Post-flood repairs along Route 208 nearly complete

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:10

    Major commuter route is restored, but other flood prevention upgrades may take a year or more Chester — Chester and Blooming Grove have always enjoyed an abundance of water. Even today, along the busy Route 208 corridor that brings many local commuters to and from work, one can see people lined up to collect the water that runs down from the Schunnemunk Ridge, which many believe is the purest around. But lately the area has seen too much of a good thing. The hurricane, tropical storm and snowstorm that hit the area within the space of a couple of months caused the waters that collect barely an acre off the highway to crash through the Village of South Blooming Grove and take out a major commuter corridor. Restoring the corridor is nearly complete, but flood prevention upgrades may take a year or more. The Route 208 exit off the Quickway is the first major exit past Woodbury Common Premium Outlets and serves Monroe, Chester, Blooming Grove, Washingtonville and New Windsor. In all, 12 roads were closed after the storm. Tanager Road was under four feet of water. This critical intersection of towns saw its fourth state of emergency since 2006, and the third requiring FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance. Path of destruction The area is awash with water. Just north of Washingtonville, the Otter Kill meets up with Cromline Creek to form the Moodna Creek, which empties into the Hudson. A pond and its wetlands collect stream flow just west of the Monroe/South Blooming Grove border at the juncture of Peddlar Hill Road, which actually forms a dam. The stream then turns west to parallels Route 208, sometimes right along its edge. The stormwater crashed over the Peddlar Hill guard rails and took out the west side of the road, tumbling it down the first ravine, where it formed its own dam. The re-routed water flooded the entrance and most of the lower level of the Rolling Hills Condominium Complex. It is estimated that it will be a year before the main condominium entrance can reopen. Given the choice of a temporary "Bailey bridge" — a kind of temporary metal platform — and a more permanent "box cutout" bridge, the South Blooming Grove mayor, Rob Jeroloman, decided against the temporary measure. There are two other access roads to the complex. The divided waters regrouped and crashed through another half-mile of drainage basins and culverts. Water flowing downhill shut the corridor down. Still not done with its devastation, the rushing waters flowed into the serene and beautiful community of Lake Merriwold. The rising water flowed out of the lake and into an adjacent ravine to form a huge whirlpool that carved out the adjacent cliffside, terrorizing several homeowners up on Hawks Nest Road who watched as the ground barely 20 feet from their home fell down into the floodwater. A swiftwater rescue was necessary for one of the lakeside residents. With emergency state permits in hand, town officials had tons of crushed stone and boulders deposited at the site to route the creek away from the cliff and back to its customary bed. Town workers and many volunteers have worked hard to restore the corridor and creek. As recently as three weeks ago, another culvert that collects Schunnemunk water threatened to collapse and closed down Lake Shore Drive at Route 208 for almost a week. Down the road, where Route 208 meets Route 94, the Washingtonville Town Hall was washed out, and completely demolished earlier this month. The Moffat Library, a historic site, also sustained major damage, as did the Blooming Grove Church of Christ, which will require a major fundraising effort to complete repairs. Mayor Jeroloman said he cannot give enough praise to residents who remained calm and patient, and the many business owners who offered their time and heavy equipment for the repairs. The state issued emergency permits in a timely manner, he said, and its representatives were present to supervise. As Jeroloman sees it, the challenge is not just to repair this year's storm damage, but to make upgrades to prepare for future storms. Stormwater is a strong and unruly force, and must be carefully controlled if the devastation caused by the floods of 2011 is to be avoided in the future. Culverts rebuilt just weeks ago are clear and free-flowing on the town's side, but water that flows under the state road and into the basin from the Schunnemunk hillsides is already forming significant new sediment deposits. In all, 6,000 cubic yards of debris had to be cleared to restore the flow of the creek. The huge mounds of trash, which includes culverts, boat ramps, boats, and just about everything else is being backloaded into dumpsters, to be disposed of at Taylor Recycling. Jeroloman estimates that the early repairs alone will cost his village $420,000. Only because much of the work and equipment was done in-house and by local volunteers was the cost prevented from being more, he said.