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Countdown of Top 5 Stories of 2023: Number 4

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The aftermath of the flooding in New Lebanon that was the result of a beaver dam break in the Pittsfield State Forest early Thursday morning, June 29, our Number 4 story of the year. File photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Columbia Paper is counting down the top 5 local stories of 2023. We looked at the top stories of the year, those that drew the highest number of readers to our website and Facebook page, or that had the greatest impact on our community and its residents. Here is the Number 4 story for the year.

Beaver dam bursts, New Lebanon floods

By DOUG LA ROCQUE

NEW LEBANON – The most important thing to note is no one was hurt when a beaver dam in the Pittsfield Forest in neighboring Massachusetts broke open, sending an estimated 65 million gallons of water down a ravine and into New Lebanon’s Main Street neighborhood late last week. The result was numerous flooded basements, property damage to at least 20 homes, trees, branches, rocks and other debris in yards and roadways, as well as lots of silt and mud. New Lebanon Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling said a town road and bridge received minor damage, with the Statford Park pavilion and the Town Hall parking lots also covered in mud.

According to Supervisor Houghtling, Massachusetts officials are already working to make sure it does not happen again. Beavers being beavers, they will most likely build another dam at the foot of the 25-foot-deep lake, but this time they will have a little help. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is already working to install infrastructure that includes piping and mesh to make sure there is not another occurrence.

Supervisor Houghtling described the incident as the “perfect storm.” She said one would have expected the flood waters to have spilled out all over the mountain but in this case, they became trapped in a ravine and cascaded down into the town.

The clean up began Thursday morning, June 29, with residents receiving help from the town’s highway department, the NYS Department of Transportation and the Columbia County Emergency Management Office. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation was also in town to help assess the damage.

Supervisor Houghtling made a State of Emergency declaration last Thursday morning so the town could access whatever state and federal help may be available. While at this point, no total monetary damage figure has been placed on the flooding, Ms. Houghtling says the town does plan to apply to the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for whatever assistance may be available.

Supervisor Houghtling put out an all-hands-on deck call for Saturday morning, July 1, asking town residents and businesses to come together and assist their neighbors with the clean-up. About 25 people showed up to volunteer. In a statement to The Columbia Paper, Supervisor Houghtling said, “Maverick’s and Woodlife offered free food and coffee to those volunteers and property owners affected by the flood. Homeowners also brought out their grills, offering food, water and snacks to those who were there to help them.” The supervisor described it as “one more example of how amazing our community is, coming together to support one another through this horrific event.”

As of press time, Ms. Houghtling says most of the outside damage and debris has been cleaned up, it just still looks a little dirty. Many homeowners will be dealing with the flooded basements and the damage it caused, however, for many weeks to come.

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