Up on the News
The Streams Flow
Courtney opened the conference by explaining that The Ashokan Watershed
Stream Management Program he works with provides a coordinated approach
to stream protection and management within the Ashokan Reservoir watershed.
Their overall goal is to restore stream system stability and ecologic
integrity while sustaining viable communities in the watershed. They
coordinate stream management with towns and agencies and provide stream
corridor management plans. Technical assistance and Stream Projects
are offered, as are grants to towns and local organizations for a variety
of projects. Matching Grants are available (25% of project cost up to
$100,000) such as the Woodland Valley Road Stream Bank Stabilization,
or Mini Grants of up to $5,000 per project, such as the Catskill Center
for Conservation and Development Kiosk Panels or the Trout Unlimited
Leaping Trout Panels you may have seen popping up around the area.
Elizabeth Higgins, Program Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension,
and Cory Ritz, Stream Project Manager, Ulster County Soil and Water,
provided a few more details on stream assessments to identify erosion
and clay turbidity on the region's 330 miles of waterways, which can
be mitigated by planting trees and other forms of vegetation to slow
down erosion. Landowners and municipalities are encouraged to contact
their offices to develop plans for stream corridor management plans.
Barbara Kendall from Kendall Stormwater Services provided good reasons
to care about floodplains and stormwater runoff, giving examples of
how building in floodplains adversely impacts the floodplain. She noted
that a floodplain is actually a storage area for streams that will overflow
their banks during excessive rains or snow melt. When we allow building
in these areas, we are filling in these storage areas and raising the
level of the flood plain.
Kendall spoke of other ways to help lower impact by designing natural
retention for storm water, mitigating and filtering heavy water flows,
keeping them from impacting local streams. She said ponds, rain gardens,
and large grassy areas with catch basins designed to only allow higher
levels of water to spill in keep runoff to a minimum, and allow more
of the water to naturally seep into the ground when the rain event is
over. Another way to reduce impact of runoff, she said, is to reduce
impervious surfaces. Some towns are reducing road surfaces, which in
turn reduces runoff.
Art Snyder, Director Ulster County Emergency Management spoke of the
impacts that flooding has in Ulster County. He pointed out many of the
homes that were built in floodplains that continue to be impacted by
rain. He also noted how foolish it was for the Kingston Board of Education
to consider building a new High School in an area known for it's flooding.
Snyder also spoke to some uses of floodplains that are considered good
- things such as recreation fields, driving ranges, farming that are
not adversely affected by occasional high water levels. Snyder stressed
the need to stop permanent development in these areas. He pointed out
that in many areas, buyout programs are in place to help homeowners
in flood prone areas to relocate.
Natalie Brown, NYS Dept. of Conservation, gave a short presentation
concerning required permitting when working in and around streams, as
well as new rules that took effect May 1 regarding disturbances that
might affect five or more acres of land - such as in a realty subdivision.
Joe Damrath, who heads up the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection's
Stormwater Regulations, provided information about various sections
of the law that cover impervious surfaces, pointing out that impervious
surfaces include your roof, paved driveways and parking lots - any surface
that does not allow for water to drain through it. No new impervious
surfaces may be within 100' of a watercourse or state wetland, or within
300' of a reservoir or controlled lake. However, these regulations are
less strict if the property falls within a village or designated, so
as to help communities within the watershed remain viable.
The conference later broke into afternoon sessions that addressed Municipal
Floodplain Policies, Home Stormwater Protection, identified funding
agencies, spoke about driveway and culvert "Best Practices."
For full information on all topics discussed, and links, visit www.ashokanstreams.org.
On Trucking, Now
Last week's freak moon rose in the sky like a sun each night, looming
into our windows and forcing us awake. It was probably just a personal
invitation to the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, where the Truck
Festival's debut weekend in this country offered hundreds of people
There is something magical about the land there, and the Oliverea
Valley proved the perfect setting for the Truck production, which
originated in the UK and is somewhat peerless in its simple integrity:
Three days of more than ten bands and solo performers and quirky films
each, all day long day and into the night, some people camping.
There were three stages-including a cozy tent, a gorgeous hayloft
and a saloonesque bar, and everything moved smoothly. It had the feeling
of an enchanted campus, with children bopping about, little groups
breaking into song around campfires, all against the tree frogs and
night birds, and the stars.
We sampled here and there and got steeped in a mini retrospective
of Mercury Rev's dense and melodic non-linear narratives, brought
to even greater levels of emotional intelligence with conducted orchestra.
Everything was so fluid you could see rainbow fish swimming through
Heard Gary Louris was amazing, but missed him, and could have missed
the whole event because it was so subtly (not) promoted, and that
seemed to work out just fine.
Loved Cat Martino, who sings about nature like she has the blood of
trees inside her, and fave moment of the night was a group of people
doing a full out acoustic ukelele version of Outkast's "Hey Ya."
This is obviously a venture fueled by a vision, and that vision is
way more about music than money, and putting things together... so
there is a real vibe, and in this case, it was good enough to take
back home and keep running with it.
Monday, and the world at large, lost some of its power to sting.
most observers expect such reviews to yield more stringent parameters
than those which will apply elsewhere in the state, some believe their
costs, complexity, and contentiousness will ultimately prohibit drilling
here in the city's watershed. Mayor Bloomberg and City Department of
Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Calloway seemed pleased by
the state's announcement, with the Mayor issuing a statement saying
"We firmly believe that drilling cannot be permitted in the City's
watershed. We are confident that the additional reviews now required
for any drilling proposal in the watershed will lead the State to the
Two regional advocacy groups, Tarrytown-based Riverkeeper and the Arkville-based
Catskill Center for Conservation and Development also issued statements
applauding the decision. But the rest of the environmental community
appears warily uncertain over the state agency's latest regulatory approach.
In September 2009, DEC issued some 800 pages of new draft guidelines
called a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).
Intended to regulate all new deep-well gas drilling statewide and its
extraction process known as hydrofracturing or "fracking,"
the document was, on arrival, controversial. As this new technology
has proven a toxic threat to surface water resources elsewhere, most
environmental and public health advocates have stressed the need for
a thorough, go-slow regulatory approach.
When released last fall, the SGEIS was widely criticized (including
by this newspaper) for providing inadequate review procedures and environmental
protections. As DEC began sifting some14,000 public comments, it appeared
the long-understaffed agency was taking the issue back to the drawing
board. But in a surprise move last month, Commissioner Grannis announced
that revisions would be completed by the end of this year, allowing
for the permitting in early 2011 of 58 pending drilling applications,
most in Sullivan County, with thousands more anticipated across a five
county region of the southern Catskills and the Route 17 and I-86 corridor.
That region's infrastructure now includes the massive new Millenium
natural gas Pipeline, currently completed as far south as Tuxedo, NY
where it connects with the Northeast's existing pipeline infrastructure.
Plans call for future connection to an offshore LNG tanker port facility
to be built in the Long Island Sound.
Less than enthused, however, by the state's new separation of watershed
from non-watershed review procedures were a broad range of environmental
groups. Kate Sinding, a senior attorney for tthe Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) said "we fear this move greases the skids for drilling
in the remainder of the state without adequate examination of the impacts...but
we are also concerned it risks giving New York City residents a false
sense of security...this announcement does little or nothing to actually
protect the drinking water supplies for New York City...it removes the
onus (on DEC) from responding to the devastating comments on impacts
to the watershed prepared by the city's DEP, the US Environmental Protection
agency.. and others... The only responsible decision from the state
is to issue a full ban on gas drilling in the New York City drinking
water supply, and to restart the environmental review for the rest of
Statements offering similar analysis of DEC's announcement were issued
by Delaware Riverkeeper and the Citizen's Campaign for the Environment.
"DEC's announcement does not provide any protections for the two
watersheds" reads the former group's press release, which calls
on the agency to "pull back the fatally flawed draft and ban all
drilling in the state while these essential issues are addressed."
"This is an attempt to take the watershed issue off the table without
actually dealing with it, to fast-track drilling for the rest of us"
said Ramsay Adams, Executive Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. "And
it's not even protecting the watersheds. It's bad on both levels. It
appears as if the DEC is trying to give the impression that there won't
be drilling in the watersheds to remove political pressure from New
York City...It also appears they decided to exclude the watersheds from
their final GEIS, so that they won't have to address the comments from
the comprehensive scientific study prepared by NYC DEP. We are calling
on the Governor and DEC to withhold any final report until all the scientific
evidence now being gathered can be thoroughly evaluated."
That evidence, notably, includes a major study recently commissioned
by the US Environmental Protection Agency, a study which is expected
to result in new federal regulations for the industry that would ultimately
supercede any state regulations. The results of that EPA study are regarded
as so critical to global energy markets that Russian President Medvedev
recently announced his country had curtailed any expansion of its own
natural gas production infrastructure, the world's largest, pending
its completion and release.
As things stand, DEC has to date neither banned nor restricted natural
gas drilling within New York City's 1,600 square mile West-of Hudson
watershed, including all of our readership area. And although last year
one producer, Chesapeake Energy, voluntarily announced it wouldn't seek
to drill here, no statutory restrictions exist to this day. Based on
the fact that last fall's SGEIS reached the conclusion that gas drilling
in the watershed presents "no realistic threat" to the quality
or safety of the City's drinking water," few observers anticipate
that the state will be taking the lead on protecting the City's water
supply. Ultimately that authority rests with the State Department of
Health and the US EPA.
At this moment an outright ban on drilling anywhere in the state seems
unlikely. Landowner and property rights groups are widely believed ready
to challenge such a move as a governmental "taking" of property,
together with political allies including State Senator Bonacic and the
gas industry itself. As legal actions such as this would likely delay
by years any exploitation of gas resources statewide, some believe the
City's acceptance of DEC's newly bifurcated review structure in place
of an outright ban reflects an informal arrangement between state regulators,
city government, and energy interests.
"There's much that New York can learn from the problems in Pennsylvania,
which is now revising major parts of their environmental regulations"
said EarthJustice's Deborah Goldberg of the situation. "Instead
of leaping before we look, we should carefully examine what's happened
in other states. And we should fully understand the technologies and
best management practices that will protect public health and our environment
before we issue a single permit."
Whether that will somehow be sorted out by next winter when the first
drilling permits could be issued, we'll keep you posted.
Sewer Solution Proceeds
and parcel, in the final round, with Shandaken's big subject du jour,
wastewater treatment and whether or not it should take New York City
money or go it their own, individual septic or existing sewer system
After months of discussion, the Shandaken Town Board last month invited
the Margaretville-based CWC to help with Phoenicia's sewer woes. With
no board discussion and no complaint from a small audience, the board
passed a resolution to get help from the CWC, who would manage the ensuing
project as it has similar projects in Boiceville and other sites throughout
the Catskills. Councilmembers Jack Jordan, Vince Bernstein, Tim Malloy
and Doris Bartlett voted in favor. Supervisor Rob Stanley was absent.
Before the vote, however, the resolution CWC asks be passed for such
aid and planning requests changed substantially following meetings held
between Supervisor Stanley, current sewer proposal opponent Mike Ricciardella
and his attorney Jack Darwak, and former Ulster County Health Commissioner
Dean Palen, also present at Ricciardella's request.
The resolution had originally been a request by the town board to the
CWC to "take over the design and administration of the proposed
But then something happened, with the resolution that passed noting
how Shandaken now, "requests that the Catskill Watershed Corporation
ASSIST the Shandaken Town Board in determining which, if any, of the
available projects are appropriate."
There were other changes too. The original resolution suggested by the
CWC at various preliminary meetings made it clear the town board was,
"requesting CWC to assume administration of Proposed WWTF for Phoenicia."
That was changed to refer to how, "the CWC has graciously offered
to assist the Shandaken town board in evaluating the various options
On May 4, CWC's wastewater committee tried to figure out what Phoenicia
actually wants CWC to do. After a briefing on the decade-long history
of Phoenicia's efforts to plan for and build a sewer system by CWC member
Jeffrey Graff, the committee unanimously agreed to recommend that the
CWC Board of Directors agree to get involved.
Supervisor Rob Stanley was at the session and helped clarify for the
committee what it was Phoenicia wanted.
"The CWC wastewater committee has approved the plan for CWC to
assist Phoenicia with its wastewater project," he said after the
Now the matter goes before the CWC Board of Directors at its next monthly
meeting on June 1st. That entity can either agree to the plan or turn
the idea down. To date, it has never turned any town's request down.
The night before at Town Hall in Allaben, memories arose of more rancorous
days in the town of Shandaken, when a public hearing on a plan to extend
the Pine Hill sewer district spiraled down to an old fashioned free-for-all
exchange with lots of yelling and gavel banging.
The matter at hand on May 3 was whether the Pine Hill sewer district
should be extended to include another 30 properties in accordance with
an agreement reached over a decade ago between the town and the city
of New York.
Pine Hill is one of the few communities of the Catskills that took advantage
of a sweetheart deal offered by the City back in the 1920's that gave
landowners absolutely free sewage treatment forever.
In 1997, following the MOA negotiations, the City agreed to increase
the size of the district. But some in Pine Hill believe there is a catch
to the offer that could result in that sweet heart deal going sour.
At least a little bit.
Kevin Young, the attorney representing the town in the matter, said
that the rights of the existing district users are preserved and that
he felt the written agreement represented that.
"But if it is not clear in here we can make it absolutely clear,"
Al Frisenda, one landowner hoping to benefit from the sewer extension
- who was a town board member back in the 1990's when the deal was reached
- insisted the extension does not change the deal the rest of Pine Hill
Former Town Supervisor Peter DiModica, a Pine Hill resident, warned
that by agreeing to the extension, the town was also signing up for
enforcement responsibilities in the entire district, a responsibility
that has been in the hands of the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection up to now.
Young answered that the town has actually always had enforcement responsibilities,
ever since The Village of Pine Hill officially dissolved itself and
became an unofficial Shandaken hamlet. He added that what is actually
happening is that by agreeing to installing the extension, the City
gets the chance to weigh in on sewer law violation matters that would
come before the town board. Ultimately, Young said, it was up to the
town board to decide each matter.
"You are the Judge," he told the five member board.
City DEP representative Jim Bogner, who is now working on the design
of the extension, noted that similar deals were reached all over the
New York City watershed region and that in the other communities it
has not been an issue of whether or not to do it, but more one on how
to make sure it gets done as quickly as possible.
Of the property owners that would be in the Pine Hill extension district,
Bogner said "most are very supportive."
Some of those were there Monday night to learn. One homeowner in the
extension area discovered that the project could cost her a few hundred
dollars because she would need to pay to get her house connected to
the system, which Young said would come within five feet of her foundation.
Others who have been plagued with septic system headaches over the years
said they don't care about hook up costs because they would be getting
rid of long-lasting problems.
In the end the town board decided to table the matter. It is expected
to come up again next month.
Prior to that decision, Young gave both the board and the audience a
After an extension opponent asked if the properties in the extension
area could instead benefit from another City-funded program that replaces
individual septic systems, Young said that is not the type of thinking
his firm advises clients to use.
While it is true that the City put up money in the 1990's for septic
replacements and did so again in 2007, Young warned that the program
that allowed that was set to end soon, and there still thousands of
systems watershed wide that the program is supposed to replace. If 30
homes in Pine Hill can be taken care of with this extension, he said,
the town should do it.
"If you think the City of New York is going to keep extending that
money in perpetuity during these economic times you are dreaming,"
the lawyer said. "If you are in government today in the watershed,
your job should be to get everyone in your community the best septic
deal you can because the money is there. At some point the money is
not going to be there. They (the City) are not going to need us, so
get the money while you can."
The town board will accept comments on the extension plan through Saturday,
May 8. Then Young will rewrite the proposal to include language to clear
up the legal confusion about existing sewer users. It is expected that
another Public hearing will be held to give residents a chance to weigh
in on the new draft.
Last year, attempts to
deal with the issue - which largely deals with one farm stand and
a lot of hypotheticals - the result was the election day ousting of
Shandaken town supervisor Peter DiSclafani, who had found himself
in a very public personal battle with farm stand operator Al Higley,
who has claimed that the laws proposed by DiSclafani were political
in nature and aimed squarely at Higley's business, which he operates
in Mount Tremper with his son, Alfie.
After Election Day, the ongoing farm stand flap ended up in a stalemate.
A proposed farm stand law, generated by a bipartisan committee that
later stepped back from its recommendations, was put in limbo after
Higley made an appeal to the new town board at its pre-Election Day
meeting, saying that it would be a bad idea for the board to pass
the law as proposed.
"We are not against a farm stand bill, we are against this bill....we
will fight you till the blood flows," Higley said. "this
is lawyer heaven."
DiSclafani, who warned Higley to "be careful" with his allegations
in public, said that Higley's notion of an "agricultural district"
wouldn't fly because according to the Ulster County Planning Board
there needs to be a farm in order for there to be such a district.
And Shandaken doesn't have any.
Higley then held up a map supplied by the New York City Department
of Environmental Protection that shows the borders of the hamlet,
a previously unofficial designation that was lent legal substance
to show an area in which the City would not be allowed to try and
While Higley interpreted the idea of hamlets as meaning that those
lands are intended to be zoned commercial, DiSclafani said not so.
He further noted that he would not support a commercial designation
for Mt. Tremper just so Higley could be allowed to build a grocery
That was when then-Councilman Rob Stanley jumped in, saying that even
though the area was not zoned commercial it has been used for commercial
ventures for decades.
Stanley, now the town supervisor after defeating DiSClafani last November,
is now once again turning his attention, and the town's, to the farm
At 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 18, Stanley will preside over a special
joint session of the town board, the Planning Board and the Town Code
"Roadside stands and farm stands have been a topic of discussion
throughout the town for not less than five years," Stanley said
when announcing the session at a May 3 town board meeting. "The
town requests a special joint meeting... to openly discuss options
toward resolution of this issue."
Meanwhile the Planning Board, under the direction of newly appointed
chairman Charles Frasier, met May 4 night in a workshop session to
talk about general planning board issues. Frasier, who replaces ousted
Chair Beth Waterman, who was not reappointed by the Stanley administration
this year, has made it clear that the planning board should meet to
discuss matters other than just what ever applications appear before
The main topic of the informal meeting Tuesday was the boards' bylaws
and whether they needed changing.
Frasier, the senior member of the board, wanted to discuss the code
of ethics. Others, such as Planner Maureen Millar, wanted to discuss
Tempers flared. Nothing was decided. The talks are expected to continue....
Vote May 18
A copy of the $50,022,026
school budget is now on file at the district's schoolhouses from 8
a.m. to 4 p.m. every day prior to May 18 except Saturdays and Sundays.
The document is also available at the town libraries in the towns
of Hurley, Olive, Phoenicia, West Hurley, and Woodstock during regular
library business hours.
Voting will take place from 2pm to 9pm at all four elementary school
polling centers. Kindergarten-through-grade six students will have
an early dismissal at 1 p.m. A special meeting of the board will follow,
at approximately 9:30pm at the Onteora Middle-High School in Boiceville,
to accept the vote's cast.
In proposition one, voters will be asked to approve the 2010/2011
Onteora district budget that includes $20,000 to support public libraries.
In proposition two, voters will be asked to approve $35,000 for the
purchase of a seven passenger bus to replace a vehicle over ten years
old with over 200,000 miles clocked on it.
Two three-year board of education seats will also be on the ballot.
Incumbents Tom Hickey's and Rob Kurnit's names appear on the ballot
with no contesting candidates.
Over the past three months, the board worked on what was described
as one of the district's most difficult budgets to date. Driving matters
was an increase in employee health care premiums of 14.9 percent,
increase of retirement contributions from 6.19 percent to 8.62 percent,
coupled with a loss of State Aid at $658,000 and loss of interest
revenue of $100,000.
In order to find a tax levy that was palatable with the voters, the
board needed to make deeps cuts or face a double-digit tax levy. It
settled upon a .31 percent budget increase and a 3.9 percent tax levy.
This created a budget shortfall of over $2 million.
As the budget took shape, programs, staff and administrators were
reviewed. No stone was left unturned when it came to reductions or
cuts. As School Board President Laurie Osmond said, "Everything
is on the table."
After reworking the budget and taking advantage of savings through
staff retirements, some programs that were initially cut from the
budget were restored or trimmed. Also, additional savings were found
through cuts in the district's administration budget.
Overall, 11.5 teaching positions will be eliminated. This includes
GED, speech, special educators and a middle school team. Out of the
eleven full time teachers, six retired and five were laid off. Twelve
non-teaching positions will be eliminated. Out of that group, four
retired and eight will be laid-off.
Other cuts include high school after school homework help, INDIE,
technology and cheerleading. The INDIE program that was once a popular
alternative school for kids who do not always fit into the traditional
school setting lost its remaining $50,000. Over the years the program
had a slow chipping away of its funding. Once located next to the
high school, it is now an after school program located in Woodstock.
Its future at this point is uncertain.
Some programs and staff initially on the chopping block have since
been restored. This includes ta Librarian, Music Teacher, Marching
Band, Color Guard, Volleyball, Golf and Indoor Track. The Gifted and
Talented program will be partially restored.
If voters were to reject the budget two times, then a contingency
budget would be put into a place at a 2.85 percent tax levy and zero
budget increase. Programs once slated for elimination would be cut,
including additional programs such as JV sports.