KINGSTON, N.Y. — Representatives of towns along the Lower Esopus Creek are hardening their stance against proposed changes to the protocol New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection uses in discharging muddy water into the creek.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has extended a deadline for stakeholder comments on the revised guidelines to Jan. 17.
Under the proposed changes, New York City would shift responsibility for extended periods of turbid water to Ulster County, but the proposed protocols don’t define how local decisions would be made.
“They are doing this out of forced courtesy,” Saugerties town Supervisor Fred Costello said. “What they’re saying is ‘We don’t even need to be part of this. … It’s a political function anyway. Let (communities) interpret the release protocol in a way that they think the community wants.’”
Costello said the approach creates a false sense of authority because the local communities won’t have “control over the valves or the levers” and basically serves New York City by potentially dividing Ulster County interests against each other. He says New York City officials need to take responsibility for their own actions involving a reservoir they own and how they plan to resolve longstanding problems they’ve created along the 32 miles of the Esopus Creek that extend from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Hudson River.
“They make a decision that the turbidity is (high) but still have to dump it because the release protocol requires creating a (flood prevention) void,” Costello said. “They are the ones who have to bring that to our residents and explain it. Our residents don’t want to hear it from us, they want to hear it from people who are mechanically facilitating that decision.”
New York City Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Milgrim on Friday said the changes would ultimately require directives from county government, but he said municipalities should have a voice in the decisions.
“Communities downstream of the Ashokan are most impacted by any decision, and our continued communications with leadership in those municipalities remains critically important ,as does our hope that their comments on the proposed protocol revisions are strongly considered by the DEC,” he said.
City Environmental Protection Commissioner Paul Rush, during a video conference meeting Friday, told a group of elected officials and environmental organizations that the changes are being proposed to give Ulster County representatives a role in how long the releases of turbid water from the New York City reservoirs are made.
“The city, under the protocol that exists right now, makes long variation turbid releases when we have (major) storms, particularly when they happen in the winter,” Rush said. “I know personally that turbid discharge has (raised) concerns that have been studied and will require additional studies, and visually it’s absolutely not pleasing to anyone in the area, unless they like seeing chocolate milk.”
Even before the protocol was developed in 2011, there have been objections in Ulster County to the turbid releases….