Metzger secures $400K for flood mitigation in Black Dirt region

Westtown. The money will be use in creating a floodplain to accommodate flood waters and provide a vegetative buffer between farms and the Wallkill River.

| 02 Oct 2020 | 11:38

State Sen. Metzger has secured a $400,000 State and Municipal Facilities Capital (SAM) grant for the third phase of the Wallkill Floodplain Bench Project to prevent flooding of farmland in the Black Dirt region.

Farms suffered severe damage and economic losses from flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The Floodplain Bench Project is designed to improve resilience, creating a floodplain to accommodate floodwaters and provide a vegetative buffer between farms in Warwick, Minisink and Wawayanda and the Wallkill River.

Metzger, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, met with farmers and Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District staff and board members soon after taking office in 2019 to hear about local plans and needs for improving agriculture’s resilience to severe storms. The Black Dirt Region is particularly vulnerable to flooding, which can damage crops and yields and wash away this unique and irreplaceable topsoil.

The SWCD completed two phases of the Floodplain Bench Project, but did not have the funds to undertake the third and final phase. Senator Metzger worked to secure $400,000 in funding to move the final phase of the project forward, which will help protect farmland in from flooding.

“Today is an important day for the farmers and everyone along the Wallkill River,” said Orange County Farm Bureau President John Lupinski, who attended the press conference in Westtown where the funding was announced.

On the front lines of the impact of climate change

“Climate change is causing more frequent and more severe storms,” Metzger said. “Our farms are truly on the front lines of its impacts, and need our support to become more resilient. The Black Dirt region is particularly vulnerable to flooding, and it is important to keep this floodplain mitigation project moving forward to protect this irreplaceable farmland and the soil and water resources that sustain it.”

‘Good investment’

Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District Director and County Legislator Paul Ruszkiewicz thanked Metzger for securing this grant because, “particularly, these days with COVID, funding for a lot of things has been a challenge. We’ve been struggling to piece money together to keep work going, and this grant certainly helps with that.”

Deputy County Executive Harry Porr added: “Agriculture continues to be the county’s single greatest industry. Investment in infrastructure that protects agricultural production is good investment.”