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Mike Groll, Associated Press
In this Dec. 9, 2011 photo, Elizabeth Higgins of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County explains improvements to the banks of the Esopus Creek after flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in Shandaken, N.Y. The town of Shandaken, scoured by four major floods in 10 months, has embraced a scientific approach to stream management and the work has started to pay off by protecting key roads from devastation and enabling a quick and effective response to floods.

PHOENICIA, N.Y. — The catastrophic flooding from hurricanes Irene and Lee exposed planning gaps in small towns that can't afford effective flood readiness plans.

But in New York's Catskill Mountains, partnership with New York City has brought top-level expertise and millions of dollars in construction cash to towns crisscrossed with flood-prone creeks. That paid off by helping towns like Shandaken complete projects that reduced damage.

Experts say more severe flood events are expected with global climate change. They say towns need to partner with state and regional agencies to map flood plains and get effective stream management plans in place.