As part of his ongoing efforts to assist the seven counties in the 127th Assembly District recover from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie) is calling for a Joint Legislative Hearing of the Assembly and Senate Environmental Conservation Committees to discuss and take action on ensuring the structural safety and management of the Gilboa Dam and Blenheim-Gilboa Pump Storage Power Project.
“During Tropical Storm Irene, sensor system alarms were triggered and then active monitoring and communications systems at the dam failed, even as waters surged to record levels, rivaling the flow over the American side of Niagara falls at some 150,000 cubic feet of water per second. The next day, a false warning was transmitted that the dam had been breached, causing widespread panic in the community; this was amplified as one Albany television station erroneously reported that the dams had indeed burst. A week later during Tropical Storm Lee, the sirens at the Gilboa Dam malfunctioned and emergency workers had to call residents to a second round of evacuations.”
Constructed between 1920 and 1927, the 1,800-foot long Gilboa Dam impounds the Schoharie Reservoir. The century-old dam holds back 19.5 billion gallons of water that is used to provide New York City residents with approximately 16 percent of their drinking water supply. The dam is operated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project is managed by the New York Power Authority.
According to the 2010 United States census, over 32,000 people live in Schoharie County – many of whom live directly in the path of a potential dam-breach. To ensure their protection, Assemblyman Lopez wants the joint legislative hearing to focus on the structural integrity of the dam, emergency and safety protocols, utilization of the dam for flood control purposes, and indemnification and other issues that impact homes, farms, businesses, schools, municipal buildings and other properties downstream of the facility.
Assemblyman Lopez said, “Although it is commendable that NYCDEP has offered funds toward repairing the dam’s sirens, we cannot take any risk of a dam breach or that failed emergency systems will endanger lives. The people in my district, particularly those who live downstream from the dam, have been through more than enough in the last two months. They have lost their homes, their farms, their businesses, their schools, their libraries and town halls. The very least we can do as legislators is to take action to ensure their safety, to give them some peace of mind. This is why we need to hold a joint legislative hearing as soon as possible.”