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January 23, 2013

$115M sought in Irene lawsuits

Property owners, businesses and public agencies in Schoharie County are seeking more than $115 million in damages from the operators of the Gilboa Dam in lawsuits filed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The lawsuits allege that New York Power Authority and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection failed to take actions that would have limited the destruction along Schoharie Creek downstream from the dam when the storm struck Aug. 28, 2011, according to the report.

As much as 11 inches of rain fell in the watershed during the storm, overwhelming the dam and sending a surge of water down the creek that inundated several towns and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The plaintiffs include Schoharie county, town and village; Blenheim town and village; Esperance; Fulton; Middleburgh town and village; Middleburgh Central School District; and Nickerson Park Campground, a campground just north of the dam’s hydroelectric plant, according to the report.

The lawsuits underscore longstanding tension between the dam agencies and Schoharie County residents, who say the agencies put the interests of downstate power and water customers above the safety of downstream communities.

One lawsuit asserts the damage was “a result of negligence, recklessness, trespass, culpable conduct, misfeasance, lack of care and breach of duty on part” of the agencies, according to the Time-Union report.

The dam is at the heart of the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project, which consists of two 5-billion-gallon reservoirs and a hydroelectric plant. The reservoir outflows are impounded by Gilboa Dam, which supplies drinking water for New York City.

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