FEMA to fund automatic floodgates to protect Schoharie County building

Above: A schematic of the proposed flood wall slated to be built around Schoharie County's official buildings with FEMA money. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to give Schoharie County an additional $800,000 to breathe new life into an ambitious project that will protect the county’s offices and courthouse with automatic floodgates.

The floodgates will be installed on walkways that will lie flat at ground level and then lift automatically in the event of rising water, and are designed to divert up to two feet of floodwater around the county complex in the village of Schoharie.

After Hurricane Irene destroyed the basement and first floor of the county office complex in 2011, the county sought and FEMA approved $3.9 million in funding for the project, which will include at least four floodgates installed on walkways.

But that still left the project almost a million dollars short; construction and design costs came in at $4.7 million after the project went out to bid.

On Tuesday, March 8, FEMA approved an additional $800,000 to fund the project. With FEMA on board, the project is fully funded by the federal and New York state governments at a 75 to 25 percent split, with no local share.

Although the new floodgates are designed to protect the office complex against high water events up to the level of the 100-year-floodplain plus an additional two feet, they are not meant to defend against a flood like the one caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Above: Engineering plans for the $4.7 million flood wall project at the Schoharie County courthouse. 

The cost to build floodgates to protect against Irene-level floodwaters would have required almost $8 million in funding and would have exceeded FEMA's cost-benefit analysis, according to county officials.

Schoharie County Flood Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry praised FEMA’s decision to fund the floodgates.

”I am very happy that FEMA has reevaluated this important project and decided to provide the additional funding necessary to allow us to protect our county office building and historic county courthouse from future flooding,” he said.

In addition to the floodgates, there will also be a flood wall surrounding parts of the complex's perimeter and a “grout curtain” that will extend from ground level all the way down to a layer of clay approximately 25 to 32 feet beneath the ground. Furthermore, a new community courtyard will be constructed as a place to hold public events.

The project will protect the interior of the building from water damage up to a depth of roughly two feet of water running down Main Street.

"These automatic floodgates could save county taxpayers millions of dollars in cleanup expenses and repair costs in the event of another high water event in the village of Schoharie,” Cherry said.