Landowners and people who are concerned over how their environment is used and abused have requested to intervene in the pending lawsuit between the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the State Canal Corp.
The original lawsuit was filed by the water authority against the Canal Corp. on April 25, 2005, in the water authority’s hopes of solidifying its claim that it has the right to 48.5 million gallons of water per day from the reservoir.
The problem with the Water Authority's position is that its "right" to 48.5 million gallons of water per day cannot be greater than the rights that its predecessors purchased from the private landowners along the West Canada Creek (WCC) . . . and the rights that were purchased from the landowners were contingent upon certain obligations to the landowners . . . obligations that currently are not being met.
That is the substance of the landowners' lawsuit: The landowners' rights have been overlooked in the cross-fire between two state-created government agencies, and they want the court to declare what their (the landowners') rights are.
Why should you, not a WCC landowner, care? Two reasons:
- The agreements with some of the landowners contain obligations very similar to the obligations made to the "People of the State of New York" -- i.e., You and Me -- NOT the "Canal Corp." -- thus, the landowners moving to protect their rights will also be protecting yours and mine.
- Government should be expected to live up to its agreements. If it refuses to do so in this case, how can anyone dealing with the government know whether any deal will be kept, or disregarded? A government that does not honor its commitments no longer serves the People and has no business existing. Revolutions have been fought over less.
Disappointingly, private individuals have now been forced to sue their own government -- the Canal Corp and the MVWA -- because other government agencies which should have acted to protect their interests, have not. It is like the fire department refusing to respond when your house is on fire.
The Department of Environmental Conservation should have realized that there was a problem with the MVWA's right to water back in 2002 when it authorized the destruction of Gray Reservoir -- the maintenance of which was required by the agreement with the state that is now in litigation. When DEC allowed Gray to be destroyed, it allowed a violation of the agreement and undermined the basis of its own water supply permit that was issued to the MVWA -- without issuing a notice that the water supply permit was being modified. This may have been a simple case of the dam safety people (who wanted Gray fixed or taken down) not talking to the water supply people, or someone thinking that violation of the agreement was someone else's problem. Regardless, the "People" of New York were not protected, so now Greater Utica residents pay for both sides of a protracted lawsuit where only the lawyers are winners.
Herkimer County, while expressing concern that its resources may be removed to serve far off western Oneida County, has not lifted a finger to intervene on behalf of the "People" residing in Herkimer County. There are long-standing joint Oneida-Herkimer County plans -- plans designed to assure all citizens of both counties of an adequate supply of water even if population were to significantly grow -- that are now being disregarded by Oneida County and the MVWA in particular. In the upcoming weeks we are sure to hear of the importance of the WCC to the Herkimer County economy. It is surprising that Herkimer County has chosen to sit by the sidelines while the WCC and its people are hurt.