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Whereas disastrous floods and high waters of August 19 and October 15, 1955, have caused and resulted in substantial and serious loss of property, real and personal, public and private within the town of Wawarsing, county of Ulster, State or New York; and,
Whereas it is the responsibility, obligation, and desire of the town board of Wawarsing to protect all such interests of all persons and residents within the town of Wawarsing from a recurrence of such catastrophic losses: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the town board of the town of Wawarsing, county of Ulster, in the State of New York, respectfully requests and does hereby request, that the Congress of the United States of America take immediate and necessary steps to formulate, adopt, and establish a permanent flood-control program within this township of Wawarsing, Ulster County, State of New York: Be is further
Resolved, That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Senator Irving M. Ives, Senator Herbert H. Lehman, and Congressman J. Ernest Wharton.
My knowledge and experience with floods dates back to 1936, when I was Governor and we had that terrible flash flood—I believe it was on the 4th of July—down in the southern tier. I went right down there, of course, with some of the members of my administration, and I found exactly what you have described. There was tremendous suffering and loss in Binghamton, for instance. It was almost all within 2 or 3 of the wards the poorest wards. And as you went further over, to Johnstown and Endicott, the loss was among the poorest people. Then a little more north or west of that, you struck Whitney Point and then up to the Finger Lake district. While there were a good many firms badly hit, the great suffering was among the
poorest in an economic way in the community. Those people, I imagine, except what they may have recovered from charity or from local initiative, got nothing back. That made me think of that, and I have been thinking about it ever since. But the trouble is that we all forget so quickly.
These terrible floods of August and October have highlighted this problem, and people are now very much interested in it. A large segment of our population are determined that something should be done about it. But I am afraid in 4 or 5 months a lot of them will have forgotten about it. So I am anxious to keep this alive.
Senator Ives. I did not have to go out of my own backyard when this flood occurred. It hit Norwich face on and raised cain. Our damage was terrific. After that, they deepened the channel of the Chenango River and put up a few dikes, retaining walls, and we have had no more trouble with floods. I have a strong idea that rather than some of these big dams that are contemplated, deepening channels and putting up dikes and retaining walls would do the job.
Senator LEHMAN. Senator, I want to ask you a question in line with what you said that sometimes these flood-control projects work hardship on certain groups and they are opposed by these groups. I don't remember which particular community this was, but the engineers had a project
Senator Ives. It is the one I was talking about earlier—the Mount Upton Dam. It is going to ruin the valley there.
Senator LEHMAN. I was not sure you had identified the place.
Senator Ives. I have a great deal of sympathy for the people that are going to get wiped out by it, because we have never had a flood in that area that would cause any provocation for a dam of that size. We never had a flood like the flood that has occurred here, like Diane, or the last flood. So we do not know what would happen. This has made me a little shaky on my previous position, and probably you too, Governor.
Mr. Chairman, there is a supervisor who came up and spoke to me. I suggest that any supervisor who wants to make a statement may put it in the record.
Senator LEHMAN. Or any mayor or alderman here. We would be glad to hear from you so long as our time permits.
STATEMENT OF MORTIMER MICHAELS AND EDWARD BISLAND,
JR., MEMBERS, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, SULLIVAN COUNTY, N. Y.
Mr. MICHAELS. Mr. Chairman, we are from Sullivan County. I don't think there is anyone else here from Sullivan County. There was quite a delegation supposed to come down from the villages of Monticello and Liberty. We have 15 separate, distinct townships and 6 incorporated villages. And practically every one was affected as a result of the storms of August and October. The damage sustained to public facilities ran in the neighborhood of $2 million. When I say public facilities, I mean highways and bridges, sewers, water systems, and so forth. We estimate the damage to private property somewhere in the vicinity of $3 to $5 million.
We strongly feel that some Federal legislation should be passed for flood insurance, and flood control, of course, is very important.
, I want to point out that in my particular township, where the city of New York built a dam for the New York City water supply in the Neversink River, that that particular area was completely spared as a result of the storm. That is something flood control can do for you.
I want to point out that I think the people who suffered as a result of the flood, are also going to be affected in this sense that in order to restore the public facilities, these same people are going to be taxed. They not alone have to pay for their own particular damage, but they will have to pay their
proportionate share of taxes. That is going to create an undue burden on them.
I think in proposing your legislation, perhaps something should be thought of with respect to perhaps granting loans to municipalities or counties that would be noninterest bearing, repayable or redeemable over a long period of years. That would help the people.
It was peculiar for me, living 41 years in Sullivan County, to see this particular type of weather hit us. I always watched my television set and radio and witnessed the flooded areas of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio, the devastation there. I never thought Sullivan County would be affected. It was a very strange sight for me to see the number of tourists—we are a resort section primarily, with many farms and a lot of private residences and business establishments. But we cater primarily to tourists. We have a year-round population of about 45,000, and a summer transient trade of over a million.
What was peculiar to me was to see the tourists, in the flood of August, packing their belongings and fleeing from our foothills back to the metropolitan area. I never thought I would witness anything like that. But floods, I suppose, do not recognize certain factors, and
of course floods can hit anywhere in the country. Consequently, it is everybody's problem.
I would like to see, and I urge strongly, some Federal legislation passed to help these people.
Senator Ives. Was it your deep and narrow valleys that caused that flooding?
Mr. MICHAELS. Mostly in the deep and narrow valleys. It was the runoff from the high mountains that did it.
That is more or less the picture. I think my colleague, Mr. Bisand, might want to say a few words. We have a meeting of the board of supervisors the 14th of this month. I am going to introduce a resolution urging this particular legislation by the Federal and State Governments. Where would I send a copy of the resolution?
Senator LEHMAN. To the Banking and Currency Committee.
Senator LEHMAN. Yes, that is very important. And anybody else's Congressman.
Mr. BISLAND. Senator, I wish to say that I hope you do not feel because Sullivan County is only represented here by two supervisors that that is the extent of the damage that happened in Sullivan County. Although the flood virtually took in about half of our county, we did suffer extensively. I don't know why more representatives are not here. But at least Mr. Michaels and I, both being colleagues on the board of supervisors, made it.
There isn't much I can add that hasn't already been told you. There is no use of my taking your valuable time to repeat the flood situation in my town. I happen to represent a town on the Delaware River, bordered by the Delaware River on the south side and the Mangop River on the east side, with a large brook going down through the middle of the town, which did the greater part of our damage. However, we did benefit from the work of the Army engineers. We believe we are going to get some State help. I can see where this matter can easily lead from one thing to the other, in that you are trying to get a cross-section of help to the individuals. We, as public officials, are trying to get into the matter of more municipal help, for the municipality as such. I believe you are trying to do it directly, and we are looking at it from the municipal point of view first, as well as direct.
I heartily concur on some type of Federal insurance to help the individual. I happen to be in the insurance business. I know that these people, when they suffer these losses—if they have a fire, they feel bad enough about it, but they come in and feel at least they have something. This way they are demoralized except for the Red Cross and so forth. It is difficult to do something for them.
We heartily concur with what you are trying to do. We believe this flood has certainly taken us past another milestone for something of this nature, because both Mr. Michaels and I have been public officials long enough to remember the flood of 1945, when the western part of our county was terribly hurt. At that time, the only assistance we had was from the county level.
Now we will hear from Mr. O'Reilley and Mr. Mollenhauer, from trying to help, and we believe we are moving up the ladder to help get this problem solved from the top level, where it will do the greatest good for the greatest number.
I heartily concur with it, and I am sure Mr. Michaels' resolution will have unanimous support for this type of help.
Senator LEHMAN. Thank you very much.
Now we will hear from Mr. O'Reilley and Mr. Mollenhauer, from the village of Rosendale.
STATEMENT OF EDMUND J. O'REILLEY, PRESIDENT, ROSENDALE,
N. Y., FLOOD COMMITTEE; ACCOMPANIED BY GEORGE MOLLENHAUER, JOHN J. DUFFY, AND C. S. ZIMMER, ROSENDALE, N. Y.
Mr. O'REILLEY. My name is Edmund J. O'Reilley, president of the Rosendale Flood Committee, and I am also representing the Kingston area chamber of commerce as a spokesman for them.
I have a statement here that I prepared somewhat on the way down. It is a consensus of remarks and opinions expressed at meetings that we have held over the last few days, since this flood set in and really did some damage.
I can give you a brief history of the situation that caused us to form this committee and come down.
On August 19, after hours of steady rainfall, our area was visited by what is believed to be the most damaging flood that visited Rosendale up until that time. There was a great loss of property and loss
. of life was prevented only by heroic action on the part of many brave citizens. Communities upstream were very badly damaged and assistance was rendered by the Army engineers in the rehabilitation of these communities.
On October 16, after a heavy rainfall, Rosendale was again visited by floodwaters that were between 23 and 24 feet above the normal surface of Roundout Creek. These high waters of October 16 exceeded the high water of August 19 by somewhat over 3 feet.
It is reported that Crohonkson, an upstream community, had 14 inches less water in October than August, which may be an indication of increased capacity of the upper creek due to the repairs made.
During these high waters, the entire Main Street section, lower James Street section, Route 32 area of the village of Rosendale were completely evacuated by the civil defense.
As further evidence of the seriousness of the situation, the Red Cross has received 216 applications for assistance in Ulster County, 111 of which are in the Rosendale area. The Red Cross has spent $110,760.08, a figure I received this morning, to date in Ulster County. But this does not include most of the building repairs which are still to be estimated and made.
For the past 25 years or more, new islands have been appearing in the creek, its banks are growing further closed, in general reducing the capacity of the creek.
Senator Ives. You need a channeling job there?
Mr. O'REILLEY. I think we do. The overall estimate of flood damage from the civil defense office and others was put conservatively at $1.5 million to Rosendale alone. There was serious damage in Rosendale where a large house was washed out and a bridge made unapproachable on Route 312 on the high falls side of Rosendale, and this damage continued right on through the entire village.
There was no loss of life in the October flood. Damage was reduced because the high waters came during the day and many people disconnected and removed oil burners and other equipment to higher locations and took precautions that would have protected them to an appreciable degree if the waters did not rise beyond the August level. The waters, however, reached to these places.
These physical damages can be figured in dollars and cents and replacements made, but there can be no estimate of the mental anguish: the value of the loss of physical health the individual suffered to protect his life's work and savings; the strain on the human nervous system from returning to a home covered with mud and silt, furniture damaged.
The people of Rosendale area want help and assistance of any kind in this disaster, but more particularly are interested in precautionary measures that will help prevent a recurrence of this disaster. The very important concern of all at the moment is that some immediate action be taken to increase the capacity of Roundout Creek from Route 32 to the Fever Falls, north of Rosendale, to permit the water to escape faster.
Repairs will be made to maintain present buildings, but no improvements will be made until such time as the public feels reasonably assured that the floods will not periodically wash them out. Many people have expressed the opinion that they want permanent flood control or protection, or they would like the Government to buy their properties for a watershed.
Senator LEHMAN. I do not think we had better complicate the bills. Senator Ives. That is a new question,
Mr. O'REILLEY. The thing is the situation is just there. It just expresses the tone of thinking of some of the people in the area.
Senator Ives. You cannot blame them. Mr. O'REILLEY. They are scared. There is no question about it. We have also been told that the Weather Bureau predicts a change in the weather pattern that will cause heavier rains in this area for several years to come. I think that is on record in the Weather Bureau. I don't know whether you have had anything on that before.
Senator IVES. I have noticed it.
Mr. O'REILLEY. We fully appreciate the value of flood insurance and realize how important it could be to us in our present situation. But prevention can be most important in reducing the cost of insurance. Insurance is good after all precautions have been taken. But there is no insurance for the anxiety suffered every time a heavy rain occurs.
So we ask that some immediate action be taken to prevent or reduce the possibility of damage by future high waters, to insure the peace of mind of our residents, and then to give us the flood insurance as a normal risk.
I have also been asked to speak for the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. They are interested not only in the Rondout, but the Wallkill and the Esopus, all of which have had flood conditions in both August and October. They are very interested in what is going to be done. They are interetsed in working along with anyone that has any plans toward getting anything done. They are waiting very expectantly, hoping that something will be done to protect the area and the business in the area.