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.

Apparently, Picente & Becher don't know the reason Hinckley Resevoir was built in the first place. And that is to supply flow for the canal system. The sooner that Picente stops using our water supply as a political football, the better off we'll all be. I think it's obvious that Picente is a puppet of the OIN. Witness his recent speeches regarding the issue & now his attempt to squeeze the Canal Corp. for more water to supply western Oneida County. Picente talks about cooperation. He should practice what he preaches.
I don't think Picente is a puppet for the OIN . . . I think he just does not know any better. He is tied to a group that thinks that all they have to do is "add water" and all of central Oneida County along the pipeline will blossom with growth.

Of course, if that happens, it will be at the expense of everyone living in Greater Utica.
Picente has attempted to make deals with the OIN as well as the MVWA that he does not have the authority to make. He's not a puppet, he's a dummy.

I spoke with legislature's Wilcox (Oneida Co.) and Weakly (Herk. Co.) yesterday and they both said that it's unlikely the resolution will even come to vote today (Weds.3/10) as there are revisions being made left and right. They also both said the resolution is a waste of paper as it just makes official what is already being done.

My concern with the document is that in passing it, individuals could lose their voice (or worse yet their rights) unless they are a part of one of the groups named as primary stakeholders. Fortunately my information indicates they are adding some other Towns (Ohio, Russia etc.) to the list of stakeholders.

The other problem with the resolution is that it really is as much a threat as anything else. It's billed as a document to approve deviations in the water flow, but hidden in the wording is the fact that if you don't agree with, and play by their rules, they won't let you be a primary stakeholder and you won't even have a seat at the table where these discussions take place.

Not to worry. The resolution won't pass as it stands, and the resolution that is eventually voted on likely will be very different than the current version.
I do not believe that County Executive Picente is stupid. I believe that he may be concerned over the present low water level of Hinckley reservoir at a time when the reservoir should be full. However, his demanding of the Erie Boulevard Corporation and the NYS Canal Corporation to subjugate their riparian rights to their Hinckley reservoir flows is wrong. I find it suspect that the County Executive does not already know this. His boisterous behavior and condescending demeanor appears as political posturing for the news media. Perhaps the County Executive is attempting to gain political favor with the Oneida Nation? After all, the attempt of the MVWA to provide water to the Western towns of Oneida County was only an attempt to provide water to the Oneida Nation’s Turning Stone Casino and entertainment complex including their very water hungry PGA golf courses. I also find it suspect that this whole Hinckley manifestation comes on the heels of his announcement to revisit another attempt to enter into yet another feeble agreement to partially forgive the Oneida’s from paying their fair share of their enterprises tax burden.

What would be the unintended consequences if the Erie Boulevard Corp. and the NYS Canal Corp. were to agree to the County Executive’s audacious demand? What precedence would this set? How would this decision influence any subsequent Judgment as the court deals with a possible appeal to the 2009 judgment that limited water flows on a very lucky MVWA who was not mandated to rebuild the Gray Dam that they illegally destroyed due to their neglect to reasonably maintain it? I believe that the Canal Corp. and the Erie Boulevard Corp. would be quite imprudent to make any attempt to appease the County Executive in his attempt to sucker them into making the mistake of the century.
Picente's remark, something to the effect of 'my community has to go thru this' was laughable. The water supply will not be affected as he claims. Picente is a blowhard, is in over his head as far as the OIN goes, & should refrain from making idiotic statements such as the above. It's the usual political sideshow, & I believe an attempt to take the spotlight away from O.C.'S & EDGE'S screwup with Empire Aero. And if I'm not wrong, isn't Hinckley's low level this time of year the norm so as to alleviate flooding downstream when the spring thaw occurs?
My primary residence on Deerfield Hill still has 2 feet of snow and my camp on Hinckley has even more. It’s supposed to be close to 60 Thursday and above freezing the rest of the week. A very large portion of the Adirondack’s run-off drains into this system and they’re calling for 2 days of rain this weekend. Two weeks from now there will likely be water flowing over the dam and Picente’s remarks will be shown to be the knee jerk reaction that it is. The rule curve is based on average years and any year that deviates can trigger concerns over too much or not enough water at any given time. In 2006 the water was higher than usual, later than usual and in fact there were damaging floods below the dam right around the 4th of July, after we received higher than normal amounts of rain. In 2007 when we were not in a particularly dry year, you could not put a boat in the water on the 4th of July. Those were back to back years that showed the opposite extreme’s that are all a part of the equation. Its Central New York weather and predicting it with any degree of accuracy from one year to the next is near impossible. People forget that the dam not only stores water for use later but helps protect against flooding too. Unpredictable weather aside, in the end the problem is more mismanagement then an inadequate water supply.

In so far as this resolution, anyone with common sense who’s seen it could pick it apart. There are so many problems with it that whoever brought it forward either thinks they’re dealing with idiots or they themselves are stupid or naive. It does not describe a process to determine when deviations are to be made, or who will decide to make them. The whole thing is vague and presumes that landowners will give up their rights without a fight, and to have Vernon and Verona even be mentioned is a slap in the face to the real stakeholders who weren’t.
Canal Corp. direcror C. Mantello has said that the resevoir level will not be drawn down to the point that drinking water supplies are affected. So Picente can put an end to his sideshow & his empty headed blustering & get on with the business of running O.C. Wait. Considering Picente's performance ac C.E., maybe he should continue the play acting in regards to Hinckley so as to not do any more damage to the taxpayers, i.e. the Empire Aero disaster & others.
So I spoke with 2 Legislator's, one from each county, who both assured me the resolution wouldn't even come up for vote let alone pass. (probably because I told them I was planning to go to the meetings to speak out against it).I guess that's what happens when you take a politician at his word. Nice!
What better public posture than to be fighting for our drinking water?
To be fair and accurate, Herkimer County DID put off voting on the resolution, so it was only the Oneida County legislator that lied right to my face. In the end the whole thing is being viewed as a joke by the people who will actually be making the decisions. Picente has already asked several times for them to cut down on the water usage and they've all but ignored him. This resolution they just passed carries the same amount of clout as Picente's requests.....none!
It comes down to this, The NY State Canal's owns the reservoir, NY Power Authority operates the dam and the PRIVATE power company RUNS it.
This can only go so far. We all have a right to free speech untill it harms others. Another season of on water because of Riparian Rights goes as well as yelling FIRE in a theater....
Yes, and when the reservoir level starts rising again within the next 48 hours from the quickening snowmelt, WITHOUT the release reductions demanded by the 26-0 fearless legislators and their Chicken Little leader, maybe the OD's Ackerman can find another non-story to muddle.
Thirsty, I don't understand the point you are trying to make. Please explain . . .
The first comment was that the power company is calling the shots on when to make cuts not state. The power company is only looking out for themselves not the people of NYS. It’s a sad day when a resource like that is taken over by a private company. Plus the power company has no problem deviating from the operating diagram when it benefits their pockets but when it come down to 130,000 customers (TAX PAYERS) they cannot deviate. Aren’t people getting it yet? Do they see a pattern? SHAME ON the state of NEW YORK for this.

The second comment is that you quote "Riparian Rights" Riparian Right all over this blog but those rights only go so far until those rights hurt others i.e. MVWA customers, the people who use the WC creek and Hinckley Reservoir.

I also thought the power company's predecessors gave up there rights in earlier agreements?
Thirsty --

Riparian rights aren't hurting anyone. In fact, observing everyone's riparian rights is the BEST way to protect the MVWA customers, the people who use WC Creek, and who use Hinckley Reservoir.

To make a very long story short, MVWA is required to maintain its own reservoir upstream of Hinckley, fill it out of excess water during spring runoff, and then release water from it to at least partially make up for what it takes out of Hinckley when inflow is low. Its reservoir is supposed to be large enough to hold about a 120 day supply of drinking water. This system was REQUIRED to protect the riparian rights of others. All other uses of the resource are protected by doing this. But MVWA destroyed its reservoir.

Its the VIOLATION of riparian rights that have caused the problems we have now. The violation makes it difficult for the resource to be applied toward multiple uses.

What MVWA is doing now is essentially taking something that belongs to others.

I don't think it is too much to ask for the MVWA to hold 120 days of water in storage.

This is much bigger than just drinking water. Do we want a government that respects individuals and private rights, or do we want the elites controlling government seizing assets for the benefit of their friends in the name of the "people" ?

It has come down to that.
Strike you are wrong
Thirsty --

Exactly where am I wrong?

Do you have case law to back up what you say?
"Riparian rights aren't hurting anyone” well I hope you have a well water supplying your house. Because the Rights the power company predecessors gave up years ago are being used to threaten the people who use the reservoir. Maybe you like to walk across the reservoir instead of on the shores of it. Because the power company is draining it dry. If you do not stop them now you will never stop them. They have always deviated in times of need now they do not unless they need to generate more money then they crank up the outflows and then the rule curve is just a guide not the law. But people like you see nothing wrong with that because the big bad water authority deserves it, well guess what you are paying for the power companies game and the states lack of balls to stand up to them.
Thirsty - I guess you have nothing but rhetoric, that attempts to pit people against the big bad power companies, to back up your position. That's the game leftists use to get the government to simply take over private rights for the "public" good (ie, the good of the friends of those in charge). But somehow I don't think you subscribe to that philosophy.

There are private landowners, other than the power companies, that have agreements with the water company that also require MVWA to contribute water into the system. Those agreements are being violated.

MVWA takes private property every day it fails to make compensating flows from its reservoir.

PS -- The state is not blameless, and is not living up to its obligation either. Check out today's post.
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