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Babylon first Suffolk town to adopt required hazard mitigation plan for next big storm

Houses on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon Village

Houses on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon Village are seen Oct. 30, 2012, two days after superstorm Sandy swept through Long Island, causing flooding and damage to many homes in the region. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The Town of Babylon is taking lessons learned from superstorm Sandy and applying them to its five-year hazard mitigation plan.

Suffolk County's 10 towns, along with 33 villages, two tribal nations and the Suffolk Water Authority were required to submit hazard mitigation plans to the county last month. The five-year plans, which outline priorities in addressing problems such as flooding, were submitted as part of the county's "Multi-Jurisdictional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan" in accordance with the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. The plans are required for municipalities to receive mitigation grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Last week, Babylon became the first of the towns hardest hit by Sandy to adopt the plan, which is required every five years and addresses everything from wildfires and drought to infestations and earthquakes. The new plan was heavily influenced by the October 2012 storm, said Brian Zitani, Babylon's waterways management supervisor. According to both the town and villages' hazard mitigation plans, since Jan. 31, 10,301 claims have been paid totaling $432,474,371 related to damage from superstorm Sandy.

"It's very hurricane-centered," Zitani said. "Because of Sandy and with the flood loss we dealt with, it definitely did change the tone of the plan."

At least 50 percent of the town's priority projects deal with flooding and hardening of infrastructure, he said.

In the short-term, the town will focus on protecting electrical systems and providing backup generators at some of the town's smaller facilities, such as a nutritional center, Zitani said. For the long-term, the town is looking to improve its flood warning system to ensure resident contact information is up-to-date.

The town is also looking at elevating roadways, an expensive and complicated endeavor that requires adjoining properties be higher than the road.

"The sea level is rising, it is happening and the status quo of what we have is not going to work," Zitani said. "Even regular tides are going to affect people more often. But how do you take eight miles of shoreline and raise everything a couple of feet?"

He said the town is being "opportunistic" and that "every road project south of Montauk Highway, they're looking at the potential" to elevate the road, even if only by a few inches to alleviate flooding.

The town's three villages have also focused their plans on flood mitigation and infrastructure.

"We always knew that type of storm could impact us," said Lindenhurst emergency manager Ray Fais. "In the emergency management field we knew that it was not a matter of if but when. Sandy was our when."

The villages and town also looked at storm-related problems north of flood-prone areas, from a lack of backup generators at facilities to drainage failures that could result in severe flooding with just a strong rainfall.

Zitani said meetings between towns and villages in preparation of the plans allowed for meaningful conversations about problems and possible solutions.

"We all pretty much have the same problems," he said. "Everybody was sharing, especially if they had a success story."

To-do list

Some projects being addressed by Babylon Town and its three villages as part of their hazard mitigation plans

Babylon Town

Building flood walls around the electrical system at Tanner Park

Acquiring a back-up generator for the Wyandanch Nutritional Center

Amityville Village

Enhancing existing municipal drainage systems to provide increased capacity

Increasing structural stability and drainage capacity of culverts

Babylon Village

Replacing and raising bulkheads at Lewis Pond

Acquiring rescue equipment such as a high water truck and two payloaders

Lindenhurst Village

Elevating South Wellwood Avenue from Shore Road south to the Village Marina

Acquiring a generator and electrical connection to power a portion of the Rainbow Senior Center, two highway yard areas, and Fire Station 6

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