Article on New York city release of turbid waters into the Esopus and negotiating new terms of FAD without local input. What are implications to the MOA (memorandum of agreement) between city and local communities? Lissa Harris reporting for the Watershed Post, an excerpt follows:
“State health officials say they have no authority to force New York City to take action in the Lower Esopus — at least not in the FAD, a document meant to satisfy the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the city’s watershed is pristine enough to stay unfiltered.
Hein is seeking to restore the Lower Esopus programs to the FAD, and is calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to release a separate document that will govern the DEP’s actions in the Lower Esopus. But the county executive is also seeking some bigger changes in upstate/downstate relations: Hein wants to renegotiate the hard-fought agreement that has governed the watershed since 1997, a much more substantial undertaking.
“The fact that the people of our community do not have a seat at the table in the negotiation of the FAD is unconscionable,” Hein said. “What impacts our community is being negotiated in New York City and Albany, with the people of our community having absolutely no say in the matter.”
The Lower Esopus has been a hot political issue since the city began muddying the creek with turbid water releases in in 2010. This latest spat illustrates just how complicated watershed politics can be.
New York City spends millions of dollars a year on its upstate watershed, but the price of clean water is cheap compared to what the city could be forced to spend if regulators decide that the city is not properly protecting its water supply. If the city violates the terms of the FAD, the DOH could force it to build a massive filtration plant, with a price tag of more than $10 billion.
And the FAD isn’t the only document making waves in the Lower Esopus. New York City will soon be required to take action in the creek under an entirely separate consent order with the state DEC. But with both documents delayed, and emotions running hot in southeastern Ulster County over the DEP’s actions in the creek, the FAD has become a lightning rod for long-held local frustration with the city.
A (muddy) river runs through it
The Ashokan Reservoir was created by damming the Esopus Creek a century ago, forever separating the creek into an upper and a lower portion. In 2010, the DEP began releasing turbid water into the lower portion of the creek after heavy rainstorms, in an effort to cut down on the use of alum — a settling agent that causes silt to clump and sink — in the city’s Kensico Reservoir almost 100 miles away.
Because the city controls when and how much water flows into the Lower Esopus via the Ashokan Release Channel, the DEP’s discharges of turbid water into the creek are considered water pollution by regulators, even when the water in the creeks upstream from the Ashokan is equally muddy. The city’s turbid releases have earned the Lower Esopus a designation as an “impaired waterway” from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. And they have infuriated local residents, who have watched a creek beloved by flyfishers, swimmers and boaters run brown for weeks on end.
The New York City DEP’s water releases have been both a curse and a blessing for Ulster County residents. When heavy rains are in the forecast, the releases create extra space in the reservoir, helping to prevent flooding along the banks of the Lower Esopus. Local officials along the Lower Esopus who have been fiercely critical of the muddy water coming from the Ashokan Release Channel are sometimes in the awkward position of beseeching the city to release water into the creek for flood protection.
According to DEP officials, it has been many months since the agency released turbid water into the Lower Esopus. Over the last year, releases have been clear or slightly cloudy, they say.”
For entire article go to: