Back in 2011 the floods of the Wallkill River (the first in the spring, the latter two after Hurricane Irene & Tropical Storm Lee at harvest time) devastated the crops in the black dirt of Orange County and wreaked damage all along the Wallkill River and Rondout Creek. The first flood delayed planting which in turn delayed harvesting. It turned out to be a very costly delay.
Flooding, sadly, has not been a new occurrence in the Wallkill River area, especially in the black dirt:
It’s been a river poorly maintained over the decades. The last extensive study conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called for “channel modification” or dredging of the river back in 1983. The federal government didn’t have enough money to do that. Instead they did a far less extensive clearing and snagging project in 1985. The farmers back then were told it would be a “20 year” project. And the extensive flooding in fact held off for 20 years. But 20 years later we experienced our first “50 year flood” in many years. Since 2005 we have now experienced 7 such floods.
In response to the devastation and poor response by the federal government after Irene and Lee I created a Facebook page devoted to that destruction:
The page has 3 photo albums, one containing pictures of my crop before the storm and two of the crop during and after the floods:
Also in response to the initial poor response by the federal government I put a 50lb bag of onions up for sale on eBay for $150,000. This blog posting explains that in detail:
Shortly after the Irene and Lee flooding I was asked by Senator Schumer’s office to give them an estimate of the crop damages caused by the flooding since 2005. I contacted USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture) and FSA (the Farm Service Agency, a division of USDA) and asked them for their payouts for the federal crop insurance program and NAP (noninsured assistance program, for crops that aren’t covered by crop insurance https://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=pfs&newstype=prfactsheet&type=detail&item=pf_20080819_distr_en_nap08.html) for Orange County and Ulster County for years 05, 07 and 11, the years the “50 year floods” wiped out farms and crops, and these are the totals:
05: $2.9 million crop insurance; $900K NAP
07: $1.8 million ci; 400k NAP
11: $5.9 million ci; 900k NAP
Now, one thing to keep in mind, crop insurance payments, as Eve and I have experienced, typically only cover pennies on the dollar on our losses. Our experience, conservatively, has been 10 cents on the dollar. So, when you look at these loss totals you need to multiply the amount by 10!
For example, if you add up 2011 it equals $6.8 million roughly in govt payments for losses, multiply it by 10 and you have $68 million dollars in crop losses due to the floods in Orange and Ulster Counties. (This Times Herald record article estimated the agricultural losses to be at least $50 million: http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20120304%2FNEWS%2F203040318
Total all of it over those 3 years and it equals $12.8 million. Multiply it by 10 and that equals $128 million dollars in crop losses for the “50 year floods” that affected crops. We had a “50 year flood” in 2010 that didn’t affect crops and of course these figures do not take into account the homes, businesses, and infrastructure damage that has taken place during those 7 “50 year floods” since 2005 either.
If this doesn’t require action, what does? When will the powers that be finally comprehensively and aggressively address this problematic river and address it from “A to Z” so to speak, or from New Jersey where it starts to the Hudson River where it empties? Irene and Lee dumped an excessive amount of rain but these other floods were caused by far less rain. Five or 6 inches of rain should be something a river of that size should be able to handle. If it had been properly maintained.
How many more times do we have to be destroyed till the impediments to getting something done or swiped aside and this chronic problem is addressed?
Please like my two Facebook pages, the one devoted to the flooding and this one, devoted to my memoir:
My yet to be published memoir has a couple of chapters devoted to this issue.