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A plan for Gowanda

Public hearing for flood mitigation project set

AP File Photo This photo taken on Aug. 10, 2009, shows flood damage from Thatcher Creek in Gowanda.

GOWANDA — The $6.7 million flood mitigation project will be presented to the public on Thursday, Feb. 20 as the village will showcase the work that’ll be done to Thatcher Brook to diverge excess waterflow into a new channel.

The presentation will begin at the Gowanda Historic Hollywood Theater at 6 p.m. Gowanda Mayor David Smith stated the diversion plan will include weirs, which will regulate water flow in Thatcher Brook, into above and below ground channels if it begins to overflow. Those channels will connect to Cattaraugus Creek. The creek has enough depth to absorb more water and not flood, the mayor said.

Smith added that the village has reached out to homeowners that will be impacted by the diversion channel to make them privy to the possible work. He couldn’t elaborate more on the work or where the channel will be prior to the presentation.

Gowanda has been victim of two 100-year floods in a five-year span. In 2009, mud, silt and water buried many parts of the village. The United States Geological Survey stated the flash flood began with around 6 inches of rain in a span of an hour-and-a-half, that was measured in Perrysburg.

“In the course of four hours, I watched businesses wash away and never return,” said Smith, who was an administrator of Gowanda Middle School at the time. “I watched a hospital wash away and never return. I watched lives lost. Moreso, I watched the literal spirit of the community wash away with the receding flood waters.”

OBSERVER File Photo Pictured is Thatcher Brook. The $6.7 million flood mitigation project will be presented to the public on Thursday at the Gowanda Historic Hollywood Theater at 6 p.m.

“Gowanda became a community that lost its hope and lost its will.”

Five years later, another flash flood hit, but only impacting about 30 homes, the OBSERVER reported. Many local officials stated it wasn’t as bad as the prior flood.

Mayor Smith, who was elected in 2017, and his administration are looking to finalize the flood mitigation work of many prior administrations. In February 2018, the village announced the $6.7 million flood mitigation project.

The finances stay the same as today’s project as the federal government will pay 65 percent of it and the final 35 percent is divvied between the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the village.

The village’s $1.2 million came from then-state Senator Catharine Young ($1 million via DASNY funding) and current Senator Patrick Gallivan ($200k via Erie County Soil and Water Conservation).

Smith thanked his board for their hard work and stated that village trustee Paul Zimmermann was a leading force for Gowanda in this project.

The work is estimated to improve property values by 23 to 27 percent and may eliminate the need for flood insurance for many homes in the village.

The mayor emphasized the impact this project would make — not only to the community but for his own home. He stated he is required to get flood insurance, which costs him around $1,500 a year. His home is marked as 1-A flood zone, a high-risk area for flooding.

When it rains, Smith goes to check up on the South Chapel Street bridge to see how Thatcher Brook is holding up. He’s not the only one either.

“I know that trauma because I look to my left and I look to my right and I see 30 other people standing next to me doing the same thing,” he said. “We can’t live that way anymore.”

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