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Politics and Government

Flood control options could reduce the number of Syracuse homes on federal flood maps

Tom Magnarelli
Joe Nicoletti (standing) with the Syracuse Common Council.

New federal floodplain maps will go into effect for Syracuse on November 4, and 1,600 affected homeowners will be required to have flood insurance. A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation report released in June shows that if some flood control options were implemented, some properties could be taken off the maps.

Onondaga Creek runs through the city of Syracuse and particularly in one area of the city’s south side, a lot of new properties have been added to the floodplain maps. This is especially hard for the owners, considering it is one of the poorest areas in the city, and flood insurance can run up to $2,500 a year.

Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Nicoletti wants to hold committee meetings, public hearings, and rally elected officials on the local, state and federal level around plans that could mitigate the flood risk of Onondaga Creek.

“All these families, many of them in tears, were standing there saying ‘I can’t afford this,’" Nicoletti said. "Some of them are on fixed income; some of them are single family parents."

The state DEC report gave three options. Dredging sediment and removing excessive vegetation would cost $16 million and be moderately effective at reducing the number of affected properties. Constricting the outlet of the Onondaga Dam to retain flooding would only cost $3 million and be effective at reducing the properties impacted. And an overall conveyance modification plan that would widen and reshape the creek and add a new lining would cost $46 million but be the most effective at reducing the number of properties in the flood zone.

While Nicoletti does not endorse one plan in particular, he said going through with one of the options will create jobs and remediate the problem with the flood waters.

“The federal government, which is spending money across the country, should really open up its wallet and help the people of Syracuse," Nicoletti said. "We are one of the poorest cities. We need the assistance. We've got a study, let's go after it, let's find the money. Let's recruit everybody we can to join in our campaign to find the money to resolve the issue.”

Nicoletti wants to get the mayor’s and Onondaga County’s input. He said he plans to continue to make noise on the issue in the months ahead.