Johnstown eyes creek flood study

JOHNSTOWN – City officials Monday discussed serious flooding issues involving the Comrie Creek, including the possibility of doing a $35,000 hydraulic study to determine what to do next.

The Common Council took no action at City Hall, but was informed by city Engineer Chandra Cotter about an ongoing issue involving the creek. She said the creek has caused flooding problems the last few years in an area from South East Avenue, across Route 30A, to South Chase Street before it eventually connects into Hale Creek.

She said the creek backs up onto properties during “normal rain events,” and referred to some of the area in question as often “swampy.”

“I know we’ve had to close South East Avenue on numerous occasions,” Cotter said.

Cotter said that after the fall – in an effort to provide relief to residents – she asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to dredge the stream from South East Avenue to South Comrie Avenue. She said the response from DEC was that the Comrie Creek is a classified stream, DEC doesn’t promote dredging and the permit was denied.

She said she spoke to former city Engineer Chad Kortz, who now works for C.T. Male Associates in Latham, about the situation. Cotter said there are several culverts and bridges along the creek that the city should be concerned about maintaining during flooding.

Cotter said Kortz indicated his engineering firm can do a hydraulic study of the creek, which was estimated to cost about $35,000. She said the study will help the city “understand the entire creek” and analyze the need for improvements. It would study the existing stream crossings and channel sections, Cotter said. It also will generate base maps, compute flow rates and create a stream model.

“I need to know all the hydro analysis of the whole creek,” Cotter said.

She said she doesn’t have any funding in her current Department of Public Works budget, but city residents “deserve an answer” on the flooding.

Kortz, who was in attendance, said the city could apply for state funding through a Consolidated Funding Application. He added his firm can work with a grant writer to see “what fits” for the city.

“I think a comprehensive study is in order before any work is done,” said 1st Ward Councilwoman Cindy Lakata.

Third Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin agreed, stating: “I think it’s long overdue.”

But the council took no formal action, pending determination of where funding for a hydraulic study will come from.

“We don’t have a budget answer yet,” said city Treasurer Michael Gifford.

Kortz said DEC has visited the creek area several times, with him, but especially with Cotter. He said the state wants to preserve the natural resources of the stream, but wants a plan that “makes sense” regarding flooding.

“I think they’re willing to work with the city, but I think this [hydraulic study] is what they want first,” he said.