Disaster Averted Thanks to Quick Work, Collaboration

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

The beginning of October was a wet one for Central New York. On the last day of September, a record 2.66 inches of rain fell in the Syracuse area causing many local rivers and waterways to overflow. This record rain put the Salmon River in Pulaski at flood stage for the first time in many years. Normal average flow on the river is less than 1,000 cubic feet per second (“cfs”). However, because of the substantial rainfall, water had to be released at the Lighthouse Hill Dam in Altmar causing the river flow to increase to over 17,000 cfs. This caused the river to rise by approximately 12 feet.

The increased flow put tremendous stress on the river banks and caused the main retaining wall located where the river flows through downtown Pulaski to collapse. This was particularly troublesome because the wall was slightly upstream from a major sewage pump station and there was concern that debris resulting from the collapsed retaining wall could compromise the station causing up to 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage to run into the river.

To make matters worse, this was the high point of the fishing season on the river. Fishermen from all over the country were in Pulaski to take advantage of its world class fishery. Local officials feared that many, having travelled a great distances to get to Pulaski, would ignore warnings and try to fish the river although the flow was much too high to be able to fish safely anywhere in the river.

Fortunately, thanks to great collaboration among local, county and state officials, any potential environmental or human tragedy was averted. On October 1st, Pulaski Mayor Ernie Wheeler declared a “Condition C” state of emergency for the Salmon River because of the extremely dangerous conditions. County work crews brought in boulders and rip rap to fill the area where the retaining wall collapsed, preventing further erosion and protecting the sewage pump station. Further, state officials acted quickly to check bridges and the safety of surrounding roadways.

Local law enforcement, the fire coordinator, Ringgold Fire Department, along with the assistance of local residents, monitored the river to ensure that fishermen stayed out of the river and, amazingly, no one was injured during the period the river was at flood stage. Throughout the ordeal, the County’s emergency management department coordinated governmental response and has been active in seeking post flood assistance for the Village and its residents.

I am confident in saying that if it hadn’t been for the fast-acting and coordinated response by all governmental entities, the damage caused by the flooding would have been much worse. At a time when public confidence in government is very low, it is good to know that various governmental entities can pull together during a problematic situation to help avert a tragedy. Our office continues to work with the village of Pulaski, to advocate for the river, and secure federal and state funding for a full wall replacement.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.