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FEMA says no to Blenheim road repair

Town officials say assistance had been promised

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
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— A rural road left teetering on the edge of a ravine in 2011 will stay “as is” while the town of Blenheim fights for federal disaster assistance.

Cole Hollow Road sits on the edge of a 100-foot ravine, high above Cole Brook, which turned into a raging torrent during Tropical Storm Irene’s incessant rainfall.

Roughly 12 homes were cut off when that creek tore through the lower portion of Cole Hollow Road near Route 30, but the town repaired the road to restore access.

Town highway crews soon noticed a crack in the upper portion of the road, however. It turned into a major fissure, then part of the road broke off in October 2011, plummeting toward the creek below.

It was shored up, and town officials added restoration to their list of post-disaster projects.

With verbal assurances the work would be eligible for federal disaster aid, the town spent roughly $40,000 on engineering plans to re-route the road before learning FEMA now doesn’t consider the project eligible.

Town Supervisor Robert Mann Jr. said the town was informed last month FEMA doesn’t plan to assist with the job.

Engineers explored two options: shoring up the road starting from the bottom of the ravine or rerouting the road away from the edge altogether.

The reroute option turned out to be less expensive, so the town pursued designs for that fix, estimated at roughly $400,000.

Work to fix the road is at a standstill now, though.

“Now we’re kind of left in limbo. But we think we have a good case this really was caused by the hurricane,” Mann said.

The county is contending with several landslides that occurred in the wake of the 2011 tropical storms.

These include a portion of the land surrounding the Little Schoharie Creek, the Line Creek and the Platter Kill.

Two other significant high bank failures took place off Dave Brown Mountain Road, as well.

For now, Mann said people are able to get in and out, but it’s unclear how long the steep slope will continue holding the road in place.

“That’s our worry, of course. If we continue to have wet weather, we don’t know how long it will last,” he said.

 
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