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Sun., Oct. 4
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Fish and Wildlife Service says Sandy Creek flooding not connected to stream bank work


ELLISBURG — The recent flooding at Sandy Creek along Route 3 and the Up the Creek Campground was not a result of recent stream bank stabilization work, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist said.

Gian Dodici, who works out of the service’s office in Cortland, attributed the flooding to the rapidly fluctuating weather that built up ice that blocked water in the creek. After it melted, federal data show, water released at an unusually rapid pace Jan. 11.

“It was an act of weather, not the design of the stream,” he said.

In September, the service narrowed a 2,000-foot area of the creek near the bridge on Route 3 between Hessell Road and Route 120, in order to stabilize the banks to prevent erosion and protect habitats for animals such as salmon.

The service cut the width of the creek from 400 feet to 140 feet, and increased its depth from 2 feet to 4 feet.

On Thursday afternoon, Robert E. Curtin, who co-owns the campground with his girlfriend, Renee L. Paone, said he wanted a more complete explanation of whether there was any connection between the creek work and the flooding.

“This has never happened before,” he said.

Of most concern to him was the consolidation of streams, which he argued moved the stream 200 feet closer to the campground.

Mr. Dodici said the project was done to divert water from the bank and move water and sediment more efficiently. The work also consolidated multiple shallow streams into one bank.

The last work at the site took place in December, with crews solidifying banks that incurred some damage during an increase in flow in October.

At the time of flooding, federal data showed an approximately 1,700 percent increase in discharge rate.

Mr. Dodici pointed out U.S. Geological Service data that showed the discharge of water at the creek, which historically stands at about 100 to 200 cubic feet per second, increased to about 462 cfs the morning of Jan. 11. In the next day and a half, that count skyrocketed to a peak of 3,690 cfs.

At 3 p.m. Thursday, the discharge rate was down to 928 cfs, and it decreased to 664 cfs by 3 p.m. Friday, and 509 cfs at the same time Saturday.

Mr. Dodici declined to speculate on the level of damage that would have occurred had the work not been done.

The flooding at the campground left about a dozen trailers covered in ice and mud, and closed portions of Route 3 near the bridge.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Curtin said water had moved considerably since the initial flooding. However, he said, a majority of the ice brought in as a result of the flooding remained.

During the day, Mr. Curtin and others looked to find items from the approximately 15 severely damaged campers that could be salvaged for their owners.

“Thank God nobody got hurt,” he said. “That’s the theme overall today.”

Mr. Curtin said the full extent of the damage may not be known until the spring.

“It’s devastating for the families involved,” he said. “It puts a pit in my stomach.”

Video taken Monday at the roadway and the campsite can be viewed at

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