Watertown Daily Times | DEC employees assist residents with questions, permit applications

OGDENSBURG — Sandra J. Grausam said her waterfront camp, which is below the water line on McDonald Road, was built before the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in the 1950s.

Even though the camp has been there for decades, Ms. Grausam said this is the first year it has flooded.

Ms. Grausam was one of several area residents on Friday who visited the emergency response mobile command center temporarily positioned at the Dobisky Center, 100 Riverside Ave., to get questions answered, apply for permits and potentially file insurance claims related to high water damage along the St. Lawrence River.

Ms. Grausam scrolled through pictures of the flooded camp on her cell phone and showed them to state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Judy Drabicki and Regional Habitat Manager Christopher J. Balk.

“You can see where all the debris came up,” Ms. Grausam said to Ms. Drabicki and Mr. Balk, while pointing to a picture. “We have a lot of clean up to do.”

Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne counties to expedite repair to affected structures and construction of shoreline stabilization projects due to elevated water levels.

The mobile center in Ogdensburg was set up a couple of times throughout last week to assist St. Lawrence County residents who had insurance questions and claims related to damage related to high water along the St. Lawrence River. DEC officials were on hand to provide on-site permitting and work with property owners to address erosion, offer technical guidance and provide on-site emergency permitting to residents.

“Our job is to protect the environment,” Ms. Drabicki said, “so what we do in our permitting is to try to let people do some of what they want to do but also in the context of protecting the environment.”

Many residents’ properties are eroding because the high water levels are consistently washing over land it usually can’t reach, according to Mr. Balk.

“People are losing many feet of their yard because it’s eroding, turning into muddy water and floating down the river,” Mr. Balk said. “This permit addresses temporary stabilization efforts needed to stop that from happening, and also to repair and replace structures that have been damaged by the water.”

Mr. Balk said sometimes the turn-around process for permit application approval — which can take up to six to eight weeks under normal circumstances — is within one day.

“People are walking out of this trailer with a permit in their hand to do the work,” Mr. Balk said.

Mr. Balk said nine permit applications have been filled out and seven permits have been issued. He expects that number to rise in the coming weeks, due to a large number of affected homes being seasonal camps or vacation-type dwellings.

“I’d be willing to bet some of the homes that have been affected…

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