County executive proposes flood mitigation

A proposal aimed at improving flooding by planting absorbent trees and other vegetation on the bank of the Mamaroneck River at Saxon Woods Park, pictured, was submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Feb. 21.  Photo/Ashley Helms

A proposal aimed at improving flooding by planting absorbent trees and other vegetation on the bank of the Mamaroneck River at Saxon Woods Park, pictured, was submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Feb. 21. Photo/Ashley Helms

By ASHLEY HELMS
A proposal to combat flooding by planting a new crop of vegetation on the banks of the Mamaroneck River at the county-owned Saxon Woods Park is in front of the Board of Legislators for review.

Submitted to the board by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, on Feb. 21, the Mamaroneck River project is one of two proposals that are expected to cost a total of $1.8 million.

The county will go to bond for the projects if the board approves the proposals.

The project at Saxon Woods Park is expected to cost $600,000, while the second proposal, at the Bronx River Parkway Reservation spanning Eastchester and Yonkers, would cost $1.2 million.

The Mamaroneck River project would revamp the river bank with new trees and bushes, providing a way for excess water to be absorbed during a heavy storm. The vegetation’s roots will take in water through the ground that has overflowed during flooding, potentially cutting down on water flowing into nearby streets.

The Mamaroneck River flows through both the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Harrison.

Saxon Woods Park, located at 1800 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains, is a 700-acre recreational property that includes a golf course, a public pool, a children’s water playground and picnic areas.

Ned McCormack, communications director for the county executive, said that, if the proposal is approved, planting at the river bank would start in August. Late summer is the optimal time of year to plant trees and bushes because they will grow best in that climate, McCormack said, but he didn’t know exactly what type of absorbent plants would be brought in.

“Down in the village [of Mamaroneck] is where the problem is occurring,” McCormack said. “The project creates this kind of sponge so the rain will be absorbed and will flow downstream at a slower rate.”

The riverbank has suffered natural erosion over time and the vines that currently live along the river don’t soak up as much water, McCormack said. Vine overgrowth will be replaced with more lush vegetation, he said.

The proposal will be assigned to a committee within the Board of Legislators and McCormack said he is hoping the board will make its decision quickly.

“Mother Nature is always at work and we’re always behind her working to make things better as well,” he said.

When a proposal is in front of the board, it is referred to one of the board’s committees for a thorough review. Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said that the two proposals, including revamping the Mamaroneck River, will be looked over by one committee first to make sure it’s a good fit for the county, and then the board’s other 11 committees will review the proposals as well, Kaplowitz said.

“Flooding along the [Long Island] sound is a very, very unfortunately all too common problem and we work hard to mitigate it as much as possible,” Kaplowitz said.

Though both aimed at cutting down on flooding and the damage it can cause, the riverbank project is separate from the Village of Mamaroneck’s plans to dredge the Mamaroneck River.

County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, said the proposal is currently in front of the Economic Development and Capital Projects Committee, but will be reviewed by the Environmental and Energy Committee, which she chairs, afterwards. She said she hopes this is just the beginning of flood mitigation efforts that will significantly impact communities in a positive way.

“I think there’s a lot that could be done for flooding. I would like to see some bigger projects that are bringing more help to the municipalities,” Parker said.

Since August, the Village of Mamaroneck has been discussing options it has for dredging the Mamaroneck River and the village’s other waterways. Currently, the village is looking into whether it would be more cost effective to buy its own silt removal machine or contract the work out like some other municipalities do.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study to see how much dredging the river would need in the village over the next 20 years.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
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About Ashley Helms

Ashley Helms has been covering Eastchester and Tuckahoe for The Town Report since 2012 and has recently added Rye to her coverage area. Before joining Home Town Media Group, Ashley freelanced for the Daily Voice in Fairfield County, Conn., and was a social media intern at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. She graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and gender studies. She currently resides in the Bronx. Reach Ashley at 914-653-1000 x23 or ashley@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @townreport.