Warwick acts fast to clear debris from streams

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

Warwick — Warwick has done — and done quickly — what other communities have not: cleared debris from its streams and repaired its culverts and roads immediately after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, while the state was granting emergency permits. “We hired a contractor the day after the storms subsided," said Supervisor Mike Sweeton. "We had so much damage, we weren’t able to do it ourselves." The collected debris was cleared when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) suspended permits in counties that were named disaster areas, he said. Later on the DEC revoked the emergency permit status, "but we were done by then," Sweeton said. “Now they — the DEC — have a general expedited permit to clear streams," he said. "You notify the DEC, a representative comes down, looks at what you’re going to do, and issues a specific permit for that issue.” Catastrophic flooding afflicted most neighboring towns, including the Seely Brook and Moffatt Lane neighborhoods in Chester, and the Black Dirt farmlands in Goshen. Chester officials say they have not acted to clear their own streams and ditches because of prohibitions from the state conservation department. But Warwick felt an urgent need to get the work done while it had the chance. "Streams were diverted and jumped banks," he said. "Homes were endangered. We had to move fast." After hiring a contractor, you assume FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will reimburse you, but it’s a risk the town has to take," he said. "Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Now the regional office is telling us there’s a general permit to get debris out of streams. But we’re done.”