DRYDEN — Dryden Mayor Michael Murphy plans to rehabilitate a bridge on Lewis Street responsible for downtown flooding.
The project, approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is pending approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation before the town can move ahead with reconstruction.
“If we have a major storm, there would not be enough space to go under the bridge without flooding so we want to get in there and clean that up,” Murphy said. “The goal this time is not only to clean it out but to do riprap,” gravel, rocks or other material to stabilize stream banks or redirect water flow.
Two creeks join about 50 feet upstream from the bridge, Murphy said. Through the years, silt builds up and blocks the two portals that run under the bridge, resulting in the creek overflowing and flooding.
“The goal is to keep both portals working,” Murphy said. The riprap would redirect the water to the south side of the creek. As the water rises, the north side portal would take water.
Murphy planned to have it cleaned out last fall, but the pandemic halted all work and pending projects, he said. Instead of cleaning it out every five to six years, the bridge renovations would redirect the water indefinitely.
Downtown Dryden has seen flooding since the early 1980s as a result of creek overflow, said Wayne Dutton, president of NAPA Auto Parts stores, whose Dryden location experienced indoor flooding between 1981 and 1985.
“There was a summer storm that we had some water washed in from the north that came into our store, not very deep or anything, it did not cause a lot of damage,” Dutton said. “But it (the flooding) really curtailed the local businesses.”
The last time the community saw flooding, in July 2017, 4 inches of rain fell within a six-hour period.
“It came flying off the hills by TC3 (Tompkins Cortland Community College) and by our town hall and it all came down very fast and caused a flood,” Murphy said.
Although TC3 public information officer Peter Voorhees remembers the storm, he doesn’t remember it being that significant. But he recalls downtown being flooded by previous storms.
“It’s safe to say it’s a non-issue for us,” Voorhees said. “We had a couple of big storms in the past few years that really, all of downtown Dryden was under water.”
“It wasn’t something that happened on a regular basis, but we all knew it was always a possibility,” Dutton said. “It (bridge renovations) will just make the businesses and the community more secure.”
Murphy hopes to get permission from the DEC by July to move forward.