Thursday, May 22, 2008

What a Terrible Tangled Web We Weave . . .

Looks like last fall's Hinckley water crisis has developed a new wrinkle: another potential lawsuit. Erie Boulevard Hydropower has filed a notice of claim against the State of New York for breach of an old 1921 Agreement. It seems that the Canal Corp., when it reduced releases from Hinckley to keep the lake level from dropping below the Mohawk Valley Water Authority's drinking water supply intake, reduced them below the levels required by the Agreement. The reduced 'water over the dam' meant lost power and lost money to the power company.

But wait! Isn't drinking water more important than power? Shouldn't the power company give up some of its power to protect MVWA's customers?

The power company isn't the only one suffering a loss. A public fishery along West Canada Creek was also shut down for the first time in memory. While a few fishermen not being able to fish their favorite stream might seem inconsequential to some, there are others who make their living off this sport, and their incomes were also dramatically impacted by the Canal Corporation's actions.

But wait! Isn't drinking water more important than fishing and people making their living from fishing activities? Shouldn't the fishermen give up their past time and the guides, and bait-and-tackle shops take a back seat to the well being of the people in Utica and New Hartford?

Where is it written that the Canal Corp. must retain water to protect the MVWA's water supply? Isn't that the obligation of the MVWA?

Of course, we already know that the MVWA breached its own agreement with the People of the State of New York by demolishing its back up reservoir at Gray -- and if you read some of the appendices to the Hinckley Working Group's Report, you would know that MVWA was obliged to add water to Hinckley from its own reserves throughout last summer in an amount equal to what it was using.

Did MVWA's breach contribute to the Canal Corp's breach? Will the Canal Corp. bring a third-party suit against MVWA to (make its customers) pay for the power company's loss?

Did MVWA's breach contribute to the threat to its own intakes? In theory, undoubtedly because there would have been more water in Hinckley, but as a practical matter, the answer is unknown, because the Working Group avoided making those calculations like it was the plague. We can't have state-created agencies pointing out other state-created agencies' screw-ups can we? . . . especially when they are all busy suing each other . . . and why bother? . . . It's not like its costing them any money because all the costs are passed on. The taxpayers, MVWA customers, and Thruway users have bottomless pockets to finance these suits and charades.

And where was the DEC in all this when it gave a permit to MVWA to destroy the Gray Dam? Shouldn't it have known that maintenance of that dam was a requirement for MVWA to take water from Hinckley? Shouldn't it have determined in advance the consequences of MVWA removing the dam and the additional water storage to the well-being of MVWA's customers?

Some days it seems that none of the government entities want to follow their own rules . . . They all want to march to their own drummer, focusing only on their own missions . . . Nevertheless, they all are willing to cover up for each other to protect the status quo. . . Meanwhile public safety is put at risk, the public and private businesses are inconvenienced, and we all pay and pay.

What a terrible tangled web New York State government has weaved.


Anonymous said...

As convoluted and confusing as this issue is to me I can at least appreciate the narrative.

I think this State/Local government has a "governmental attitude problem". They do whatever they want and go buy whatever they want.

NYS needs a voter coalition dedicated to identifying and removing the problem politicians. The "Fix Albany" gang is a start, but they seem to play a little too nice with these jokers.


Anonymous said...

Here! Here! to strikeslip. Amen to Quiet Riot.

If I were to commit the same incompetent blunders that these politically appointed officials (imposters) like those heading the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, New York State Canal Corporation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation have, we would be reading of my disgraceful termination in every newspaper from Albany to Buffalo and beyond. But instead, our elected officials are calling for “the need for a regional water summit” instead of facing the problem head-on. Why are they protecting these incompetent politically anointed few who pose an undue financial burden to the hard-working people of the Mohawk Valley?

The solution is simply to end this cover-up NOW! This issue is far too important to keep fooling around with cheap concealment tactics. Let us put an end to this amateurish attitude riddled with poor attempts to cover-up this idiotic series of blunders. It is long overdue to replace these incompetent imposters with a proven professional public management firm that will responsibly manage this matter. This firm will end up costing the taxpayers far less money than these imposters are costing us in terms of the legal costs to defend their idiotic inability to abide by their own agreements as outlined in the contracts that should govern the administration of water from the Hinckley reservoir. And if our elected officials still refuse to deal responsibly in terms of not calling for the termination these idiots, then perhaps it is time to replace them too!

Anonymous said...

You are mistaken that the MVWA had to replace the water that it withdrew from Hinckley. If you thoroughly read all the agreements and the report you will find that Gray was not constructed for that purpose.

The Gray reservoir site is in the Hinckley watershed. If water was impounded by Gray, it would not have found its way into Hinckley early in the season. Absent of precipitation, we cannot create water in the watershed. So, if Gray were full in the Spring and we had a dry summer, some of the water would evaporate, and some would have to be passed through the gates to supply the Black Creek throughout the summer (so that it doesn't dry out and kill the fish). In September, there would be little water left in Gray.

Providing drinking water requires 30cfs. Minimum downstream releases required by the FERC license for the West Canada below Hinckley are 160cfs! The normal summer release called for by the Operating Diagram is 400cfs. On two occasions this summer, the Canal upped the releases to 600cfs! Drinking water use is a very minor, but arguably the most important use of the reservoir.

The downstream hydros that existed before Hinckley are way better off now that there's a dam because in a dry summer, they would have had to stop power production much earlier.

Also, drinking water is recycled back into the Mohawk/Canal at the Utica sewage treatment plant providing benefit to the Canal before the West Canada enters at Herkimer.

People need drinking water. Businesses need water! The Canal is not a transportation resource as it was in 1905. It is a recreational resource and should not have control over Hinckley levels as it does now. Canal law needs to change! The report to the Governor did nothing to fix the Hinckley management problem. We DO NOT need Gray Reservoir to be rebuilt it was never used to compensate Hinckley. It was removed because it was never used and it would have cost the rate payers millions to rebuild. Unfortunately we may get to a point that the lawsuit will cost the rate payers more than rebuilding Gray.

Strikeslip said...

Milton -- I am not mistaken. Please read the 1917 Agreement between Consolidated Water and the State pages 12-15. When the inflow to Hinckley falls below a certain level, the water company is required to replace what it takes out of Hinckley -- otherwise it has NO right to take from Hinckley.

The other points of your argument are not relevant.

Anonymous said...

Not relevant or too true to argue!

Strikeslip said...

Not relevant: You either live up to the terms of your agreements -- or you renegotiate them. You don't ignore them. See my 5/29 post.

Read the 1917 Agreement carefully to understand how it was intended to work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Strikeslip, yes, water is more important. I'm wondering if BIG OIL is behind it, as they need a lot of water to frack. They drained the Susquehanna River in PA to dangerously low levels.

I'm on an Earthquake fault, 2 miles away from a Rig they're currently building, and my stream disappeared through cracks in the ground, and it's not because of the drought because last year the drought for my neighborhood was about the same.

My stream feeds into a creek where my neighbor gets his water, and I'm concerned for him. He uses the spring stream, and I use well water, looks like we're both gonna be without clean water soon :/