Sunken road, wetland drainage pose problems
By Michael Turton
Residents of Manitou Station, located eight miles south of Cold Spring off of Route 9D, met with officials from Putnam County and the Town of Philipstown on Oct. 8 (Tuesday) to discuss how flooding there can be alleviated. Fourteen homes are located along Hudson River Lane on a narrow strip of land sandwiched between a wetland and the Metro-North Railroad tracks on one side and the Hudson River on the other.
Manitou Station Road, which runs from Route 9D to Hudson River Lane, has flooded frequently in recent years in the area where it crosses the wetland. Last year during Hurricane Sandy, things got even more serious. A number of people, including an infant, had to be rescued by boat after some residents failed to heed a voluntary evacuation order.
Hurricane Sandy was a super storm, but even “normal” flooding often makes it extremely difficult for residents at Manitou to get to and from their homes, a situation they fear will only get worse with climate change and a predicted increase in severe storms. Rising water levels in the Hudson River are a factor that is impossible to control locally, but the group that met at Manitou agreed that issues on the landward side of Hudson River Lane are what cause most of the flooding of the road – and those factors can be dealt with.
On hand at the meeting were Richard Othmer, chairman of the Putnam County Legislature; Barbara Scuccimarra, county legislator for Philipstown; John Van Tassel, councilman on the Philipstown Town Board; Roger Chirico, Philipstown highway superintendent; Mark Rosa, an engineer with the Putnam County Highway Department and three residents.
Chirico said that he met with the Army Corps of Engineers as much as six years ago to discuss how to deal with the flooding. “We want a solution … but it has to be cost effective,” he said. Scuccimarra said that one proposal put forward would have cost $1 million.
“The road bed is no good,” Chirico said. Residents agreed, confirming that Manitou Station Road has sunken noticeably over the years. That in turn destroyed culverts under the road, large drainage pipes that enable water in the two sections of wetland to flow back and forth freely. Adding to the problem is the fact that while the wetland north of the road has an outlet to the Hudson River, allowing water levels there to rise and fall naturally, drainage from the section to the south is largely blocked. As a result, when floodwaters flow into that section of the wetland they simply stay put – and flooding lasts longer than it should.
Rosa said that the hydrology at Manitou “is complicated,” making it clear that an engineering study is needed before any action can be taken. Chirico agreed. “You have to do a study to know how the waters flow here,” he said. Any works will also require permits from both the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
One possible solution Chirico suggested is to raise the roadbed by “four or five feet” using rock and riprap. Everyone in attendance agreed that using steel or even wooden piles would be too costly.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was noticeably absent from the meeting. “The railroad should be involved. They use this road more than anyone,” Chirico said. Metro-North trains stop at Manitou Station twice a day and MTA maintains a switching device near the flood-prone area.
Othmer said that he would immediately draft a letter to Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, outlining the need for an engineering study. He said he would also talk to Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. “I’d like to get at this as soon as possible,” Othmer said. “But realistically you’re looking at another winter,” before anything can actually be done. Winter poses its own problems. Chirico said that when floodwaters freeze, the town has to bring in a front-end loader to remove the ice on Manitou Station Road so that residents can get to and from their homes.
Part way through the discussion, Manitou Station resident Karen Ertl said what was likely on everyone else’s mind as well. “Extreme storms may be coming more frequently.”
Photos by M. Turton