WILLSBORO — Some Mill Street residents think that damage caused by last week's flooding of the Boquet River could have been avoided.Brian King's residence suffered an estimated $35,000 in damage. This included his furnace, as well as many power tools, the washing away of river bank and external damage to his home.He feels fortunate to have flood insurance, but his tools and other items are not covered.King also indicated there was possible contamination of the river since his fuel line ruptured. He is unsure how many gallons were in his fuel tank at the time, but it emptied.Resident Charlotte La Pine had to be evacuated by her son from her Mill Street house due to physical disability, King said.He feels the town was lax in its initial response, referring to it as "a bad judgment call."King believes the flooding could have been prevented if measures — such as opening up the floodgate — had been taken beforehand.
Marnie Cutting, a resident on Mill Street for 26 years, let her small terrier out of the house around 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28."I was surprised he wasn't swept away," she said. "There were ice floes across my lawn and around the property."Cutting then heard a sound in the basement, which turned out to be her sump pump. She was able to protect her new furnace, though she had to obtain a second pump.She built up a barrier around her house to divert the water, using bags of mulch, fertilizer and virtually anything else she could grab.Cutting is still pumping a week later due to the saturated soil."I spoke to (Town Supervisor) Bob Ashline and others on Tuesday night as the river was running backwards through the storm drains and into the IGA lot. I asked Ashline to pull the floodgate by the side of the dam," said Cutting.In previous situations the town had broken up the edges, she said.
When equipment came on March 28 to break up the ice jam, she estimated it took about 45 minutes, "then everything moved as slick as can be."That day, the Fire Department used a two-inch hose for more than an hour to pump out a neighbor's cellar.Cutting said a town truck came by a day or so later and threw in some fill "to look good."Referring to Ashline, she added, "He allowed us to go to bed without any worry. There was something he could do."
Ashline said that he and a Town Council member were at the site until 11 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27 and that representatives from New York State Department of Transportation remained until 1 the following morning.Ashline returned around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and found that the waters had gone down to a point where the river was no longer a threat.Though flooding in Willsboro has happened before, it is a rare occurrence, in Ashline's estimation. He doesn't remember any significant flooding since he took over as town supervisor in January 2003. Ashline pointed out that, in the past, DOT has called for additional equipment from the private sector.Mark Bonfey, assistant resident engineer for DOT, said his office was called that Tuesday evening around 8 and responded by sending a crew. The DOT's responsibility is primarily State Route 22 and the bridge that spans the Boquet River in Willsboro.DOT set up warnings and had a crew at the site until 1 a.m. Wednesday. The warning signs and cones remained in place.Bonfey indicated that the river level would rise and then fall. At most, there were five or six inches of water on the lower sections of the roadway, he said."There was plenty of space between the bridge and river."From his vantage point, Bonfrey said, the water on Mill Street also was five to six inches deep at times. He did see a truck drive through.But King says someone could have been seriously injured.
"We're lucky no one was carried downstream."