Friday, February 23, 2007

Pondering Policy . . . and Water

NYCO got the wheels turning with a post about NYC, including a reference to a Times article about the NYC water supply that says that by 2020 NYC will have 9 million people and they will be looking for something to drink.

If you are old enough and lived in the Utica area in the 1970s, you will remember the concern local residents felt over proposals for NYC to use Hinckley Reservoir (Utica's water supply) as a new source. Would Utica people be paying NYC for water? Would Utica's water use be limited to the per capita use found in NYC? Would Utica's growth potential be limited by limitations on water use? Fortunately, all these concerns were swept away by our local representatives in Albany, notably, Sen Donovan, because back in those days, this area still had some clout.

These days, the threats to the Utica water supply come from within: the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, which is hell-bent to give away the water needed for future generations in Greater Utica and Herkimer County. Hopefully, common sense will eventually prevail.

Meanwhile the larger issue of Upstate resources, not only water, but power as well, being appropriated to support Downstate growth remains. We already blogged about how the change in Upstate's representation in state government in the 60's appears to have marked the beginning of the economic and population decline for all areas north of Downstate and west of the Hudson Valley. Because of the Downstate majority viewpoint, policies that made sense for Downstate were implemented. The result: Downstate continues to grow (albeit slowly) while Upstate is becoming depopulated. The string of urban pearls across NY State's middle has been allowed to turn to rust: a tremendous waste of infrastructure, and a disaster for the people left behind to support it. Local policies and our overlapping local municipal governments have exacerbated the problem by encouraging more infrastructure in suburban areas.

If our political leaders are serious about our well being, they need to start thinking now about what should be state policy. Do we want laissez faire and allow pure market forces to determine policy? The end result will be what we've had: a growing Downstate, a declining Upstate, and more waterlines and powerlines disrupting our lives. Or do we want something different, such as policies that will encourage use of the infrastructure we already have in place upstate.

How about implementing the concept: The people who bear the negative impacts of a public project must be the one's who receive the benefits. . . or . . . Those who would benefit from a public project must be willing to assume all the negative impacts?

This would seem to be a good place to start the discussion.

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