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DEP Coughs Up $12.5 Million More For Flooded Homeowners

WAWARSING – The New York City agency responsible for the Delaware aqueduct tunnel has offered another option for homeowners who are affected by flooding attributed to leaks in the tunnel.

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has created a $5.5 million fund to repair the homes of those residents who are not able to, or choose not to, participate in an $8.2 million Ulster County buyout program. The DEP has already given $3.7 million, and New York State $4.5 million, to buy the homes of residents in a specific area who opt to move. The announcement was made Aug. 16 at a meeting of the Project Advisory Committee (PAC), which is made up of DEP officials, town officials and residents.

In addition, the DEP is dedicating $7 million to extend the existing Napanoch Water District to include approximately 275 additional homes. The Delaware Aqueduct, a concrete-lined tunnel that runs under Wawarsing and supplies roughly half of the city's daily drinking water, is leaking. Town officials and residents say the leaks are causing flooding in the area and E. coli contamination of residents' wells.

The recent offer is good news for Town Supervisor Scott Carlsen, who has advocated for home repairs for homeowners who simply don't want to leave. At the town board meeting later on Aug 16, Carlsen announced the additional funding. He suggested the repair money might be used for such things as drainage improvements, moving utilities above the water line, or putting a house on a slab, depending on the amount of money allotted to each homeowner.

Former Supervisor Leonard Distel, when he was in office, championed the idea of extending the water district because of the contamination in homeowners' wells. He was not available for comment.

State Sen. John Bonacic hailed the announcement as well.

"Most of the credit goes to Julianne Lennon, Laura Smith and the others in the Wawarsing community who never stopped fighting," Bonacic said. "While I initiated the flood buyout program a few years ago, it was the homeowners who have had to live with these circumstances and who never gave up."

Smith is currently advocating for a new type of water pump that redirects groundwater away from the surface. A demonstration of the pump, created by Michigan-based Parjana, Inc., was to take place Thursday, Aug. 23, at a home on Route 209.

The $7 million in funding for the Napanoch Water District will extend the service area from the Vernooy Kill to the State Police Barracks area on Route 209, including most of the side streets such as Smith Road, Kelsey Lane, Kagan Road and Foordmore Road.

Although some homeowners have already applied for the buyout program, Ulster County Emergency Communications/Emergency Management Director Art Snyder said they can opt out without penalty if they'd rather repair their homes instead of move from them.

"At Thursday's PAC meeting (when DEP first announced the new program) I made it clear to the residents in attendance that the County would continue to move forward with the buyout program," Snyder said. "This way those who have already made their decision to move on may do so without fear that we are going to delay the process. By the same token, those who decide to pull out of the buyout program (to participate in the repair program or for any other reason) may do so up until the time of closing."

According to information provided by the DEP, the $5.5 million home repair fund will be administered by the Town of Wawarsing, will be offered in the same designated area that was used for the buyout program and will include eligible projects that address groundwater issues. The final terms of the program will be negotiated with the Town of Wawarsing and it must then be sent to the New York City Comptroller's Office for approval, like all city contracts.

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