Sunday, February 02, 2014

Predetermined Conclusions?

Per the OD: Hinckley Reservoir proposal elicits concerns for some, hope for others
The authority is asking permission from the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to withdraw up to 48.5 million gallons of water a day, the maximum amount it can legally take, said Patrick Becher, executive director of the authority.
As pointed out a month ago, although the application says 48.5 and MVWA confirms they are seeking 48.5 MGD, both the Notice of Complete Application and, now, the recent re-notice to extend the comment period only refer to "a maximum taking of up to 32 million gallons per day . . .."

Since MVWA seeks 48.5 MGD and has sent DEC plans to increase water treatment plant (WTP) and intake main capacity to accommodate 48.5 MGD, the language of the Notices (which were drafted by DEC) seems to suggest that DEC has already made the determination to issue the permit, but with withdrawals limited to 32 MGD (which happens to be the capacity of the existing WTP).

Another cue that a decision has already been made is the statement in the OD article coming out of DEC Central Office:
The DEC has considered the effect on the area wildlife if this was granted, and there doesn't seem to be an adverse impact, said Emily DeSantis, director of media relations for the department's hub in Albany.
Of course not!  MVWA's projection of an imperceptible increase in demand out to 2030 coupled with no specific expansion plans present nothing that would allow an impact to be identified  . . . But that would be putting the blinders on, ignoring: (1) that MVWA intends to draw 48.5 MGD, (2) that the new agreement with Canal Corp frees MVWA from any requirement to make compensating flows, (3) that no environmental impact study was ever made of the effect of that new agreement, and (4) that in 2007 we already had a water "emergency" caused in large part by the lack of compensating flows. That avoidable "emergency"  resulted in the fishery being shut down, harm to aquatic life, lost electric power generation, and lost income for many businesses.

It is difficult to believe that DEC's conclusion would apply when 32 MGD (much less than 48.5 MGD) is removed from the creek on a sustained basis during dry weather and the creek flows are allowed to drop to 160 cfs for prolonged periods of time . . . .  especially when no study has told us how much more often we can expect these minimum flows to occur.

One gets a feeling that just enough facts (i.e., the minimum projected increase in demand, unspecific "need" for water for economic development purposes in the 4 Towns) will be cherry-picked to justify a politically-motivated DEC (commanded from Central Office) to see no environmental impacts and "rubber-stamp" this application with a 32MGD withdrawal limit, which defacto already exists, to make it look like DEC is doing something.
If this happens, expect a slow degradation of the West Canada Creek as withdrawals increase over many years.  Maybe by the time the creek is completely destroyed, no one will remember what a magnificent stream it once was.


Raleigh said...

I really hope you are wrong on this, Strike. I'm already way too cynical when it comes to government (at all levels) playing it straight with us. The absence(thus far) of an honest SEQRA evaluation hasn't helped change my mind. If the DEC has indeed already made up its mind on the permit, I'm afraid you will be right about the river's fate. The concept of cumulative impacts is foreign to single-minded politicians.

Anonymous said...

When Hinckley dries up, they will drain North Lake, South Lake and Delta Lake to fill the canal. This will adversely impact very desirable recreational opportunities in the county and waterfront property values.

Why has there been no discussion about this part of the equation .....

Strikeslip said...

To answer anonymous above -- Because there has been No discussion of ANY of the environmental impacts of freeing MVWA from the compensating reservoir/flow requirements contained in the original 1917 Agreement upon which its "rights" depended. Maintaining those requirements would have neutralized the impacts of MVWA's withdrawals. Water, now, has to be taken away from some other place or purpose to avoid impacts.

Anonymous said...

The MVWA aside, I would not trust in the competence of Canal Corp. officials to properly manage our water resources. Much of last summer's flooding along the Mohawk River was caused by the incompetence of canal officials in Albany who don't have a clue on how to respond properly to events such as which happened last year. Of course, most of them are Cuomo political appointees, so what more can we expect?