is a big drainpipe for the Schoharie reservoir, which the City of
New York has been emptying in order to do work on the 1920’s
reservoir’s decaying dam.
Acknowledging that the dam repair is important, Jameson said he is
seeking some cooperation from the Big Apple, which refused to consider
stemming water flow during the recent flood season this past spring.
Jameson said that the high water makes the currents too swift and
waves too high for all but the most expert tuber. The result is that
his business is only running at 60 percent capacity as he turns away
all novice and beginner tubers.
Jameson was expected to make his case to City officials on Wednesday,
In related Esopus business of late, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second
Circuit, has upheld its own 2001 ruling that rejected opinions from
the city’s Department of Environmental Protection that the agency
did not need discharge permits to add silt to the Esopus Creek, which
spills into the Ashokan Reservoir, thus also upholding a $5 million
penalty against the city for violating Clean Water Act laws.
The rulings arose from a lawsuit filed in 2000 by the Catskill Mountains
chapter of Trout Unlimited Inc. against the Department of Environmental
Protection. The group was seeking to end the discharge of muddy water
from the city’s Schoharie Reservoir into the Esopus. Fishermen
had reportedly nicknamed the waterway the Yoo-Hoo Creek. “This
turbidity impairs use of the Esopus for fly fishing and other recreational
activities,” the three-judge appeals panel wrote, referencing
the town’s tubing industry as well.
Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection,
said the city agency was disappointed by the ruling and is weighing
options, noting that “it’s inappropriate to apply rules
intended to regulate sewage and industrial wastewater to the conveyance
of untreated, natural drinking water that is part of a public water
supply… This decision has the potential to compromise the reliability
of the city’s water supply, which serves 9 million New Yorkers
“This environmental victory should remind everyone of the importance
of clean water and the need to be vigilant in protecting it for our
health and our communities,” noted State Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer, a candidate for governor, in a press release about the decision.
Let’s see how the summer’s waters now flow…
When asked what he can remember of his first trip into either
Olive or Shandaken, Hinchey laughs. He says it’s difficult to
discern the exact moment.
“I was reading about the Catskills before I ever got here, in
Irving and Cooper,” he says of the 19th century’s two
great American authors. “It seems I’ve been coming into
them my whole life.”
Hinchey was born in New York City 68 years ago, but grew up in Saugerties,
where he graduated high school before going on to SUNY New Paltz and
eventually, after stints working the cement factories that used to
line the Hudson in his youth, a career in politics as a Democratic
winner in stolidly Republican districts. And a solidly old-style liberal
Democrat at that.
How perfect, we note at some point in our recent talk, he driving,
that Hinchey would end up being our state’s only representative
on the Congressional commission that created the new FDR memorial
in our nation’s capital.
“The Catskills have a mystique and wonderment to them that’s
just marvelous,” Hinchey says, after having received a “Steward
of the Catskills” award from the Catskill Preservation Corporation,
the organization of leading regional and national environmental groups
that came together two years ago to fight the mega-development proposed
for the region’s central high peaks area by Crossroads Ventures.
“They represent the most important watershed in the world, as
well as one of the key protected park areas in our nation.”
The congressman jokes about getting legislation passed to fight the
current infestations of tent caterpillars that have denuded many of
the region’s richest forests for the second summer in a row.
But then he grows more serious… talking stewardship issues.
“By the middle of this century, water issues will be a dominant
concern. This reservoir system, which now serves 9 million, will be
key to the lives of 15 million people as the Long Island aquifers
decline,” he says. “It’s important that this are
Do others in Congress understand the importance of Hinchey’s
mission, which has ruled his political life since joining the state
Assembly as Ulster County’s first Democratic representative
in three quarters of a century back in 1975?
“I don’t think they do,” the Congressman replies.
But not for his trying… explaining that, no matter a growing
reliance on filtration systems around the world, the need for something
Should New York City ever be forced to pay upwards of $10 billion
to filter its water, he notes, the cost will end up effecting the
economy of the entire U.S. Especially with the likelihood of the City
then having to choke up $500 million a year in maintenance costs.
Hinchey, who has served on the House of Representatives powerful Banking
and Appropriations committees for years, keeping an eye on the way
money moves in the nation, and helping bring federal aid to our region
with regularity, says more, not less, should be done to aid the protection
of the Catskills and its watershed resource.
Has the area changed over the years, we ask? The Congressman talks
of having pulled together a commission to study the region’s
importance back in the 1970s, and being threatened by old school politicians
in Delaware County as a result.
“Of course, I never did stop,” he said of those threats,
and what they wanted of him.
So what issues does Hinchey feel are key to we Americans of the Catskills
this July 4 weekend?
“We’re involved in a very different world from what I
grew up in, what so many of us came to expect,” he says. “Our
populations are growing, nationally and on a global scale, creating
a new need for all of us to protect the natural resources key to life.
It’s absolutely imperative that we protect our water supplies.
As important as anything having to do with energy.”
The Representative, who lives in Hurley, ads that he’s found
the current Congress lax, to the point of antagonism, at protecting
the rural values he feels are key to America’s independence.
He’s trying to fight a move, being pushed through government,
to consolidate the dairy industry within three giant corporations.
He’s doing what he can to protect what remains of small farms,
in his district and across the country.
“More and more, things have been dominated by corporate interests.
That’s not good for our future,” Hinchey says. “On
this weekend we should remember the author of our Declaration of Independence,
Thomas Jefferson. There’s a guy with vision who knew how important
it was to protect rural America. And what he warned about is happening.”
Any message for the readers of these papers?
“I think the quality of life in these communities is good and
needs protection,” he said. “Remember: development is
good only if it’s responsible.”
Until that evening, the
very same one where Kellerhouse got approval to build his 180 foot
tall tower on town land near Glenbrook Park, it was common knowledge
that the grand plan presented by the current administration was to
help Masterpage build a network of three towers to allegedly supply
75 percent of the town with cell coverage.
The tower, complete with another 18 feet of whip antenna on top for
a total of 198 feet, will be built in a couple months.
It’s ironic that, at the same session, Nextel representatives
were on hand to give a presentation to the board on how the coverage
would be if the three towers were built. The one unanimously approved
on June 14th would send a cellular signal roughly two and half miles
in all directions, Nextel says. If two other towers are built, one
on the Umhay property on a hill above the Phoenicia Diner and the
other on Pine Hill property owned by Peter Goertzal, there would be
similar sized coverage cells around them, but a much weaker signal
would bleed out and cover a fair portion of the town. Even so, the
coverage would not be continuous along the route 28 corridor. Worse,
it would only be for Nextel customers.
“I never said I’m building three towers in town…we’re
here for this application only,” Kellerhouse said, insisting
that previous “rumors” about his plans to build on other
sites were incorrect.
Phoenicia resident Marcy Meiller took issue with the claim that they
were rumors, noting that Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. made it clear
last year that he was negotiating a package deal with Masterpage with
a goal toward providing cell phone coverage throughout town. Now,
the reality is that Masterpage will use only one tower located near
Glenbrook Park along side route 42 to take care of it’s own
needs to provide pager signal in the area as well as enhanced signal
for local emergency services. There was plenty of hopeful talk on
the part of Kellerhouse, some board members and Cross at the meeting
about how other providers are waiting in the wings to rent space on
the tower, but many wondered aloud that, if that were the case, why
haven’t these providers come forward already.
There was also plenty of hopeful talk about the other towers. Cross,
who led the charge last year to sign a contract with Kellerhouse for
the Glenbrook Tower and sold the plan to the public by claiming that
it was the first of three that Kellerhouse was building, back-pedaled
quickly at the session on the 14th. Cross now says that, yes, he did
speak about three towers, and there may have been some confusion about
what that meant exactly, but nevertheless he hopes to see the other
two built eventually.
After the meeting Cross said privately that Kellerhouse did have plans
to build the other towers but backed out of that commitment because
of the way he has been treated in town by critics of his tower plans.
Skeptics of the three tower plan have doubted the plan’s ability
to really provide adequate cell service. And on the 14th Nextel’s’
own calculations were called into question, with Mount Tremper resident
Kathy Nolan asking for the precise locations of the tests and suggesting
that Nextel’s software used for the testing was not adequate.
Also, it appears that Kellerhouse has little need for additional towers.
The one erected at Glenbrook is expected to cover much of the town
with the signal needed for his pager company. It will also provide
signal for emergency service communications. These types of signal
are not “line of sight” meaning one does not need to see
the tower to get the signal.
While everyone is pleased to see enhanced emergency service coverage,
it now appears that benefit is somewhat redundant. Jody Rossitz, the
Chief of the Big Indian/Oliveria Fire Department, noted that communications
had been poor for years but have been greatly enhanced by recent upgrades
supplied by the state and county, though there are still gaps here
and there in town. At the time Cross was making plans with Masterpage
for beefing up the coverage that enhancement had not been implemented.
It was also not clear at the time that Shandaken and Kellerhouse were
making plans that Kellerhouse could build another tower in nearby
Olive, where the approval of the project slated for South Mountain
was tied up in court. Last winter, however, a US Appelate Court gave
him the green light to install a 142 foot tower, which Kellerhouse
now has under construction.
It is important to note that it was the Planning Board that asked
Nextel to test the other two sites, not Masterpage. The fact that
Goertzal has been at most of the board sessions involving the tower
project, including the one on the 14th, suggests his interest in erecting
a tower with or without Masterpage. Umhey has tried before. He made
a deal with Crown Atlantic Inc. several years ago to build a tower,
but the company backed out of the deal.
Councilman Rob Stanley expressed concern about the overall quality
of cellular coverage in town. He too recalls how Cross and the town
board represented the plan for three towers, and expressed disappointment.
Unless something else happens, Stanley said, cellular service may
go the route of cablevision in town, where the easiest and most profitable
areas get coverage, and the rest of the town gets nothing.
Gamble On Gambling
Yet the ten in attendance
took the opportunity to work out strategies to keep gambling’s
chances at entering the central Catskills at their current minimal
level, and spoke a great deal about developments elsewhere in Ulster
County, including a controversial proposal aimed at the Woodstock
94 Winston Farm site in Saugerties and an all-but-forgotten deal with
the Oklahoma-based Modoc Tribe, for a casino near Ellenville, brokered
by then Legislative Chairman Ward Todd six years ago.
The Olive event was sponsored by the Catskill Heritage Alliance, which
has sought to allay regional fears that major developments pegged
for the central Catskills not be opened to possible gambling in future
According to reports brought forth at the Open Forum, prospects now
appear remote that the Seneca Cayugas of Oklahoma and their partner,
billionaire mall-developer Thomas Wilmot of Rochester, will be building
anything in Saugerties, now or in the foreseeable future. On May 15,
the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court’s
dismissal of the tribe’s lands claim case, effectively dealing
a fatal blow to any future casino business in the state for them.
A spokesman for the Schaller family which owns the property, however,
was quick to point out “that doesn’t preclude us from
talking to other tribes.”
A local accent to such talks is being lent to the venture by Al Spada,
the former GOP County Clerk of 39 years who is now working part-time
as a lobbyist for the Seneca-Cayuga-Wilmot tribe, as some have started
calling the developmental entity seeking to push through its plans
despite growing local opposition..
Also still a possibility is a prospective though somewhat mysterious
reputed bid… for another possible casino site at the former
IBM recreational facility on old Route 32 in the Town of Ulster. Options
on that property and adjoining ones are reportedly held by the Oneidas.
Countywide, casino prospects have dimmed considerably since last year’s
“home rule” resolution ruling them out in any towns which
oppose them. In Saugerties both the village and town boards unanimously
did just that, and prospects seem little different in the town of
Ulster… even though such resolutions hold no force against tribal
claims, per U.S. law.
Aas if to counter such opposition, the Pataki administration took
its most aggressive position ever last week, promising full support
and asking the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to expedite its review
of all current tribal claims in the state, including the backing of
a plan by the St. Regis-Mohawk tribe to bring gaming to the Catskill’s
The project, a joint venture between the tribe and Empire Resorts,
would convert about 30 acres at the Monticello Raceway into a “sovereign
The site appears to be the only potential one in New York that could
actually obtain federal and state approvals before Pataki leaves office
“The Governor strongly supports the tribe’s efforts to
build a casino at the raceway site,” wrote Pataki’s Assistant
Counsel and chief gaming advisor Greg Allen, in a letter to federal
regulators last week. “I respectfully urge the BIA to expedite
its review process and promptly notify this office once the potential
environmental impacts have been satisfactorily addressed.”
“We’ll do what we have to do to get it done” added
the Governor’s spokesman Saleem Cheeks.
Pataki’s advocacy appears to extend to the adoption of an expedited
environmental assessment completed in the late 90’s for an earlier
but similar project on the site. That study, accepted by the BIA in
April, 2000, determined it would have “no unmitigated significant
impacts” on the community despite a projected increase in traffic
of 5.9 million vehicles per year.
Local groups opposed to the casino say the old data is of little value
and highly misleading in the current economic climate, and that an
up-to-date Environmental Impact Statement should be required.
“Sullivan County has turned around dramatically in the years
since those studies were done,” said David Colavita, president
of CasinoFree Sullivan County, a grassroots coalition opposed to the
project which local anti-casino forces has been paying close attention
to. “Every economic indicator is up significantly post 9-11.
And we know from our recently completed county Master Plan that casino
development ranks at the bottom of the list for preferred economic
development choices here. But the Governor is more interested in shoehorning
a casino into Sullivan County than he is in the interests of the people
who live here.”
Ultimately the decision as to what constitutes an acceptable environmental
review rests with the BIA’s regulators. In April, the agency
the tribe for additional information: “We’re very close
to responding to (that request) said Charlie Degiomini, a spokesman
for Empire Resorts. “We’re just about there.”
A decision is now expected from the BIA within days or weeks.
The governor’s move in support of the project was almost immediately
followed by an unannounced vote of Sullivan County’s 9-person
legislature, accepting a newly negotiated $15 million/year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes
agreement with the St. Regis Mohawks. Should the BIA find in favor
of the casino, Pataki would need to declare his agreement with their
“no unmitigated significant impact” assessment, after
which the BIA would issue a final land trust agreement permitting
construction to begin.
“I can’t get excited about (Pataki’s letter to the
BIA)” said state Sen, John Bonacic, whose district includes
the site, as well as our own Central Catskills region, and who was
once supportive of up to three casinos in the region before starting
to show a change of heart in recent years. “We’ve been
down this road before, several times in fact.”
Skinny On Caterpillars
For those in attendance
from Ulster County, the scene seemed old hat at first. After all,
it was only last summer that people in the Phoenicia area were talking
about the infestation of Forest Tent Caterpillars and Gypsy Moths,
which essentially denuded a majority of trees up and down the Route
28 corridor through the season’s early half, as the third of
several plagues that had hit the Town of Shandaken (the others being
fire and flood).
So they were getting what Ulster had already got. Haha.
Turns out, though, that the happily-chomping tent caterpillars do
their thing in an area for two to three years before naturally dying
out for a decade or so. And what had seemed passé in Phoenicia
in late May is actually mid-stream… and moving fast eastwards
into Woodstock and even Kingston.
“We’re telling people to sit tight,” said Horticulture
Educator Teresa Rusinek of the county’s Cornell Cooperative
Extension office, who has been fielding calls from concerned homeowners
along with Community Horticulture Coordinator Donna Crawford. “They’ve
already done their worst damage and should be finished in the next
couple of weeks. At this point the caterpillars are getting ready
to pupate and turn into moths.”
Rusilek added that she and Crawford had received a majority of calls
from Phoenicia and Kingston, where the pests were even hitting “street
trees.” She noted that the number of omplaints from Woodstock,
other than its Western half, has been on a par with what she’s
heard from Gardiner. Where she lives, near Marlboro, has seen nothing.
Same with New Paltz.
We asked her about rumors, largely from Woodstock, that the state
Department of Environmental Conservation might have released black
flies to combat the plague of caterpillars. Or maybe even sprayed.
“They might have done that in the past, but no anymore.”
Rusilek replied, “I’ve heard those stories… Besides,
the rule is that the bigger the caterpillar gets, the harder it is
Tom DiCillo, the man in charge of pesticides at regional DEC headquarters
in New Paltz, said his department would never do any spraying any
more, and haven’t done any since 1980.
“It’s just too controversial,” he noted.
As for the release of flies to combat the caterpillars, he said he’d
“not heard that one” and referred such inquiries to his
agency’s forestry division.
They were all in the field all week but a look online found an extensive
report on caterpillar infestations from last summer.
“Forest Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) is a native insect
found in hardwood forests throughout North America and is especially
abundant in eastern North America,” reads the official description
at the start of Naja Kraus’ 2006 page-turner, “NYS DEC
Forest Tent Caterpillar Defoliator Report 2005.” “In New
York they prefer to eat sugar maple, aspen, cherry, apple, oaks, birch,
ash, alder, elm and basswood. They never eat red maple, sycamore and
The report notes how the caterpillars live for five to six weeks from
early Spring through June. They spend three weeks in cocoons (never
tent-shaped, as one might expect. Those are gypsy moths, which like
oak tress for nourishment and living space.) Then five days as a moth,
in July, before laying eggs that then lie dormant for ten months before
the cycle starts again.
They don’t like to nest in the trees they’ve eaten down
Outbreaks “are episodic and may last two to nine years,”
although ten year intervals seem the norm, with bad batches seen in
1887, 1896-1901, 1923 and 24, 1935-1940, 1951-55, 1980 to 1982, and
1991-1993. At their worst, in the 1950s, they damaged a total 15 million
acres of forest in the northern part of the state.
Defoliation, the report says, can be severe but rarely mortal, although
tree harvesting (chopping them down) is not recommended until a caterpillar
scourge is well past. Too much cutting can take away natural predators.
Natural factors leading to “outbreak collapse,” it is
noted, are similar to the ways in which gypsy moth outbreaks stopped
in the last ten years. For those wishing to spray privately, it is
suggested, the cost for the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
runs to about $25 an acre. Bt, first discovered in 1911, is considered
safe to people and non-target species, such as wildlife, and acts
by producing proteins (delta-endotoxin, the “toxic crystal”)
that react with the cells of the gut lining of susceptible insects.
These Bt proteins paralyze the digestive system, and the infected
insect stops feeding within hours. Bt-affected insects generally die
from starvation, which can take several days. Shandaken Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr. recently told those gathered at one of his town board
meetings that he had had the foresight to order 10 cases of the stuff,
which the town would sell to residents at cost… directly out
of Cross’ office. “We’re down to two cases, but
we’re trying to order more,” Cross said. In a press release
from the Catskill Forest Association announcing its recent presentation
titled “Caterpillar Killers?” at Belleayre Mountain’s
Overlook Lodge, it was noted that, “There are several management
strategies to control the numbers of caterpillars, ranging in intensity
from physical removal (squish!), to large-scale aerial spraying (cha
ching!). Around your home, you can scrape the cocoons from sheltered
areas of your porch or siding. By the end of July, look for egg masses
and remove them too.”
We looked through several appendix pages to the DEC report and found
an item about a natural predator that increased as tent caterpillar
“Sarcophaga aldrichi (superficially resembling a large housefly)
can be so abundant that it is almost as much of a nuisance as the
caterpillar,” the report reads. “The adult fly oviposits
on the cocoon of a FTC and the maggot burrows into the pupa reducing
the FTC pupa to a liquefied mass upon which the maggot feeds. The
population of the fly increases during successive outbreaks and is
often very abundant in the year before an FTC population collapse.”
Good news, we guess. But… eeeewwww!
Also drawn by the caterpillars, it seems, are a number of birds that
will flock to an area defoliated by the little critters.
“Some eat only the insides,’ it says of sapsuckers, cuckoos
and woodpeckers, which have also been reported as on the increase…
not coincidentally, it appears.
There have been other reports, in sporting columns from the west and
south of us, of fisherfolk making flies resembling tent caterpillars,
or actually using the little buggers themselves, to catch trout and
whatever else swims in local streams.
“We’re hoping this is the last year,” Rusinek said
from Cornell Extension offices. “People have been seeing a lot
of dead caterpillars. There have also been new reports of caterpillar
beetles, these big black bugs that eat the caterpillars, coming in.”
She said she’d heard of some private spraying, especially involving
large tracts of land in the Big Indian/Highmount area. And Woodstock.
But she’s just counting time until it’s all over, at least
“You get an all clear for eight years and then…”
she started saying, her voice trailing off where the Whammo would
be.. “That’s nature for you. Sometimes you just have to
let it run its course.”