Preparedness & Recovery

Flood Mitigation as Political Campaign Platform?

Disasters can make or break a politician and maybe a campaign.

by Staff Report / November 1, 2017
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo arrives for a news conference to brief the media on flooding in the Mohawk Valley at the Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Department on Friday, June 28, 2013, in Canajoharie, N.Y. Severe flooding caused by the spring and early summer's persistent rains damaged houses, closed roads and forced people to flee their homes Friday in New York's Mohawk Valley. Heavy rains Thursday and into early Friday caused the Mohawk River to overflow it banks where it traverses the southern end of Herkimer County, located 60 miles east of Syracuse. AP/Mike Groll

German Flatts in Herkimer County, N.Y., has a population of about 13,000 residents. After devastating flooding in 2013, a legal battle ensued about some properties that were built in a FEMA-designated floodplain.

And now, as the contest for the town supervisor position heats up, candidates vie for votes by citing their bonafides in terms of how they’ll reduce future flooding.

Heavy rain this summer caused flooding in the county again, but this time German Flatts was spared the damage that some neighboring counties suffered. But rain and flooding remain atop the discussion in German Flatts even, and perhaps, especially, during political debate.

When asked what was the biggest issue facing the town and what could be done about it, incumbent town supervisor Frank Spatto said disasters from flooding is the biggest issue facing the town, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. He said he had developed a great relationship with the governor and with FEMA, and that there is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to fix some of the flooding issues with a strategic plan and some funding. He said a leadership change now would put those plans at risk.

His challenger, L. Peter Rovazzi, touted his engineering experience and said routine assessment of streams and keeping them free of debris is critical to preventing flooding and reducing property damage. Rovazzi said that since the 2013 storms, no stream maintenance or bank stabilization has been done.

Rovazzi said the town has been granted funding, has the engineering designs in place to deploy flood mitigation projects but that those projects have yet to begin four years after the flooding. He said he’s the man to get them deployed.