Stormwater and Flooding

Understanding stormwater and flood risk

NYSWRI funds projects to: 1) raise awareness of flood risk and preparation among decision makers and land owners, 2) evaluate flood preparation needs, 3) evaluate outreach materials, and 4) assess infrastructure flood risk.

Community Outreach and Education

A multi-county Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) collaboration (Columbia-Greene, Dutchess, Orange, and Putnam counties) conducts education outreach for municipal and landowner audiences regarding flood risk and management. The CCE team has created and presented in depth training on stream dynamics and geomorphology, as well as the role of forests in mitigating flooding. The team also engaged municipalities on flood risk and preparation through presentations to municipalities throughout the Hudson Valley. Additionally, CCE created and implemented training sessions on post flood interventions to provide hands-on training to improve highway and Soil and Water Conservation District staff preparedness to appropriately respond to flood scenarios. Project outreach and resources can be found at the CCE website.

A collaboration between Deborah Grantham, Edwin (Todd) Cowen, and the Cornell Environmental Hydraulics Laboratory produced stream behavior videos that demonstrate important outreach topics identified by CCE educators. The narrated videos illustrate concepts of stream energy and upstream and downstream effects of stream modifications, including dredging, in a physically intuitive manner for a general audience as well as for classroom use. 

Flood resilience education in the Hudson River Estuary: Needs assessment and program evaluation

Shorna Allred and Gretchen Gary of the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources work with small communities to improve their preparedness for changing flood patterns. Team members conducted an extensive survey of streamside landowners to assess current stream management practices, educational needs to improve landowner flood management, and barriers to managing flood risk (Gary et al. 2013). Allred and Gary recommend municipalities increase collaboration with neighbors across political boundaries in order to promote community resilience to flooding.

Scientific Assessment of Flood Risk

A collaboration between Cornell University (PIs Todd Walter and Art DeGaetano), the Lower Hudson Coalition of Conservation Districts, and Hudson River Estuary Program works to identify peak flow under different weather scenarios and to identify undersized culverts. In 2013 this project assessed current and predicted peak storm discharge for culverts in Woodbury Creek in Orange County, Saw Kill in Dutchess County, and Hollowville Creek in Columbia County. Culverts were assessed for their ability to accommodate current and predicted storm flows. This analysis identified that peak flow capacity is reached annually in 23, 32, and 56 % of culverts in Woodbury Creek, Saw Kill, and Hollowville Creek watersheds, respectively (Walter et al. 2014). The report for the eight watersheds assessed in 2014 is also available (Walter et al.2015).  Eight new watersheds were assessed in 2015 and results are coming soon. A long-term outcome of this work is a prioritization of the aquatic barriers that would reconnect the largest and most important stretches of streams in the Hudson Valley, and a better understanding of how undersized culverts interact within a subwatershed. For more details on the findings of these research efforts, see the detailed information in the webmap on our Aquatic Connectivity and Barrier Removal page, and go to our Culverts Prioritization Project page.