PORTHENRY-The town of Moriah is recovering from spring floods, but the most severe pain for most residents may be yet to come.
"I have a lot of real, deep concern about this year's and next year's budgets due to the devastation caused by flooding," Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. "We spent thousands of dollars for emergency repairs. If we don't get help from FEMA, we'll have to make major cuts in this year's budget and raise taxes next year."
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has toured Moriah to inspect the flood damage. Local officials hope the agency will provide money to off-set the natural disaster's costs.
Through May 17, Moriah had spent $40,000 in materials and another $10,000 in overtime pay to make emergency repairs to roads damaged by spring floods. The total cost of the emergency repairs is still being tabulated.
"And these are only temporary repairs," Scozzafava said. "We still have to make permanent repairs to roads, shoulders, culverts, etc. This is going to be very expensive."
Not only did the flooding force Moriah to spend money, it is preventing the town from making money at the town-owned Bulwagga Bay campground.
The 2011 Moriah budget anticipates $280,000 in revenue from the campground to offset local taxes.
"If that money doesn't come in we have a huge gap in our budget," Scozzafava said. "We're looking at a huge economic loss at the campground.
"We are so dependent on that campsite to balance our budget that a catastrophic event like this is a major problem," he said.
Record flooding in Lake Champlain kept the campground from opening as scheduled May 1 and to date only about 50 of 175 sites are open.
Most of the campsites at Bulwagga Bay are rented seasonally. At this point there are no plans to refund campers for the shortened season, which has angered some summer visitors.
"We don't have any control over the weather," Scozzafava said. "For the most part the campers have been very understanding, although some are upset and I understand that."
A one-month refund to seasonal campers for May would cost Moriah about $30,000.
Scozzafava has been in contact with the town insurance carrier to see if the community is covered for economic loss from flooding. If so, the town will consider a refund for campers unable to use the facility.
In the meantime, the town board has already decided to freeze rates at Bulwagga Bay for 2012 and 2013 as a way of making up the 2011 loss to seasonal campers.
"That won't make everyone happy, but it's the best we can do right now," Scozzafava said.
There is also the possibility some campers may decide not to pay for this season. Deposits have been paid, but the remainder of the seasonal camping fees are still outstanding.
There were some campers left at Bulwagga Bay during the winter that were damaged by the flooding this spring. The owners were notified when the lake started to rise and the town has no liability for those damages, the supervisor said.
Ultimately, the cost of flood repairs and any shortfall at Bulwagga Bay may end up on the backs of local taxpayers.
"I'm very concerned about it," Scozzafava said. "In all my years in office I've never been dealt this hand of cards."