Concern over Red Hook pond rising along with water level

Concerned Red Hook residents are petitioning the village government to take concrete steps in addressing a failing drainage system that serves a private pond located between South Broadway and Elizabeth Street.

“The people around the pond live with the apprehension of what is going to happen in the next big storm,” said retired engineer David Queen, of 23 Cambridge Street, at the Dec. 3 Board of Trustees meeting.

The threat of flood damage to residents and businesses bordering the pond, which backs onto the Red Hook Library, has lead the village to perform emergency pumping on several occasions. However, Village Mayor Ed Blundell emphasized at the meeting that the village is not able to perform this service on a regular basis.

“The last time we pumped it was due to the immediate threat of damage, for safety reasons and the public welfare,” he said. “We can’t routinely pump because we have no budget for it.”

According to Blundell, a permanent pumping station to keep the water level in check would cost in excess of $400,000. Additionally, he noted that it would be extremely difficult to secure funding for such a project because the pond is located entirely on private property and is bordered by relatively few people. “No state or federal agency is going to loan us the money for a project that we don’t even have the authority to work on,” he said.

According to historical documentation presented at the meeting, the original drainage system was constructed in 1889, and it is unclear to what extent the 123-year-old pipes are salvageable nor does the village know where they drain to. The state Department of Transportation also performed separate drainpipe work in 1947; however, it is unclear to what extent the two systems are connected.

The historical involvement of DOT has raised questions on who is responsible for maintaining the existing pipes.

“I think that the people involved must have whiplash by now with how much it has gone back and forth between the village and the state,” said Queen.

Blundell indicated that the village government has had several productive meetings with both the private landowners and flood prevention experts and said that the board will look into the problem further in January.

“We are not turning a blind eye to it,” he said. “But there is no simple solution.”

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