Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GlobalFailure . . .

Per the Capital District Business Review, GlobalFoundaries (the successor to AMD) is already pursuing a $2 BILLION expansion of its Malta, NY chip fab even before the fab issues its first chip. . . . Good news?

. . . the deal may hinge on whether the state is able to offer additional incentives.

GlobalFoundries is negotiating with lawmakers for $300 million in incentives, said Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes.

“They’re just too important to ignore. They have a proven track record . . ."

The state already had approved $1.3 billion in tax breaks and cash incentives to convince GlobalFoundries to begin building the chip plant in Malta . . .

This story has a familiar ring to it, with echoes from Syracuse . . . and from Rome . . .

The "Adolfo G" comment on the story contains more content and information than the story itself. If true, NYS could be one of the biggest losers in history while portraying itself as a winner, because it may have invested taxpayers money in a business with a failing model.

Investments in public infrastructure designed to serve private needs IS THE SAME AS investing in private enterprise whether it technically is so or not. The public simply did not need the roads, water lines etc that have been installed for the chip fab.

This is why the State Constitution forbids investing public funds in private enterprises. It is gambling with OUR money. . . . and it takes so much out of the State's economy to serve ONE business in ONE area that it chases away other business opportunities that might be out there . . . ones repulsed by this state's high costs.

It's time to end this practice. No more state incentives for businesses, no more special deals, fire all the "industrial development" "experts." We are better off without them

Monday, March 29, 2010

Downstate to Upstate: Fade Away

Seven interesting Op-Ed pieces appeared in yesterday's NY Times on the subject "Can New York Be Saved?"

Mitchell Moss' "Struggling Towns Must Evolve or Die" is, perhaps, the most provocative for Upstaters.
The entire state cannot survive if we continue to act as if all 62 counties can flourish. . . . as upstate shrinks, it commands a higher and higher per capita chunk of the state budget. New York City taxpayers send billions of dollars upstate for unnecessary shopping malls, transportation projects and prisons, giving new meaning to the phrase “welfare state.” Meanwhile, vital upgrades to transportation and public services essential to accommodate the expanding New York City area are deferred. . . .

Across the Midwest and Great Plains, state governments have allowed towns with a proud past but no discernible future to fade away. New York must do the same.

Thirty years ago the shoe was on the other foot. It was New York City that was on the verge of bankruptcy and seemed totally beyond hope -- at least until Mayor Giuliani appeared on the scene, who turned things around. That turn-around established that the City's problems were largely self-inflicted.

Prof. Moss places the blame on Upstate itself, painting Upstate as a collection of defective communities. While we certainly have our shortcomings -- such as far too much local government for our population -- the economic problem has been so ubiquitous across Upstate for so many decades (touching almost all communities north and west of Newburgh) that it is pretty clear that the bulk of Upstate's problems are not of local origin, but rooted in New York State policy . . . policy that is now controlled by Downstate interests.

It was not always that way. Until the court-mandated reapportionment of the State Senate in the 1960s, Upstate held sway in the Senate while Downstate controlled the Assembly. For laws to be passed, Upstate and Downstate interests had to accommodate each other. And it worked . . . spectacularly. Both parts of the state flourished. We collectively were the Empire State.

But things are different now. Upstate cannot choose a Mayor Giuliani to implement policies to turn Upstate around because Upstate will always be outvoted by Downstate. The court-mandated reapportionment of the 1960s led to the changes in policy that have caused Upstate's decline.

The fiscal crisis is bringing things into sharp focus. New York State is at a fork in the road and must do something if Upstate is not to die. Either balance between Upstate and Downstate is returned to New York State policy making, or Upstate and Downstate must each proceed down separate paths.

Downstate to Upstate: Fade Away

Upstate to Downstate: Set Us Free

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Utica's Grim Statistics . . .

Today's OD has an interesting Guest view: Utica stats grim, but education can turn the tide by David Mathis.

Mr. Mathis is correct that education is the way out of poverty, and that Utica's high poverty rate and poor education statistics fall hardest on the minority community. He asks for more programs and a "groundswell" of public outcry for more. However, he offers no specifics on exactly what he is looking for.

The related issues of poverty and lack of education in Utica's population are not really about race but about years of neglect, ineffectiveness, and, perhaps, self-interest among those charged with moving the city forward educationally. It seems the entire city is in a hole.

More than enough is spent on education in the City of Utica, but it has been blown on trivia, not the transmission of core knowledge. Content has been diluted and subjected to experimentation. Objective knowledge-based standards have been traded for subjective performance standards where it is unclear what, if anything in particular, students are required to know. Direct instruction, the teaching method shown to be the most effective among disadvantaged students and the method almost everyone learned from 50 years ago, has been jettisoned for group and self-directed activities. We heard no complaints from community leaders, particularly the leaders of minority communities, about these changes when they were being made. We have also heard no calls for reversal of these changes. Many of these changes have been grant driven. Could the leaders who should have complained personally benefited from promoting the changes?

A strong neighborhood school system strengthens neighborhoods and benefits students. Children walk to school becoming physically fit and connected to their neighborhood. Parental involvement in school is encouraged by proximity. Self-monitoring neighborhood-based social networks develop around the school giving parents more opportunities to know each other and what their children are doing. Lessons can be tailored to meet the needs of the neighborhood and draw upon students'shared experiences from the neighborhood. Neighborhood schools were discarded in the name of a government-mandated social experiment: racial balance. Now the neighborhoods are decaying; neighbors don't know each other as well and don't know what their children are doing. School officials complain about a lack of discipline, lack of parental involvement, and obese students. Valuable time is wasted on a school bus. Students and the community have suffered, and the taxpayers got saddled with higher expenses. Where were our leaders, including leaders of the minority community, when all this was happening? While their intentions with regard to racial balance were good, why can't they now admit it was a mistake, and that more was lost than gained?

Utica once had a strong Vocational Education program within the city limits. Academic and vocational training were conveniently located on the same sites. There was no stigma attached to the vocational program. The program provided the way out of poverty and to a secure career for many. But the program was dismantled and sent to BOCES in the suburbs, a place where problematic suburban students were once sent. Utica did not need to do this because it had the population to support a Voc-Ed program, but it did it anyway. How many students now avoid Voc-Ed courses because of the difficulty of working them into their schedules, the bus ride, or the social stigma? Where were Utica's community leaders when all this happened? Where are their efforts to bring Voc-Ed back into Utica Schools?

There are specific things that can be done to lift children, especially minority children, out of poverty. They are the things alluded to above: a knowledge-based content-rich curriculum delivered by direct instruction; neighborhood schools; and a vocational education program integrated with the city's high school. But Mr. Mathis does not ask for any of these things, only "more" programs and and a "groundswell" of demands.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Off Track in Utica Schools . . .

From WKTV: Donovan Middle School teacher awarded $10,000 Toyota grant
Allen's students will become researchers and problem solvers while studying "brownfields"; a real-life local environmental problem. More than 400 students in grades six through eight will be involved in researching and analyzing the effects of Utica's historical textile mills on various sites throughout the city and will determine its environmental impact.

Through the study of environmental science, students will increase their knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and will feel a stronger sense of responsibility for the environment and a heightened connection to their communities.
Researchers? Problem solvers? Determining environmental impacts? . . . Sounds awfully impressive . . . impressive enough to get a grant . . . impressive enough for TV coverage . . . but who are they kidding?

These are 6th, 7th and 8th graders! They are still at an age where they should be . . . but in all likelihood are not ... still learning the basics . . .

Environmental science is not basic. Before one can understand the problems of "brownfields," one needs to know and understand the basics of chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, ecology, hydrology and other disciplines. It's a safe bet that 99% of these students do not. Its also a safe bet that those students who seem to do well at these activities likely have extensive help at home.

Without a thorough grounding in science basics, the students' "research" and "problem solving" activities are akin to children playing "cowboys and indians," "detective," or "cops and robbers" two generations ago. The difference is that two generations ago no one would have confused "cowboys and indians" with the study of history, "detective" with the study of forensic science, or "cops and robbers" with the study of criminal justice. The Board of Regents/Department of Education would not have written standards that require such "performances." Parents would not have felt compelled to assist in such play. And teachers would not have been paid to "facilitate" such play. . . but play it was . . . and play it is.

Students, parents, taxpayers and even some educators have been sold a bill of goods by teacher college intellectuals, government bureaucrats, big business hawkers of textbooks and technology . . . and now even discredited automakers.

At best, students may pick up a few interesting facts along the way that they can use to impress the old folks . . . and some students might be encouraged to take up science and pursue studies further.

The likely result, however, will be like the student sleeping in the back of the room on the story's photo. Students, hungry to learn how the world works, will instead be herded into tedious group activities where, if they are lucky, they might learn a few things about science, but no where near what they could have learned had they been taught science in the manner that their grandparents were taught. Bits and pieces of knowledge picked up along the way may or may not be relevant to what is learned from the next teacher, or the next after that. . . . lacking the cohesiveness that can lead to a deep understanding of subject matter.

At worst, the students are being trained to work for the good of their group . . . the collective . . . to accept the fact that slackers and doers will all receive the same "collective" grade. . . being programmed through group activities to respond to stimuli in a predictable fashion . . . to become dependent upon their group and "mentors" rather than themselves . . . perhaps even to police themselves for behavior that is outside the "norm." Students are deluded into thinking they have "expertise" that is lacking in the older generation . . . and they learn to be arrogant. And if they manage at some point in their lives to get into a position of responsibility, their gaps in basic knowledge could have disastrous consequences.

It should be apparent why students are shying away from majoring in science and engineering in college. Activities such as this one have turned science, which should be fascinating, into drudgery. Additionally, so little substantive science is actually learned in such activities that students find themselves ill-prepared for the rigors of science study in college.

Of course, that will all change when the current generation becomes the college professors of tomorrow. There will be no rigor there . . . except, perhaps, the rigor of conformance. They will have been groomed into the "group think" mode, knowing what will please their handlers and reaping their rewards for compliance . . . marginalizing anyone who thinks or acts differently.

The ignorant will be teaching the ignorant. . .

And when that happens, what will be left of our society?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Indoctrination In Utica Schools . . .

Utica fifth-graders plead for more fruits, vegetables . . .
If President Obama’s proposed increase of $1 billion per year is passed, students would get their way.

On Wednesday morning, Debra Richardson, program director for Leaf, Loaf & Ladle at the Resource Center for Independent Living, spoke to fifth-graders about the bill and how it would affect what they’d eat each day at school.
This seems to be the norm in public schools these days: indoctrinating kids and politically using kids. Children are being forced to listen to people like Ms. Richardson promoting a particular political agenda instead of drilling times tables, diagramming sentences, or learning geography. . . And our tax money is being used to keep people like Ms. Richardson in their jobs.

Don't worry about the food the students are being fed. Worry about the indoctrination they are being fed.

Instead of telling our students what to believe, give them knowledge of science, civics, and other subjects, starting with the simple and working to the complex. They will then have the tools to figure out for themselves what to believe and what requires action.

Give them knowledge so they will be able to figure out when they are being manipulated or used by their government.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bury The Big Mistake Here, Too . . .

From "Artvoice" comes Bury This Big Mistake -- A story about Buffalo's Kensington Expressway, its past, and possible future.

The $45 million Kensington Expressway tore up Frederick Law Olmsted’s tree-lined Humboldt Parkway, claimed hundreds of homes in previously stable neighborhoods, ripped a trench in the ground that emphasized the city’s racial division, and diverted automobile traffic from the East Side’s once-thriving business strips to a limited-access expressway that shuttles commuters from downtown Buffalo to the northern suburbs in about 10 minutes on a clear day.

In other words: Making the city a backyard to its suburbs. Depressing property values. Starving small businesses on Jefferson and Fillmore of customers and abetting the evisceration of those business districts. Subjecting two generations of residents surrounding the expressway to air and noise pollution.

This could be Downtown and West Utica, with the expressway being the E-W and N-S Arterials. Downtown and W Utica were each divided in two, with scores of businesses eliminated along Oriskany St. E & W, traffic removed from Whitesboro Street (which was chopped into separate pieces) and Lincoln Avenue, and residents in W Utica being brought air and noise pollution.

In Buffalo, the state is now considering options of capping the expressway (i.e., running it underground) and restoring an approximation of the old parkway on top . . . Local officials, however have something else in mind . . . something much cheaper, but, perhaps better for the City of Buffalo.
Last August, Mayor Byron Brown introduced a new design option that has attracted considerable interest among local transit activists: burying the entire thing, from Oak Street to Delavan, and replacing the high-speed, limited-access expressway with a low-speed, at-grade boulevard, fully integrating the traffic it carries with the urban street grid. Coupled with the long-debated plan to slow down the Scajaquada Expressway and convert it to a walkable, bikable boulevard, Brown’s recommendation presents the city an opportunity to restore vital elements of the city’s Olmsted patronage, and to join the 21st century in regard to urban transit planning.

The best future for Utica could be a perfected version of its past.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Need" Is Subjective . . .

. . . and depends on one's perspective. At least that is the thought that ran through my mind reading this morning's OD editorial, "Study need for new reservoir as first step ."
The water authority maintains that the Gray Reservoir was never needed to provide an adequate water supply. But others believe its presence was significant, including the Canal Corp. Only an independent study can say for sure . . .
The Water Authority is correct . . . Gray Reservoir was never needed for the Water Authority's physical operations. That was because the Water Authority had taken all it needed out of Hinckley -- water that it had no right to take -- and no one stopped them from doing it for 90 years.

And rights are what this entire dispute comes down to. For the Water Authority to legally take water out of Hinckley, it was required under its 1917 Agreement with the state to maintain and release water from its own reservoir at Gray.

Although the Water Authority now claims that its "rights" to draw water without Gray have been affirmed, that is not the case. The court never struck down the 1917 Agreement. Instead, as a matter of equity (rather than law) Judge Hester chose not to strictly enforce it, and, in essence, directed the parties to continue their past practices. This made sense because the lives of 130,000 people were in the balance.

As to the future, the decision is quite clear: if the Water Authority wants to take more than the 35 cfs used in 1970, it needs to comply with the old agreement. That agreement requires a 6 billion gallon reservoir upstream of Hinckley if the Water Authority is to take the maximum draw of 75 cfs allowed under the agreement.

There is no "need" to study. The need was determined as a matter of law over 90 years ago when the forerunners of the current parties settled their dispute. The need was acknowledged 40 years ago in the 1968 Oneida - Herkimer Counties Comprehensive Water Supply Study. It was recognized again in the recent court decision. The need for the 6 billion gallon reservoir is settled.

What needs to be studied is how it will be implemented in our era of complex environmental laws, and how we are going to pay for it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Overstepping Its Bounds . . .

Most Home Remodeling Will Soon Require EPA-Certified Workers according to this news report from a Washington, DC TV station.

On April 22, the Environmental Protection Agency is slated to enact rules requiring EPA certification for contractors working on homes built before lead paint was banned in 1978.

So far, the EPA has certified only 14,000 workers in lead-safe practices despite its own estimate that more than 200,000 will need to be trained, according to the [National Association of Home Builders]. 

Geez -- practically everything in the entire City of Utica was built before 1978 . . . 

But WHY is home remodeling a FEDERAL issue? The homes aren't traveling in interstate commerce (one would notice if they were)  . . . Mom & Pop contractors aren't in interstate commerce. . . 

The certification process must be a nice government-created business for some politically-connected entities.  Obviously someone is getting paid for this.

Why isn't anyone questioning the authority of the Federal Government to enact such a rule?  Mr. Arcuri . . . Where are you????

Wake up, people . . . The Feds are taking  over EVERYTHING!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Water Fight is Getting Old . . .

Twin editorials appeared in Today's OD on the Hinckley water situation, one on behalf of the MVWA and the other for the Canal Corp.

Mr. DeLia from MVWA opines that public policy should never jeopardize the water supply. Certainly that is something that we can all agree upon. However, when he says . . .
On behalf of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, let me make it clear that we will do everything necessary to protect our region’s water rights.
The Mohawk Valley Water Authority will continue to pursue every available avenue to secure the region’s rights to its public water supply. Those rights have been affirmed in the courts.
. . . his words are belied by both MVWA's actions and its "affirmation" in court.

If MVWA was serious about securing the region's rights to its water supply, it would have never demolished Gray Dam . . . at least not without first revising its agreements with the State and all other riparian landowners from which it secured conditional rights. MVWA would also not be willing to give "the region's rights" away to other regions, namely Vernon and Verona, which have other sources of water available to them.

In so far MVWA's rights being "affirmed" in the courts, Mr. DeLia misuses the word. The only thing the court did was attempt to preserve the status quo . . . by allowing MVWA to continue with its current water withdrawals, but capping them at a rate not to exceed 35 cfs . Since the old agreement, if observed, would have entitled MVWA to withdraw up to 75 cfs, rational people would conclude that the MVWA LOST a valuable right.

Ms. Mantello from the Canal Corp. insists that the Water authority must implement low-level water pumping now. She claims that . . .
... the current concern is not about canal reservoir management, but the Mohawk Valley Water Authority’s (MVWA) infrastructure limitations, which they need to address immediately. MVWA is responsible for the cost of its own water supply. . . .
Wait a minute! The current concern has NOTHING to do with MVWA's "infrastructure limitations" for pumping. MVWA has never been required to maintain equipment for "low level water pumping," and should not be expected to do so now. In fact, under the 1917 Agreement the State is obliged to "provide for the operation of [MVWA's] intake gates and pipes in such manner as to secure to [MVWA] the water to which it is entitled, free from dirt and sediment so far as practicable ..."

Ms. Mantello wades deeper into treacherous waters when she states that

. . . the Canal Corp. is not responsible to maintain a specific reservoir level.

Not true.
Although the Canal Corp. is certainly not obliged to operate Hinckley to make up for for MVWA's lack of upstream storage, it is obliged to ensure that water levels don't drop below MVWA's intakes to make them unusable, or drop so low that MVWA starts taking in dirty water. Canal Corps. obligation to lower riparian owners is to preserve the natural flow in the creek, not to supplement it with more water. The suspicion is that Canal Corp. released too much water, jeopardizing MVWA's intakes, to make some kind of point.

An interesting note, it was mentioned a few articles back in the OD that the inflow into Hinckley had dropped to 350 cubic feet per second just before the most recent alarm was sounded. At that level of inflow, assuming that MVWA was withdrawing its historical usage of 35 cfs as allowed by Judge Hester, MVWA would have been obliged under the old agreement to contribute 20 cfs from its own reservoir into Hinckley.

The consequences of that lack of 20 cfs for only a few days should be the extent of MVWA's financial exposure.

Both sides are posturing and both are far overstating their cases. Caught in the middle are the Water Authority's customers, land owners along West Canada Creek, and people who use the creek and Hinckley reservoir for recreation.

MVWA cannot insist that it pay nothing to make up for its failure to make compensating flows. It also must halt all further expansions of its system within its approved service territory until a long term solution is determined. For other reasons not gone into now, it must also forget proposals to expand outside of its service territory, period.

Canal Corp. needs to stop playing with the water levels and pretending that they are all MVWA's fault. They are not. Canal Corp. has many sources of supply for its canal, and can adjust same to ensure that the water level in Hinckley does not drop to such a low elevation that it prohibits the State's compliance with Judge Hester's order.

The water fight is getting old.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reservoir Reservations . . .

The Hinckley Reservoir story, as related by the OD, just seems to get more and more convoluted every day. . . .

"Legislators 'taken aback' by surprise reservoir plans"
Director of Canals Carmella Mantello told the O-D Wednesday that Canal Corp. had applied for $50 million in federal stimulus funds to build the new 6-billion-gallon reservoir in Herkimer County. . . .

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, said she was “taken aback” that the agency acted without establishing a local consensus as to whether a new reservoir was needed . . . .

“How does someone from the Canal Corp. just come here and say they put an application in and never talk to anybody about it?” Destito said. “Where is the documentation that says this is what is needed, and who came to this conclusion?”
"Local consensus?"After being told for years by Water Authority CEO Pat Becher that a compensating reservoir is NOT needed for local drinking water purposes, why are our local leaders presuming that this reservoir is being built for them?

Canal Corp. is an administrative agency with the responsibility of running the canal system. It knows what ITS needs are. . . . and a "local consensus" has no relevancy in that determination.
State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said he had not had time to review the details of the proposal Thursday afternoon, but felt strongly that there should have been communication about such a “substantial initiative.”

“Particularly in light of what has transpired here, one of the most important things was that all the entities have an opportunity to have that dialogue, and that communication and that cooperation to ensure that we don’t have any problems,” Griffo said, referencing the working group that formed after Hinckley experienced record low water levels in 2007. “So for the Canal Corp. to not be talking to somebody is unacceptable.”
It is interesting that Mr. Griffo finds the alleged lack of communication by Canal Corp. "unacceptable." Perhaps if Oneida County had invited Canal Corp. to participate in its little Hinckley "stakeholders' group" discussions, our local officials would have learned of the state's proposal a long time ago.

If the proposed reservoir is not needed, as local officials claim, you have to ask yourself why the local officials are in such a lather about it.

If you are a regular reader of Fault Lines, you can figure out the answer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Need Is Not Entitlement . . .

I was not going to comment on the County Legislators' comments with regard to last night's Hinckley Reservoir resolution but a reader requested that I do so . . . So here goes . . .
“It appears that the Canal Corp. has put the interests of the power company ahead of the needs of the people,” Oneida County Board of Legislators Majority Leader David Wood, R- Rome, said.
Wrong, Mr. Wood. Weighing interests against needs is something that a county legislator does. The Canal Corp. does not have that authority. Rather, Canal Corp. has obligations. In this case, Canal Corp is obliged to allow the natural flow of the West Canada Creek pass through Hinckley Reservoir (or whatever is called for in its contract with the power company). Asking the Canal Corp. to do anything else is asking it to violate someone's rights.

Oneida County Minority Leader Patricia Hudak, D-Rome, said water is in the reservoir, and the outflows just need to be slowed down.

“I think they ought to let us have the water that’s needed instead of playing games,” Hudak said.

Does the need for food in Haiti justify looting? Ms. Hudak's statement reeks of a sense of entitlement.

It is the O.C. Legislature, County Executive and Water Authority who have been playing the games.

Rather than negotiate a settlement with Canal Corp. when the issue first arose, the Water Authority dragged Canal Corp and the power company into an expensive legal battle. The decision that resulted was the court's attempt to preserve the status quo. At that point, everyone should have learned their lesson and gone home.

But what happened? Rather than recognize the court's decision for what it was, the Water Authority immediately tried to turn it into a "right" to a certain amount of water, and pressed on to extend its system further.

The court did not tell the Canal Corp. that it had to operate its reservoir for the benefit of MVWA, and probably would not have the jurisdiction to do so. Operation of a dam involves administrative expertise, something that a court would defer to.

So Canal Corp. is now operating things in accordance with its own expertise, rather than trying to do favors for some of its neighbors. . . neighbors who have not been very neighborly.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A New Reservoir? What You Are Not Being Told . . . and Observations

State Canal. Corp. plans new reservoir :

Canal Corp. official said Wednesday the agency has applied for $50 million in federal stimulus money to build an additional 6-billion-gallon reservoir in northern Herkimer County.

The new body of water would sit very close to where the old Gray Dam once stood, a dam whose razing in 2002 has become a flashpoint in the debate over water resource management in the Mohawk Valley. . . .

Point 1) A 6-billion gallon reservoir -- 1/4 the size of Hinckley -- is precisely the size of reservoir that the Mohawk Valley Water Authority is required to maintain under its now-breached 1917 Agreement with the State when it is drawing the maximum 48.5 million gallons per day allowed under that agreement.

Point 2) Use of this new reservoir cannot be free. The State will wind up charging the MVWA -- who will in turn charge its customers -- for use of this reservoir, because MVWA was obliged to have such a reservoir of its own. . . . meaning MVWA really blew it when it took down Gray Dam.

The Mohawk Valley Water Authority could expand its services to additional municipalities seeking public water in western Herkimer County and central and western Oneida County.

Point 3) The statement above may or may not turn out to be true.

DEC is the arbiter of such decisions. DEC decides which communities should get water from which supplies. Right now only Greater Utica communities and Herkimer County municipalities in the West Canada Creek drainage basin have been designated to receive water from Hinckley Reservoir. For DEC to allow Hinckley water to be used in Verona and Vernon, Environmental Conservation Law §15-1503(2) requires that the DEC determine

  . . . whether the proposed project is justified by the public necessity,
whether it take proper consideration of other sources of supply that
are or may become available . . . whether the supply will be adequate,
. . . whether the project is just and equitable to all affected
municipalities and their inhabitants and in particular with regard
to their present and future needs for sources of water supply
. . .

What Oneida County refuses to acknowledge are the results of its own commissioned water supply study done in 1968 that recommended (1) that Hinckley be reserved for Greater Utica and the mentioned Herkimer County communities, (2) that central Oneida County be served by Rome's water source and (3) that western Oneida County be served from Lake Ontario and other locally available sources. If the population in the Greater Utica area were to significantly grow (such as the "full build-out" scenarios predicted for the Town of New Hartford), Greater Utica would need every drop of that 48.5 MGD that MVWA could potentially draw from Hinckley, and might have to take additional water from Oriskany Creek. No other sources for the Utica area were identified as being practicable. This study strongly suggests that DEC would not be able to properly make the statutorily required findings . . . but then, again, DEC is subject to political pressures. Is that what Greater Utica wants? To run the risk of our grandchildren possibly being short of water?


“If you spend money on another reservoir, you're flushing it down the drain,” Water Authority Board of Directors Vice Chairman Bruce Brodsky said. . . .

Spending money to protect the water rights of riparan owners is flushing money down the drain? Either Mr. Brodsky does not understand the law, or he has no use for it.

Picente said it's “just unacceptable” that the state Canal Corp. and Erie Boulevard Hydropower are willing to wait on the weather and risk the water level dropping closer to 1,185 feet above sea level. The Canal Corp. needs to “just get a backbone” and make the changes, Picente said.

Either Mr. Picente does not understand the law, or he has no use for it.

Oneida County Executive Director Anthony Picente said he found out about the Canal Corp.'s stimulus money application “by accident” after it had been made. . . .

He expressed concern that a “devious” Canal Corp. is talking about regional cooperation even while it quietly applied for a new reservoir.
As "devious" as convening a "stakeholders' group" that leaves out the key stakeholders, Mr. Picente?

Regarding lost revenues to the power company:

In a released statement, Water Authority Board of Directors Chairman Elis DeLia said the water level should not be allowed to drop. The power company could recoup lost revenues by over-releasing water when the reservoir is full, as has been done in the past, DeLia said.

Perhaps Mr. DeLia is right, and the power company should do MVWA a favor by delaying power production. . . but why would it? MVWA has acted with total disregard for the rights of other riparian owners. Would Mr. DeLia do the power company a favor if the shoe were on the other foot?

The Oneida County legislature just passed the resolution that I blogged about yesterday. I won't even begin to comment on some of the statements made by legislators . . . but it is more of the same.

The words and actions of our elected and appointed leaders are the best evidence of their knowledge and character.

Are they really protecting our interests?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Asserting Riparian Rights . . .

Yesterday: Hinckley Reservoir: Can officials avoid repeating the same mistakes?

It did not take long to get an answer . . .

Today: Canal Corp., power company refuse to reduce Hinckley releases

Tomorrow: Will I be able to flush my toilet?

According to the 6:11PM version of the OD Article (since revised):
Picente said he is demanding that the water releases be reduced. Requests have been made for the last few days to reduce the releases from 600 cubic feet per second to 400 cubic feet per second for the next several days to allow the reservoir to fill as snow melts, he said.

“There’s no reason they can’t do this," Picente said. “It’s just unbelievable that my community has to go through this in March."
Mr. Picente can demand all he wants . . . but there IS a reason why Canal Corp. HAS to do this: It's called "Riparian Rights" . . . and it's about time that Mr. Picente and Mr. Becher learn about them. Violating rights has consequences.

The power company is a riparian landowner, entitled under the law to the FULL FLOW of the stream to turn its turbines. Usually this time of year there is too much flow for the power company to use, so retention of water in Hinckley is a win-win-win for the power company, Canal Corp., and the MVWA.

This year is different. Flows are low enough that the power company can make full use of the entire flow . . . and the power company has the riparian rights to demand the full flow!

If releases were cut down from 600 cfs to 400 cfs as Mr. Picente demands, is Oneida County prepared to loan the power company enough money to make up for the loss of 1/3 of the power company's income while the retention is made? I have not heard of any offers . . . (In the 10:46 PM update, we find out that the Water Authority won't even consider compensating the power company for its losses.)

Perhaps this is just nature . . . but I suspect some gamesmanship here. Oneida County is trying to broker an agreement among Hinckley Reservoir "stakeholders" (including Verona and Vernon who should have no expectation of ever using Hinckley Reservoir water), but leaving out the most important "stake holders" -- Canal Corp, power company and the State -- the entities with actual riparian and sovereign rights. The Board of Legislators is supposed to vote on a "resolution" tomorrow that would demand that the State and power companies agree to "deviations" from prior agreements that would protect the MVWA's water supply. Essentially, they would be asking for something that does not belong to them, but, rather, belongs to the parties left out of the "stakeholder" process. If the OC Board of Legislators approves the resolution, it will be like throwing water on a grease fire! MVWA is supposed to have a 120 day supply in its own storage reservoir, but currently has zero days because it demolished its reservoir.

This is a nice display of arrogance on the part of Mr. Picente, et al. . . . and it is being met in kind by Canal Corp. and the power company.

The power company and Canal Corp. understand what riparian rights mean. Oneida County, Herkimer County, and the MVWA obviously do not. If they did, they would understand just how outrageous their actions in assembling an exclusionary "stakeholders'" group, and their demand for "deviations," appear to those who actually hold the rights.

Deviations made in the past to benefit MVWA's water supply were a gift. There is no right to demand them . . . Riparian rights are not lost by mere disuse. You do not bite the hand that feeds you . . .

Unfortunately, the PEOPLE will wind up paying for the arrogance and stupidity of their leaders.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

State of the County . . .

The County Executive's speech was covered by the OD, and by the Sentinel. UDN presents its full text. He had some good things to say:

We need to change, and we need action. ...

Action to commit to partnerships that will weather successes and failures with a vision committed to moving forward.

Regions that grow in the future will not be those divided against themselves to the point of going nowhere. . . .
But inspiring words of united action are no substitute for decision-making based on sound data and sound logic. . . . Data that includes all the relevant facts and not just those that support the County Executive's point of view . . . Logic that is available for and will withstand public scrutiny BEFORE serious decisions are made.

Almost every month, it seems, the county does something that does not make sense. Failure to account for contrary data, and the lack of apparent logic have been fodder for many posts here.

The County Executive raises three issues that he would like to resolve . . . but his approach to all three reveals the same serious flaw:

-> He attempted to negotiate a settlement with the Oneida Indians while leaving out N.Y.S. , the affected municipalities, and his own legislature. It went no where because key players were left out.

-> He 'successfully' negotiated a settlement of the county's sewer violations with the DEC without the participation of the affected Towns and Villages . . . but is now running into problems keeping up his end of the bargain because the Towns and Villages he must depend upon are finding the financial burden of compliance overwhelming.

-> He is currently orchestrating a meeting of so-called "stakeholders" in Hinckley Reservoir while leaving out the Canal Corp., the DEC, most of the persons who actually own water rights, and the municipalities who currently depend on Hinckley for their water supply. Where do you think this is going?

Certain people or groups are invited to dine, while others who are not at the table are expected to pay the tab.

It should be no surprise this region will continue to seem divided against itself with approaches such as this.