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NY canal flood task force hasn't met

ALBANY -- Tropical Storm Irene caused widespread destruction in the Mohawk River Valley and state canal system, yet a high-level state task force created to study flood mitigation after the last disaster in 2006 has never met.

A Cornell University professor named to the group gave up in frustration after repeatedly asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation when the first meeting would be held.

A Fort Plain business owner whose Agway store was swamped in 2006 said the lack of action reinforces his cynicism about government.

State agencies responsible for setting up the group remained silent on the task force's inaction as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mobilized state and federal officials to deal with the latest flooding crisis from Irene.

For reasons yet unclear, the 14-member New York State Canal Flood Mitigation Task Force never convened, even though legal deadlines for its findings passed in February 2009 and again in February 2010 after lawmakers granted an extension.

Susan Rhia, an earth sciences professor at Cornell University who was named to the flood group in early 2008 by former Gov. David A. Paterson, said she kept asking the Department of Environmental Conservation about meetings but finally gave up.

That was nearly three years ago and "that was the last I ever heard of it . . . I have been wondering whatever happened to the task force," said Rhia, director of the New York State Water Resources Institute.

The Times Union first reported on the absence of the task force in 2008, questioning when the group was going to begin its work.

Spokesmen in the DEC and the state Canal Corp., which were among eight state agencies in the task force, had no comment when asked what had happened to the group.

Created in 2007 by the State Legislature, leaders from the Assembly and Senate also named members to the group.

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