Assembly to Probe Dam Safety

Cahill asks Ulster County Legislator Michael Berardi to testify at public hearing to investigate dam failures, deficiencies, public safety preparedness
January 30, 2006

The New York State Assembly will hold a public hearing to examine a wide range of public safety concerns related to dams in New York State. Assemblymembers Thomas DiNapoli, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, and RoAnn Destito, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, have scheduled the forum, which they said will focus on the 383 of the state’s 5,564 dams considered “high hazard” dams, whose potential failure could inflict significant loss of life and widespread property damage to nearby residents.

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster and Dutchess Counties) has asked Ulster County Legislator Michael Berardi (D – Kingston), Chair of the Public Works Committee, to testify at the hearing on behalf of the residents of Ulster County. “It is important that the committee hears a first-hand account of the devastating impact the April floods had on communities in Ulster County,” said Mr. Cahill. “Mike Berardi, as a County Legislator, is in a position to assess the County’s ability to respond to future disasters while also sharing the stories of flood victims and relaying the collective anxiety of our residents over the DEP’s poor handling of the Gilboa Dam situation.”

“As an Ulster County Legislator it is my duty to express the fears and anxieties of the people who have made their homes along the Esopus,” said Mr. Berardi. “Many residents in the area have grown distrustful of the DEP and their policies involving the watershed and my testimony will make sure those concerns are presented at the hearing.”

Among the topics to be examined at the hearing will be disaster preparedness. Assemblymember Cahill has introduced legislation (A.9571) that directs the New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission to focus on the state and local prevention, response and recovery plans in the event of the occurrence of a natural or man-made disaster involving existing reservoirs, dams and associated waterways. The proposed law would not only stress the importance of the maintenance and continued assessment of the dams and reservoirs located within the New York City watershed, but would also make sure that the surrounding communities are properly prepared to deal with a crisis situation should an emergency arise.

"Given the horrendous flooding that occurred this past April and the more recent revelations about the structural integrity of the Gilboa Dam, there is now a heightened awareness of the necessity of having a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan in place," said Assemblymember Cahill. "We have a responsibility to make sure that every community that could possibly be affected by future flooding will have a well thought out plan in effect that is tailored to meet the needs of their residents.”

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 9, at Schenectady County Community College. It will be held in the Stockade Building in Room 101. The college is located at 78 Washington Ave, Schenectady, New York. Testimony will be provided by representatives of state and local government, environmental organizations, public safety agencies and other interest groups.