Family battles DEC over raising storm-damaged home

Scott Barden and his wife Christine, of Oakdale,

Scott Barden and his wife Christine, of Oakdale, received permits from the DEC and town to raise their home after Hurricane Sandy brought 5 feet of water into the single story home in Oakdale. (Nov. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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An Oakdale family struggling to make their new home safe from flooding after superstorm Sandy destroyed their previous one is battling environmental issues as well.

The Bardens live next to wetlands, and they say raising their rebuilt one-story ranch home to federal flood standards is difficult considering their home's location.

"That's the Connetquot River, attached to the Great South Bay," said Scott Barden, 49, on a recent visit as he pointed to views from his house on Shore Drive. "The Grand Canal is nearby."

"It's a great place to live -- until you get hit with a storm," he added.

Their home of 23 years was gutted by the storm last fall, he said. "The water was chest high," Barden said. "The storm surge was nothing like I ever experienced. It was a wall of water from the river."

The family fled to a friend in Bellport.

Now, as Barden tries to bring his house into compliance with federal flood regulations, he said he's run afoul of the state Department of Environmental Conservation because of his proximity to wetlands.

"The DEC gives me the permits, then they fine me for seven violations," said Barden, a retired federal employee. "I can raise the house up to 13 feet but I can't pour concrete for fill." He added, "The water is going to come back in."

DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said Barden was issued a permit in May to raise his house. "This permit authorizes the elevation of a single-family dwelling over an existing footprint. No additions or modifications to septic systems are authorized," Fonda said.

Barden was fined in October for building two sheds, a deck, a hot tub, a stoop, brick walk and outdoor shower "in an area adjacent to a tidal wetland without the required DEC permit," Fonda said.

The agency also cited Barden for "reconstruction of an asphalt driveway [widened] in an area adjacent to a tidal wetland without a permit," Fonda said.

He was fined $500 with another $500 fine suspended if he moves one of the sheds and plants bushes on the north property line -- the rest of the unauthorized additions can remain.

He's also allowed to use concrete as long as the leachate doesn't seep into the wetlands, Fonda added.

Barden said it will cost him $50,000 to raise the house and $30,000 for the new foundation. Barden added that filling in the property would eliminate the need for many stairs, which his wife, Christine, has trouble navigating. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"If we had known about this whole DEC wetlands stuff, we would have never bought the house," she added.

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