yes, and we're working with

      10      that.  We're administering the grant on behalf of

      11      that organization.

      12             SENATOR HELMING:  And then, just real quick,

      13      how has past flooding impacted the county's

      14      infrastructure?

      15             TOM HARVEY:  And that certainly is always a

      16      challenge.  And we're always looking for matching

      17      funding, and -- to -- because of all these -- these

      18      programs are -- require the matching funding.

      19             And it hurts the counties, and I'll be

      20      perfectly honest, it probably hurts the soil and

      21      water conservation districts the worst, not so much

      22      the tax cap, but the fact that so many of these

      23      programs are reimbursement grants.  And the

      24      districts have limited resources on which to pull

      25      and front those costs.


       1             SENATOR HELMING:  Thank you.

       2             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

       3             Thank you for your testimony.

       4             TOM HARVEY:  Thank you very much as well.

       5             SENATOR MAY:  Next up we have

       6      Elizabeth Wolters from the New York Farm Bureau.

       7             Welcome.

       8             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Thank you for having me.

       9             I'll be brief, as the day is getting long.

      10             My name is Elizabeth Wolters.  I'm the deputy

      11      director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau.

      12             Our farmers are on the forefront every day of

      13      these adverse -- increased adverse weather events

      14      across the state.

      15             And I wanted to draw attention to not only

      16      the national-headline storms, like "Irene," "Sandy,"

      17      and "Lee," the instance that we're seeing on

      18      Lake Ontario, but our daily farming activities have

      19      been impacted by these, particularly up by the lake.

      20             I talked to one farmer who said:  You know,

      21      yeah, the lake level rising is a concern for

      22      infrastructure and the obvious effects.

      23             But one of the big effects that it's having

      24      on agriculture is the saturation of the soils by the

      25      lake.  It is increasing the time it takes for the


       1      lake soils to drain, so it's delaying the planting

       2      season even further.

       3             Couple on that, additional rainfall, and

       4      those types of activities, we're seeing that getting

       5      out on field is a much more difficult process in the

       6      spring.

       7             It happens on Lake Ontario.  It happens on

       8      many of the creeks, rivers and streams that our

       9      farmland is adjacent to.

      10             So I wanted to make just that point as an

      11      aside, and I want to be brief and not read my


      13             I do want to draw attention to the fact that

      14      crop losses are needed in order to receive federal

      15      assistance.

      16             So, emergency declarations are very

      17      important, timely ones are very important.

      18             But there needs to be an understanding that

      19      these losses aren't necessarily covered by any of

      20      our federal programs because of the difficulty.

      21             And accounting for the losses, the range,

      22      depending on the crop-insurance program at the

      23      federal level, can range anywhere from a 15 percent

      24      loss up to a 50 percent loss, depending on the

      25      program.


       1             So that is a challenge.

       2             There is a challenge with making sure that,

       3      if it's in an area where crop production is for

       4      feed, ensuring that there is feed available for

       5      animals.

       6             We are very lucky to have the eat-in network,

       7      which is run through Cornell Cooperative Extension

       8      here in New York.

       9             That does have a communications-forum

      10      platform as part of the program.  It helps connect

      11      farmers with feed from other areas in the state, so

      12      that they can supplement, and find those resources,

      13      in order to ensure the welfare of their animals.

      14             I'll just close by saying that, you know,

      15      we've been really fortunate with the coordination of

      16      all the agencies in these events, even down to

      17      Department of Agriculture [indiscernible].

      18             I won't diminish their work at all, because

      19      these are really -- really critical services that

      20      they help provide, in communication to our farmers,

      21      in communicating the needs of farmers, impacted by

      22      these adverse weather events and flooding.

      23             So I will open up to questions.

      24             Really appreciate you having us here today,

      25      and you have my testimony, so...


       1             SENATOR MAY:  Oh, thank you so much.

       2             Thanks for being here, thanks for your

       3      testimony.

       4             I know farmers are the victims of a lot

       5      flooding damage.

       6             Farmers also can play a real role in

       7      preventing flooding by their land management, and

       8      that kind of thing.

       9             I don't know if that's something the

      10      Farm Bureau is involved in, sort of helping farmers

      11      understand how managing their own land has an impact

      12      downstream on flooding, and making sure, you know,

      13      whether it's no till or cover crops or -- or having

      14      buffers along -- along waterways.

      15             How involved is the Farm Bureau in that kind

      16      of education for farmers?

      17             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  So, our farmers are

      18      really -- the education component of all those

      19      practices really comes out of our land grant

      20      university, our Cornell Cooperative Extension; those

      21      people are the boots on the ground.

      22             What Farm Bureau does is try to help connect

      23      those folks advocate here in Albany in terms of

      24      programs that are needed in order to adopt those

      25      good practices.


       1             We were happy to participate a couple of

       2      weeks ago at the soil-health roundtable, to talk

       3      about, you know, soil health, because that has such

       4      a large component on how much water the soil can

       5      hold.

       6             We know more organic material, the better it

       7      acts as a sponge.

       8             There are a lot of practices, whether they're

       9      cover crops to prevent, you know, that quick runoff,

      10      riparian buffers around streams and other

      11      environmentally-sensitive areas.

      12             So we don't necessarily do the education of

      13      the farmers.  We leave that to Cornell.

      14             But we advocate for all the programs and the

      15      research that those folks need in order to provide

      16      those services to the farmers.

      17             SENATOR MAY:  All right.  Thank you.

      18             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Yep.

      19             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Thank you for your

      20      testimony, thank you for being here.

      21             Just -- I guess, just a couple of questions.

      22             The -- I know there's -- in my district, and

      23      particularly in Montgomery County, there have been

      24      recipients of a lot of the water-quality grants,

      25      erosion-control grants.


       1             Have those been helpful?

       2             Have you heard feedback, is that -- are those

       3      grants working?

       4             Are those projects actually helping manage

       5      the -- manage the land?

       6             Because [indiscernible] -- you know, a lot

       7      this comes down to funding, whether or not you can

       8      do these practices -- these best practices.

       9             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Yeah, and depending on

      10      what practices they're doing, most of them are

      11      cost-share.  So, in the farm economy right now that

      12      can be a challenge.

      13             But, yes, they are very helpful.

      14             We advocate for that funding.

      15             We have been supportive of the bond act

      16      that's going through now because it could provide

      17      for more resources.

      18             There is a mention in the brief language

      19      there about, you know, on farm practices.

      20             And we want to make sure that there is enough

      21      resources for farmers who want to participate in

      22      water-quality projects.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Yeah, and,

      24      unfortunately, they're competitive grants, so not

      25      everybody is able to secure them, depending on


       1      certain conditions.

       2             I -- I guess I would ask you, in the budget,

       3      would it be helpful to fund more of these projects,

       4      these competitive grants, or have another source

       5      of -- source of accessing this type of funding?

       6             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Yes, more money is always

       7      great.

       8             We're happy with where the EPF is right now.

       9      The Governor put in full funding for a majority

      10      of -- I think all of the programs that we look at

      11      for these types of water-quality projects.

      12             I guess we're careful of asking for too much

      13      because there's -- they can only get the money out

      14      so quickly.

      15             So making sure that we have a consistent

      16      year-to-year funding source I think is important

      17      over just big large sums in one or two given years.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  And you mentioned

      19      declaring a state of emergency.

      20             Is that something the State has not done?

      21             Is that -- I guess -- you know, the county

      22      can do it, and then the state can do it.

      23             Is there -- you mentioned there have been

      24      some -- maybe some issues as far as timeliness of

      25      that.


       1             Could you just talk about that a little more?

       2             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Yeah, so I think the

       3      State -- the counties and the states have responded.

       4             I think we just, I believe it was last week,

       5      got the final declaration from the federal

       6      government on a couple of the areas around Ontario,

       7      and then also in the Fulton-Montgomery area, for the

       8      Halloween storm.

       9             So it does take time because a lot of it is

      10      just based on the regulations, and what losses, and

      11      kind of the proof process.

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Sure.

      13             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  So we encourage farmers,

      14      if you do have losses, even if you don't think that

      15      you're going to qualify for programs, that you

      16      report those losses, because it does help impact

      17      those decisions at the federal level.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Okay.  That's all

      19      I have.

      20             Thank you.

      21             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Uh-huh.

      22             SENATOR MAY:  Senator Helming?

      23             SENATOR HELMING:  Elizabeth, I just want to

      24      thank you for being here, and for your testimony.

      25             I feel that all too often, when we talk about


       1      flooding or we talk about runoff, the finger's

       2      pointed at the farmer, and that's not always the

       3      case.

       4             What I found from traveling around the state

       5      in my work on several water boards, is that the

       6      farmers are great partners.  They have been so

       7      receptive to new best-management practices.

       8             And to the Assemblyman's point, you're right,

       9      it's very helpful when the farmland/the FPIG

      10      programs are available, or the manure-storage

      11      program funding is available.

      12             And the more opportunities that we can

      13      embrace to help the farmers, I think it's going to

      14      help with flooding and water-quality mitigation.

      15             So I just want to thank you again.

      16             I know you're always available should any

      17      questions arise.

      18             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Uh-huh.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  I also want to compliment,

      20      although Farm Bureau maybe wasn't a presenter, they

      21      have been -- they've had a presence at a number of

      22      local events, where farmers get together with people

      23      from watershed groups, and they talk about

      24      best-management practices and how to implement

      25      those.


       1             And I think the more we promote that, all of

       2      us getting together and talking about that, the more

       3      success we're going have.

       4             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  And we work in close

       5      concert with Soil and Water Conservation, NRCS, DEC,

       6      all of these folks, to make sure there is a

       7      conversation throughout the different levels.

       8             We're very lucky here in New York State to

       9      have such a robust soil and water, and active soil

      10      and water, conservation districts.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Assemblyman

      12      Walczyk, please.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Thank you so much for

      14      sticking up for New York's -- (turns on microphone).

      15             Oh, I got it now.  Plenty loud.

      16             Thank you so much for sticking up for

      17      New York's farmers.

      18             I think we've been working in a place where

      19      it has been exceedingly difficult, on the policy

      20      end, to make sure that their voice is heard loud and

      21      clear here.

      22             And while -- Senator Pam Helming and I, we

      23      sit on the Birkholz Institute Nutrient Task Force

      24      for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed.  And,

      25      you know, everyone, statewide, agriculture industry


       1      included, is concerned about having clean water.

       2             Unfortunately, not all the votes in Albany

       3      are concerned with the success of the agriculture

       4      industry.

       5             It's, certainly, us in the Rural Resources

       6      Commission are.

       7             So, first, I guess, my question is kind of

       8      open-ended, because I think there are times where

       9      agriculture and the goal of clean water can come

      10      into conflict.  And I'm hoping you can just kind

      11      speak to that.

      12             How can -- how can we push agriculture

      13      forward -- well, push clean water forward without

      14      harming our agriculture industry?

      15             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Well, I think, you know,

      16      I'll bring up the "tile drainage" comment that was

      17      made previously, that, you know, there isn't a large

      18      conversation when a tilage [ph.] project is

      19      completed on a farm.

      20             There are numerous agencies in the state,

      21      from, you know, local soil and water, NRCS, DEC,

      22      that all are involved with that type of project.

      23             I think, as any landowner, something that you

      24      do on your land is going to impact, potentially,

      25      something downstream.


       1             And our farmers do try to be good stewards,

       2      and they do tile drainage or other water-quality

       3      projects because they know that.

       4             And tile drainage is also done -- is often

       5      done to prevent large runoff events which have a

       6      larger impact than would happen from having drainage

       7      available.

       8             You know, there are nutrient runoff that

       9      still comes from tilage [ph.] drainage, but it does

      10      help mitigate a lot of the sediment.  You don't

      11      lose, you know, the years of work that you've done

      12      in growing the biological material in your soils

      13      that help further hold water.

      14             So I think the first-and-foremost thing is

      15      just to talk to farmers, talk about the practices

      16      that they're doing, because I think there's a lack

      17      of understanding.

      18             You know, I think oftentimes we read about

      19      farming, and it's not about New York farming; it's

      20      not the practices that we're doing here in New York.

      21             It -- we have a breadth and depth of

      22      different practices, different types of agriculture,

      23      in New York.  We have so many unique soil

      24      conditions, that we have been doing research for

      25      decades on this, and trying to be good stewards of


       1      the land, including water quality.

       2             We're fortunate to have the Miner Institute

       3      up in northern New York doing probably one of only

       4      two research projects in the nation on tile

       5      drainage.

       6             So it's constantly evolving science, and

       7      learning more on how to better manage our farms.

       8             But I think that the biggest request is to

       9      talk to different farmers; talk about their

      10      practices, and don't make assumptions that, you

      11      know, they're just trying to throw fertilizer down,

      12      throw nutrients down, without a plan, because they

      13      have plans.  And they work with a lot of

      14      professionals for guidance and advice on those

      15      plans.

      16             And, yeah, talk to us.

      17             Don't talk to me; talk to them.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  Very well said.

      19             And I think the more we on the Legislative

      20      Commission on Rural Resources can amplify that

      21      message to our colleagues is going to be critically

      22      important for New York's farmers, moving forward.

      23             And I thank you again for your testimony, and

      24      for sticking up for New York's farmers.

      25             ELIZABETH WOLTERS:  Appreciate it.


       1             SENATOR MAY:  Yeah, thank you very much.

       2             Next we have Rob Carpenter from the

       3      Long Island Farm Bureau.

       4             And after that, just one more,

       5      Blanche Hurlbutt.

       6             Is she here?

       7             Hi.

       8             ROB CARPENTER:  Yeah, I guess it is

       9      afternoon.

      10             So, good afternoon.

      11             I wanted to take this opportunity, first, to

      12      recognize the great staff of the Rural Resources

      13      Commission.

      14             They've been doing a great job on a number of

      15      different issues.  And I know they don't always get

      16      all the credit.

      17             But I also wanted to thank you for holding

      18      this hearing.

      19             This is a very important matter that affects

      20      farmers and residents of New York State.

      21             My name is Rob Carpenter, and I'm the

      22      director of Long Island Farm Bureau.

      23             As a county farm bureau, we represent the

      24      remaining 550 farm operations on Long Island,

      25      primarily in eastern Suffolk County where over


       1      30,000 acres of farmland are still in production.

       2             Despite the general perception of

       3      Long Island, we consider eastern Suffolk to still be

       4      rural.

       5             So we're very glad that you're having us here

       6      to speak for the Long Island area.

       7             In my visits and conversations with farmers,

       8      we routinely discuss their growing production

       9      season, and how farmers have changed planting times

      10      in the spring, and harvesting later in the fall,

      11      first frost coming later into November, and the

      12      increased amount of heavy rain events of two or more

      13      inches over a 24-hour period.

      14             Additionally, our Suffolk County Legislature

      15      has begun a task force to look at how new

      16      infrastructure, or reconstruction of our road and

      17      infrastructure of transportation, now take into

      18      account these heavy rainstorms that are coming into

      19      play.

      20             Over the last decades, farmers have been very

      21      fortunate that more crops have not been lost to

      22      these heavy-rain events, impacting farm operations

      23      with catastrophic loss.

      24             However, we recognize these heavy-rain events

      25      are becoming more frequent, and have the potential


       1      to create excessive crop damage in the future.

       2             Currently, as Elizabeth mentioned, there are

       3      few, if any, effective programs to help farmers

       4      recover from flood damage should a disaster be

       5      declared by the Governor due to a heavy rainstorm.

       6             The first and main program in place is a

       7      federal program through the USDA Farm Service

       8      Agency.

       9             If the Governor does declare a county a

      10      disaster area, FSA programs are open to farmers who

      11      must thoroughly document damage.

      12             And, if accepted by FSA, basically, all they

      13      are offered is low-interest loans, which the farmers

      14      on Long Island generally don't use, because all it

      15      does is add to their existing debt burdens, if any.

      16             Farmers on Long Island do participate in the

      17      crop-insurance program to some extent.

      18             But even that program is not effective as it

      19      could be, because nothing compares to actually

      20      growing a crop and bringing it to market, and

      21      allowing the market to run things, versus a

      22      crop-insurance program that may pay, for example,

      23      the state average in yield or a lower price as

      24      compared to free-market.

      25             So I did make a couple of recommendations in


       1      my testimony, just for your guidance.

       2             The first recommendation that I would like to

       3      make is, to encourage the Legislature to ask the

       4      Commissioner of New York Ag and Markets to develop a

       5      New York State crop-insurance or crop-loss program

       6      to help our farmers, knowing that these future rain

       7      events are going to happen, and find an appropriate

       8      source of funding.

       9             That local community helping local farmers

      10      would go a tremendous way, versus some of the FSA

      11      programs or federal programs that are out there.

      12             We also believe the best way to handle

      13      flooding issues is to prevent them before they

      14      happen.

      15             The soil and water districts in each county

      16      across New York and the United States have already

      17      been working towards that goal.

      18             Our soil and water districts, to my

      19      knowledge, are the only entity in New York that is

      20      established to work with both private landowners and

      21      public landowners at the same time.

      22             And that's a very valuable resource.

      23             Districts are currently implementing

      24      programs, including, but not limited to, floodplain

      25      restoration, stream bank and river restoration,


       1      drainage and irrigation systems.  They work with the

       2      county on MS4 programs, as well as emergency flood

       3      planning and preparedness.

       4             And I understand that executive director of

       5      NYACD, Blanche Hurlbutt, is due to speak.  And she's

       6      going to talk more about all of the programs that

       7      the districts do.

       8             But, with that in mind, one of the

       9      recommendations that we would like to bring forth

      10      from Long Island, is to work to help the soil and

      11      water districts by increasing their funding.

      12             And we're just suggesting an amount of

      13      three to five million dollars annually, so that the

      14      districts can continue to do the work of mitigating

      15      the flood damage before it happens by utilizing

      16      existing staffing and program.

      17             And I know it's a tight budget year, and it's

      18      just a recommendation, but any help to the districts

      19      that you can provide would be tremendous for the

      20      great work that they do.

      21             Also, the New York State Legislature passed

      22      last year the Climate Leadership and Community

      23      Protection Act, a very historic piece of legislation

      24      with ambitious goals for the next number of years.

      25             One of the ways that our farm community will


       1      potentially be engaged in this legislation is

       2      through carbon sequestration, a/k/a maintaining or

       3      sequestering the carbon right in the soils, along

       4      with some of the other components that go with

       5      farming.

       6             Composting has been shown to be an effective

       7      tool in adding organic matter to soils, as well as

       8      reducing compaction, all while allowing nitrogen and

       9      carbon to be sequestered so it can be utilized by

      10      the crop that's being planted on that land.

      11             Less compaction in the soils will also allow

      12      more water to be absorbed and retained, thus,

      13      preventing runoff, as well as allowing recharge to

      14      watersheds, and in particular on Long Island, our

      15      sole-source aquifer.

      16             And this is one of the programs that our

      17      farmers on Long Island have embraced greatly because

      18      they do realize that the agricultural lands are a

      19      major source of recharge into our sole-source

      20      aquifer.

      21             Many farmers are voluntarily embracing

      22      soil-health practices, as it's good for the

      23      environment, as well as economically beneficial for

      24      the farm operations.

      25             SENATOR MAY:  Mr. Carpenter --


       1             ROB CARPENTER:  However, investment in new

       2      machinery, such as no-till drills, compost

       3      spreaders, machinery to actually work the compost,

       4      as well as siting issues, need to be made more

       5      effective to add these practices to farm operations.

       6             SENATOR MAY:  Mr. Carpenter, let me just

       7      interrupt because you just have two minutes left.

       8             So can you jump ahead just to your

       9      recommendations?

      10             ROB CARPENTER:  Yep.

      11             SENATOR MAY:  I think that would be helpful.

      12             ROB CARPENTER:  I'm just about finished.

      13             SENATOR MAY:  Thanks.

      14             ROB CARPENTER:  So one of the things that we

      15      would like to ask for is additional funding for our

      16      compost research; additional help with farmers for

      17      nutrient management plan and soil-health plans, and

      18      capital investment for farmers to be able to do

      19      these issues.

      20             And, finally, in wrapping up, one of the

      21      other things that we've noticed is, in asking the

      22      question about being prepared and dealing with

      23      things before, could be, some of the regulations

      24      that are in place might actually hurt more than is

      25      helping, as far as permitting processes or being


       1      able to deal with situations.

       2             And one recommendation that we have would be,

       3      to have the state soil and water committee work with

       4      DEC to make recommendations to you as the

       5      Legislature, to say, hey, some of these permits or

       6      some of these regulations might be better off if we

       7      were able to tweak them in certain ways.

       8             So thank you very much for the opportunity,

       9      and I welcome any questions you might have.

      10             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you very much.

      11             I don't have any questions.

      12             Does anyone have questions?

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Assemblymember

      14      Smullen?

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  Mr. Carpenter, thanks

      16      so much for coming up and telling us the view from

      17      Long Island.

      18             One of the things that we learned in the

      19      Halloween flooding is that an ounce of prevention is

      20      worth a pound of cure.

      21             And you mentioned specifically the soil and

      22      water conservation districts.

      23             Could you elaborate a bit further on some of

      24      the stream restoration, I guess you could say,

      25      authorities that the soil and water conservation


       1      districts have in regards to both public and private

       2      entities, to be able to coordinate, and to try to

       3      get ahead of these issues so we can actually save

       4      public resources by not having to do so much after

       5      the fact?

       6             ROB CARPENTER:  Sure.

       7             I am not a technical technical expert as much

       8      as some of the district managers are.

       9             But I do know the districts work very closely

      10      with many highway departments and town boards to

      11      work on these dream recommendations.

      12             And I think that Blanche is going to talk a

      13      little bit about maybe one or two of the issues that

      14      the we're having with regards to that.

      15             And Blanche, I think, can also better fill

      16      you in on some of the technical aspects of what the

      17      districts do.

      18             On Long Island, we don't necessarily have as

      19      many streams going around farms more than we do

      20      lakes and ponds.

      21             So it's not something I'm absolutely familiar

      22      with as I probably should be.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  Thank you.

      24             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you very much for your

      25      testimony; appreciate it.


       1             ROB CARPENTER:  Great.  Thank you.

       2             SENATOR MAY:  And last, but not least,

       3      Blanche Hurlbutt of the New York Association of

       4      Conservation Districts.

       5             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  Hi.

       6             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you for being here.

       7             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  Save the best for the last.

       8      Right?

       9             I'd like to thank you so much for allowing me

      10      to be here today to discuss these -- the current

      11      flooding emergency and mitigation efforts that need

      12      to -- for the future assistance, due to the increase

      13      in the extreme weather.

      14             I would like to share with you the best-kept

      15      secret within New York State, and that is the soil

      16      and water conservation districts.

      17             There are 62 soil and water conservation

      18      districts within New York, counting the

      19      five New York City boroughs.

      20             These districts work alongside farmers,

      21      landowners, counties, towns, and state highway

      22      departments to continue to protect New York's soil

      23      and water.

      24             And I would like to share with you a small

      25      portion of the programs and projects in place that


       1      soil and water districts provide as a service in

       2      New York State.

       3             Delaware County is one of them that has

       4      created a flood emergency plan which is countywide.

       5      And this plan is now being used as a model for other

       6      soil and water district counties and town and

       7      highway departments.

       8             With this flood emergency plan in place, they

       9      are being proactive and prepared for the next flood.

      10             Other things that Delaware County, right now,

      11      has 30 declared flooding events they are working on.

      12             Water quality is a great concern due to the

      13      erosion issues and the stream -- along the streams

      14      and riverbanks.

      15             And Delaware County has a -- soil and water

      16      district has a pilot project in place, where they're

      17      analyzing the water for loads of phosphorous,

      18      nutrients, et cetera, due to the erosion, which is

      19      another real concern, and will be in the future.

      20             Tioga County, just in one year, completed

      21      25 -- 24 projects; stream-bank stabilization and

      22      rehabilitation over 4,780 feet.

      23             They worked with culverts and post-flood

      24      emergency intervention training.

      25             They worked with New York DEC stream


       1      distribution and received six permits.

       2             They received 13 DEC emergency authorization

       3      permits.

       4             They worked with the Army Corps and received

       5      24 stream permits.

       6             And they received 45 -- 44 advice technical

       7      assistance to landowners and municipalities.

       8             And they've overseen construction for NRCS

       9      EQUIP streams stabilization projects.

      10             And there's others that I've listed, that

      11      I won't mention.

      12             And as well as all these projects that soil

      13      and water provide, they also provide:

      14             Monitoring and mapping of stream issues;

      15             Education and outreach;

      16             Technical assistance and advice;

      17             They help with permit -- farm and landowners

      18      and counties with permitting assistance;

      19             They help them with grant writing;

      20             They design and work in engineering;

      21             They construct oversight;

      22             They work on hazard mitigation plannings;

      23             Culvert inventory, analysis, and designs;

      24             And flood response.

      25             As you can see, soil and water conservation


       1      districts are working hard to protect, care, and

       2      preserve the soil and water of New York.

       3             With the climate changes and the state

       4      legislation passed, and the increase of flooding

       5      concerns with 5, 6, 7 inches of rainfall in a

       6      24-hour period, and how we are having a lot more

       7      100-year storms, it is vitally important to solve

       8      these issues and problems before the flooding

       9      happens.

      10             U.S. legislators can utilize soil and water

      11      conservation districts, because this is what they

      12      have been, and are doing, by proactive, not

      13      reactive, to a very serious flooding issue and

      14      concern.

      15             For SWCDs to have the ability to help

      16      farmers, landowners, counties, towns, and state, is

      17      to beef-up their ability to do their job by

      18      increasing funding, to provide additional staff to

      19      handle the workload and increase their flooding

      20      programs.

      21             The soil and water conservation districts are

      22      only -- are the only entity that can work with

      23      public and private landowners.

      24             Thank you, sincerely, for having me here

      25      today, and to be heard on behalf of the New York's


       1      best-kept secret.

       2             SENATOR MAY:  Thank you.

       3             I love that framing.

       4             So do you agree that three to five million

       5      dollars is the appropriate amount to be asking for

       6      additional funding?

       7             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  Yes.

       8             SENATOR MAY:  I do agree that soil and water

       9      conservation districts do amazing work.

      10             And I appreciate you calling our attention to

      11      it, and making sure that we know the whole range of

      12      it.

      13             Anyone else have questions?

      14             SENATOR HELMING:  I have a quick one.

      15             SENATOR MAY:  Hold on.

      16             ASSEMBLYMAN SANTABARBARA:  Assemblymember

      17      Smullen.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  Blanche, thank you so

      19      much for coming today.

      20             I wanted to go back to the question that we

      21      asked our friend from the Long Island Farm Bureau.

      22      He sort of deferred to you on it, regarding stream

      23      restoration, but doing it ahead of time so we would

      24      limit the damage sort of thing.

      25             One of the things that we've been talking


       1      about in regards to the Halloween storm in Hamilton,

       2      Fulton, and Herkimer counties, is trying to get

       3      ahead of the issue by having the soil and water

       4      conservation districts, with the emergency managers,

       5      with the towns and municipalities, to go ahead and

       6      try to do what they used to do in the old times, so

       7      to speak, is to get ahead of these things, and make

       8      sure that the streams were ready for the -- you

       9      know, the larger events that we've been -- that

      10      we've had, and that we will certainly have in the

      11      future.

      12             Can you see that the soil and water

      13      conservation districts are equipped to be able to

      14      share the service across counties?

      15             That seems to be the theme that I'm hearing,

      16      and how we might make a plan to get some resources,

      17      to be able to address this from a regional

      18      perspective.

      19             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  And they're working hard --

      20      soil and water districts all throughout the state

      21      work very hard to work with everyone.

      22             With not having enough resources, sometimes

      23      it limits them to be able to work with their

      24      counties and towns to do a major project.

      25             Helping them with the general permitting that


       1      they sometimes get from DEC cuts that time down so

       2      that they can step out quicker, and be more of a

       3      resource to the towns, the counties, the landowners,

       4      that are having any of these issues.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  And I do really

       6      appreciate the soil and water conservation

       7      districts' ability to work with other agencies,

       8      including DEC for permitting.

       9             That always -- that seems to be a major fear

      10      of landowners, is that they can't do work on private

      11      property because of a concern about having a DEC

      12      permit.

      13             Now, as far as equipment goes, are the soil

      14      and water conservation districts today, are they

      15      equipped to be able to do this, or would they need

      16      additional plant or equipment to be able to do so?

      17             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  They definitely would need

      18      additional equipment.

      19             In certain projects, certain areas that they

      20      work with, they sometimes do need equipment.

      21             They're a good buddy system.

      22             If another sewer and water district has a

      23      piece of equipment, and is willing to share,

      24      sometimes they share it, sometimes they rent it.

      25             But having their own, or the access or


       1      ability to get that piece of equipment quickly,

       2      would certainly help them.

       3             ASSEMBLYMAN SMULLEN:  Thank you so much for

       4      coming.

       5             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  You're welcome.

       6             Thank you.

       7             SENATOR HELMING:  Blanche, I think we're just

       8      about out of time, but I want to take an opportunity

       9      to publicly thank you for being here, and to thank

      10      all of the members at conservation districts for

      11      always being available.

      12             You are the leaders in natural-resource

      13      management, whether we're talking about flooding or

      14      anything else.

      15             I -- in the interest of time, I would love to

      16      set up a meeting with you and to go through some of

      17      my questions.

      18             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  Okay.

      19             SENATOR HELMING:  All right?

      20             Thank you.

      21             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  That would be great.

      22             Thank you.

      23             SENATOR MAY:  Let me just follow up with one

      24      final question, thinking about this "best-kept

      25      secret" idea.


       1             Do you think that that's intentional by the

       2      soil and water, sort of flying under the radar makes

       3      it -- you're able to work more nimbly, or would you

       4      like to be better known?

       5             And if so, should we be doing more public

       6      information [indiscernible cross-talking] --

       7             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  I would like to see us

       8      better known, because I think we can do a lot more,

       9      and people are not aware of what we can do.

      10             You know, a lot of people are not aware that

      11      soil and water districts can work with landowners

      12      and municipalities, and go onto property where

      13      municipalities can't.

      14             SENATOR MAY:  So is public information -- so

      15      some budgetary ask for that kind of thing

      16      appropriate, do you think?

      17             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  That would be appropriate.

      18             SENATOR MAY:  Okay.

      19             Well, thank you very much for being here, and

      20      for the important work that you and all the soil and

      21      water conservation districts do.

      22             BLANCHE HURLBUT:  Thank you.

      23             SENATOR MAY:  Thanks.

      24             Anyone have closing statements?

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN WALCZYK:  I just want to thank


       1      both Chairs and the staff for putting this together.

       2             I thought it was very productive, as we

       3      continue to be concerned about flooding and clean

       4      water.  We hit a lot of great topics today, and

       5      I think it was really productive.

       6             So thank you, Madam Chair.

       7             And NYPA's also has been a great partner.

       8             Just wanted to get that out there.

       9             Thank you.

      10             SENATOR MAY:  Well, you know, thank you to

      11      all my colleagues:

      12             To Senator Helming who did chair the

      13      Rural Resources for a long time, and did great

      14      work there to;

      15             And to the staff, again, for being here, and

      16      being an inspiration for this, and making it happen

      17      and making it happen so efficiently.

      18             And to all of you who have been here, and

      19      those who are watching, thank you again.

      20             That concludes the hearing on flooding.

      21             Thank you.

      22                (Whereupon, the public hearing held before

      23        the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources

      24        concluded, and adjourned.)

      25                            --oOo--