Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Tale of Two ODs . . .

At left is a comparison of two "ODs" -- Operating Diagrams -- for the Hinckley Reservoir. The top was drafted in 1920 and became part of a 1921 Agreement between the State and Utica Gas & Electric. The bottom was drafted in 2012 and became part of a 2013 Agreement between the State Canal Corp and the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.

The former was the subject of litigation between Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LLC and the State over the State's deviation from the 1920 OD during the 2007 drought.  The State released less water from Hinckley Reservoir than called for in the OD in order to keep reservoir levels above MVWA's intake.  (Had levels dropped, the intake would be high and dry and we would have no water at our taps).  Less water released from the dam means less water turning the power company's turbines -- producing less power to be sold causing lost income to the power company. The Court of Claims threw out Erie's lawsuit citing language in the 1921 agreement that allowed deviations from the OD without compensation to the power company in certain emergency situations.  Erie appealed . . .

A few days ago the Appellate Division reversed the Court of Claims saying . .
Because defendants altered the release rate for the purpose of preserving safe drinking water during a drought – a legitimate public and State purpose (see ECL 15-0105 [5]) – and not for a canal-related purpose, defendants are liable for breaching the contract.
So, unless deviations are for a canal-related purpose, the State's taxpayers will be responsible to the power company for the lost income the deviations cause.

The 1920 OD assumed that Utica's water supplier adds to the flow into Hinckley from its own reservoir to make up for what it takes out of Hinckley during dry periods.  The 2013 agreement between MVWA and the Canal Corp does away that requirement.  The 2012 OD takes that into account and controls reservoir levels to protect MVWA's intakes.

So does not that make the 2012 OD a deviation from the 1920 OD for a non-canal-related purpose?

With MVWA not contributing water to Hinckley, but taking more out as it ramps up to taking 48.5 million gallons a day per its new proposal, how much money will the power company lose in the future?

Since the power company did not approve of the 2013 agreement, it seems like the Canal Corp just locked itself into a course of conduct that exposes us taxpayers to liability to the power company.

I wonder how long this situation will be allowed to last???

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hidden In Plain Sight 3 . . .

In case you missed the MVWA's full page color advertisement in Friday's and Sunday's Observer Dispatch (which YOU paid for!) it is reproduced at left. It is almost verbatim the March 2013 newsletter you already received with your water bill. Both trumpet the agreement reached between the MVWA and NYS Canal Corporation that settled their lawsuit.  Why do we hear about this again, now?

The bold text 2/3 down gives a clue:

"While this agreement does ensure prudent management of reservoir levels, it is important to note that neither the MVWA nor the Canal Corporation controls the flow of water into the West Canada Creek below that reservoir.  The operations of a privately-owned hydroelectric plant determine how much water will be released and when."

Blame for flows of the West Canada below the reservoir is being deflected to a "privately-owned" company -- but not mentioned is the fact that MVWA and Canal Corp (your government) are the only ones who divert water away from the Creek (the power company does not).

With West Canada Creek's natural flows ranging from about 150 cubic feet per second up to over 30,000 cfs, there is plenty of water available for all sorts of uses -- provided that "excess" water is captured when flows are high and released when flows are low. Although MVWA has often claimed a "right" to take 48.5 million (75 cfs) gallons of water per day, that right was contingent upon it maintaining a storage reservoir upstream of Hinckley Reservoir of a size per the table reproduced at the right. Doing the math with these figures reveals that MVWA should be holding about 120 days' worth of water use in storage.  At the full 48.5 MGD, 6 billion gallons should be in storage. That's almost 1/4 the size of Hinckley reservoir itself! MVWA should be using this 120 day storage to replace what it takes out of Hinckley when creek flows are low.

MVWA's ad is drumming up public support for the MVWA-Canal Corp agreement now perhaps to avoid it being scrutinized as part of MVWA's pending application before the Department of Environmental Conservation to expand its service area. The new agreement does not hold water.  It was made without benefit of an environmental impact statement. The two "consumers" of West Canada Creek water went into a closed room and divided the creek's water among themselves. The agreement relieves MVWA of the storage and flow augmentation requirements which means that water will be removed by MVWA and not replaced.  Ultimately that means less water available for the creek below Hinckley Dam. 

Slick public relations campaigns may distract, but they cannot paper over the math.  

MVWA and Canal Corp hope no one notices that their agreement comes at the expense of everyone who uses the creek below the Hinckley dam. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hidden In Plain Sight 2 . . .

Observer-Dispatch: Authority wants to increase output from Hinckley Reservoir
The Mohawk Valley Water Authority is requesting permission to withdraw roughly 27 million more gallons of water a day. The authority is asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation to modify its water-supply permit, from 21.4 million gallons per day to its legal maximum of 48.5 million gallons per day from Hinckley Reservoir.
Thank you, OD, for getting the facts out to the public! The public notice was misleading as to the amount of water that was being sought.

And here's a bit more detail that trickled into DEC's public file . . . . The total "peak day" water demand for MVWA's existing service area + 4 Towns + Western Oneida County + certain Herkimer County Towns (including places already getting water from other sources) will zoom from 25.462 mgd  in 2010 to . . . (hold onto your hats). . . . . 26.619 mgd in 2038 (strains of Peggy Lee "Is that All There Is" playing in the background) (see p 17/119 of the added materials).  And this "huge" increase in need justifies spending . . . about $50,000,000?  (see p 118/119)

Of course, as noted in small print, the figures do not include water that may be needed by a chip fab (or 3) . . . But assuming chip fabs come, do you think the chip fabs will be paying for all this infrastructure increase? or any of it?

But there is even MORE that is being hidden in plain sight . . . Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ohhh Nooooo. Not Again . . . .

A year ago in the post Sewer District Sleight of Hand I warned that the County was shifting its economic development costs for the new North Utica Interceptor onto the backs of current sewer users rather than paying for it itself.

Well guess what was buried in the Utica Observer Dispatch, Friday, January 3, 2014
Legal Notices?
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the County Legislature of the County of Oneida, New York, will meet at the County Office Building, in Utica, New York, in Oneida, New York, on January 15, 2014, at 1:45 o'clock P.M., Prevailing Time, for the purpose of conducting a public hearing in relation to the proposed $4,000,000 increased cost of the increase and improvement of the facilities of the Oneida County Sewer District in said County, consisting of the North Utica Interceptor improvements at a new maximum estimated cost of $15,630,000. The revised estimated annual cost to the typical property owner in said Sewer District as a result thereof is $5.36 for a single family home and $8.04 for a two family home.
Dated: Utica, New York, December 30, 2013. 
Existing sewer users did not then and do not now need this project to treat their sewage.  Now the cost of an additional $4,000,000 is being dumped onto them in the name of "economic development."  Your water bills are going up some more!

This is a project that will benefit new users who, as yet, do not exist. It should be paid for entirely by those who will benefit from it. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Hidden in Plain Sight . . .

In the last post it was noted that MVWA water users' bills have skyrocketed because County Sewer District costs for a consent order and sewer system/waste treatment plant expansions have been passed on to water users. Now MVWA seeks permission to expand its own system to serve outlying parts of Towns of Westmoreland, Kirkland, Frankfort, and Schuyler.  Few details of the expansion are provided in MVWA's application to DEC because the "need" to expand the system to these areas is hypothetical, based more on MVWA's desire to relieve itself of future DEC oversight rather than actual planned developments in these places.

What is not hypothetical is the amount of water MVWA is requesting to withdraw. From "Water Withdrawal Application Supplement WW-1" Question #9 (see page 6 of the 68 page PDF of the Application made available to the public at DEC on 12/26/13):
 9. WATER WITHDRAWAL AMOUNTS  This project involves withdrawal of up to: 48.5 gallons per day.
(You should note that the amount requested from DEC (48.5) does not match the amount advertised to the public by DEC (32mgd).)

Also not hypothetical is the construction that MVWA proposes - almost 3 miles of new water main - in order to take additional water from Hinckley Reservoir. From "Exhibit C.1" (see page 16 of the PDF of the Application):
It is the intent of MVWA to construct one new main of sufficient capacity to handle the full amount of authorized withdrawal, 48.5mgd, without utilizing the capacity of existing mains. The existing 36" main will remain in service and function as a back-up to the new main . . .
The Greater Utica area currently served by MVWA uses about 21 mgd of water and has a population of about 130,000.  The 4 Towns proposed to be served combined contain a small fraction of the Greater Utica population.

Does anyone really believe that the proposed new mains are related to MVWA's expansion into the 4 Towns?  The real objective of this project is hidden. 

There is good information that an expensive expansion of the water treatment facility is also in the offing because the existing plant can only handle 32 mgd, but this does not appear in the application available at DEC for public review . . . yet.

Guess Who will be tapped with even higher water bills to pay for all this?

We've seen it with the Sewer District, we've seen it with Griffiss "International" Airport, and we are seeing it again with the MVWA.  The people of Greater Utica, deprived of effective representation in government by design, are being forced by that government to pay for the "economic development" dreams of local developers, contractors, and all the other politically-connected leeches who hope to get rich at the Taxpayers' risk.

When does it end?

There is more about this proposal that is hidden in plain sight.  Stay tuned. . .