ITHACA, N.Y.—Just in time for floodin’ season, the City of Ithaca has received a significant boost in its flood mitigation efforts: over a million in federal funding to help design and implement infrastructure to fight the routine overflows from the city’s waterways.

Those same waterways, often the subject of adoration, have a habit of flooding when facing a certain amount of rain, and particularly when winter’s ice accumulations begin to melt. With the City of Ithaca’s floodplain directly in the eye of FEMA’s revised risk maps poised to cause problems for local homeowners, local initiatives to fight flooding is once again at the forefront.

The funding, announced by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), was released as part of the federal budget for the current year. It is part of $8.5 million allocated throughout the Southern Tier for community development — including $128,000 to Tompkins County for an electric vehicle charging station.

Superintendent of Public Works Michael Thorne said that some of the funding’s details aren’t quite clear yet, like requirements of use and logistics, though more should be known in early February. Thorne said the city did apply for three other grants through FEMA specifically for flood mitigation work, though he wasn’t sure if this funding had any bearing on whether those grant applications are successful or not.

The significance of the funding lies in the hope that outfitting the city with updated, enhanced flood prevention infrastructure will help ease or stop the potential burden homeowners will face considering how FEMA’s risk maps influence flood insurance costs.

“Even if we don’t win the large FEMA grants this year, $1.3 million will allow us to start on an extensive design process,” Thorne said. “The flood mitigation project includes construction of floodwalls or other barriers, installation of backflow prevention devices, certification of existing levees, and possible new stormwater pump stations. Our ultimate goal is to reduce flood risk and change the new FEMA maps to reflect the reduced risk.”

He added that visual appeal will be factored into the designs.

“We’re grateful for the leadership of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand in delivering this funding which will allow the City to start an extensive design process for this important flood mitigation project,” Mayor Laura Lewis said in the funding announcement. “The funds will be used in conjunction with FEMA grant funding, if awarded, to construct improvements that will reduce or eliminate flood risk in many parts of the City.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com