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.


onjeesun said...

Amen to that. It's getting REALLY old. No mention of the power company here Strike. They seem to have a knack for staying out of the discussion's. Isn't the FERC license coming up for renewal soon? Perhaps that's the time for making some real changes to the rule curve instead of some meaningless resolution that the state would look at as more of a "suggestion".

Strikeslip said...

You raise an interesting point, ongeesun, and I think you are correct . . . license renewal time is the time to change the power company's operating procedures. If I remember correctly, the license permits the power company to restrict flows down to 160 cfs (the amount that the FEDS determined as the minimum flow necessary to protect stream biota.) That may or may not be sufficient to protect the riparian rights of land owners. Rights were clearly violated in 2007 when the government was forced to close the Creek down to fishing. What are the lowest natural flows in the creek if Hinckley were not there? That would be a useful piece of information. Additionally, it is my understanding that the power company creates unnaturally wide fluctuations in the flow over short periods and that this negatively impacts the quality of fishing. If true, such fluctuations should be restricted in the license . . . otherwise fishing rights are being interfered with by the power company without compensation . . .

Just a thought.

onjeesun said...

During one of Becher's "aquarium presentations" he did show a stop frame/power point type thing that showed the unnaturally wide fluctuations caused by the power company's releases. They are supposed to be restricted from doing so but they don't play by the rules. Instead they release at peak times for making the most money.

I shouldn't single out the power co. for not playing by the rules though. None of them do. Getting old for sure.

Raleigh said...

One would hope that the OD's twin Guest Views feature of the Sunday editions would serve to enlighten readers with arguments based on facts, even if they are cherry-picked to support one position or the other. Most of them fall far short of that "ideal", and today's Point/Counterpoint is no different. What can you conclude about these two people and their agencies when they skip the facts altogether and cherry-pick their falsehoods instead. (Side note -- why in the world doesn't the OD enable comments on their own opinions and on those in these guest views.. Are they afraid commenters will ask the questions their reporters are too incurious to ask? And why do they keep publishing that photo showing a very normal tailrace pool below the Jarvis facility, with a caption referring to "Hinckley's low water levels"? They don't even know which side of the dam the reservoir is on. OK -- rant over.)

Strikeslip, I'd love to hear DeLia's reply to your accurate assessment that Hester's opinion actually took away rights to the full 75 cfs MVWA could have had just by following the 1917 agreement.

Even if you give all three of the major manipulators -- oops, I mean managers -- of the West Canada Creek resource the benefit of the doubt that they are merely trying to faithfully execute the missions of their own agencies, the very real conflicts in those missions shows that the final authority should not belong with any of them. Having the Canal Corp. (whose mission some might argue has the lowest priority of the three) calling the shots has resulted in the schoolyard bickering and spreading of falsehoods and half-truths. I doubt it would be much different if either the Water Authority of the power companies were in charge. An independent board would not have that problem, at least theoretically.

But here's some bad news for you guys -- NYPA's FERC license for Jarvis doesn't expire until 2022, and Erie Boulevard Hydro's is up in 2023 for Prospect and Trenton -- surely not soon enough.

Greens and Beans said...

Again Strikeslip is right on the mark. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist here, but it appears that Canal Corp. Director Mantello, County Exec. Pacente and MVWA Becher are strange bedfellows. Perhaps Ms. Mantello is feeling some intense political heat from a couple of our local elected State Officials for not including them in her plan when, months ago she applied to secure $50 million in federal stimulus money to construct a new backup reservoir. I don’t believe that “anyone” would be purposely drawing too much water out of Hinckley in an attempt to create a crisis situation to serve as justification for a new backup reservoir. But then again, we are talking about “strange bedfellow.” Rules? What are rules to them?

Anonymous said...

This crap is going to go on forever, or until Hinckley dries up for good.

Thankful I dont have to worry about it, as I have a good well, and am closer to Rome Water than MVWA.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. I thought I was the only one who found this "crisis" a strange coincidence. We all know the reservoir will be replenished in coming weeks when snow melt and a rainy spring will surely follow. I too thought this might have been a deliberate draw down to gain credence and generate supporting documentation for a positive result in applying for stimulus funds.

As much as I'd like to have the Authorities water run on my property, having a well isn't so bad either in light of an impending increase in rates if that dam is built.

onjeesun said...

During the years I've been following the Hinckley water situation, there was at some point something mentioned, possibly as a part of a lawsuit or at a public meeting, that if the power co. was not going to follow the guidelines in place for times and amounts of water releases that that would/should be cause enough for them to be forced to renegotiate the FERC license agreement. That may be wishful thinking or it may have been a strategy for one of the other players. You mention the water fight getting old. Well unfortunately while we all watch the debacle continue, so am I. Maybe I'll go with "it was so long ago" instead of admitting my memory may not be what it use to be.