Congressman Gibson’s WAG Update – July 2014

To read Congressman Chris Gibson’s update on the Watershed Advisory Group for the 19th Congressional District please click HERE for the PDF.

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Executive Board Meeting – June 16, 2014

Present:  Carl Stuendel, Stephen Walker, Linda Burkhardt, Bruce Dolph, Ric Coombe, Bill Layton, Mike McCrary, John Van Benschoten, Counsel Jeff Baker.

Others Attending: Rick Weidenbach, Aaron Bennett, Marjorie Miller, Jeff Flack and Frazier.

1. Call to order: 6:15.

2. Minutes for May 19, 2014. Move to approve Linda Burkhardt.  Second by Ric Coombe.  Passed.

3. Privilege of the floor: Prompted by Jeff Baker, Carl explained the following incident. During a meeting with DEP officials on June 10, Carl wanted to convey the frustration residents and business owners in the WOH Watershed sometimes feel regarding NYC’s impact on local affairs, especially through the Watershed Rules and Regulations, particularly, the enforcement procedures that at times seem arbitrary and high-handed.  As an example, he said that just the night before this meeting he had been contacted by the Town of Tompkins Supervisor who told him that even after a protracted Article 7 tax-assessment proceeding with the City had finally been settled, the Town had received a letter from the Law Department of NYC saying, “Enclosed please find Complaints concerning the 2014 tentative assessment on the above-referenced properties.”  Even though there was probably an explanation for this (either miscommunication or some legal technicality), Carl wanted to convey to them the initial emotional response to the letter through the use of an analogy that, to put it [in] milder terms, characterized the City’s tax attorneys as rabid.  A day or so after the meeting the lead DEP official conveyed to Carl that he took exception to the analogy.  Carl apologized for being “over the top” with the language he had chosen.  As mentioned, the report of his initial emotional reaction was for illustrative purposes; the force of the emotion itself was never meant to be taken as the tone qualifying that meeting or that should mark any future meetings with the City, let alone an outline for some future course of action.  He said he would convey his apology to other attendees when they met again.

(City representatives at the meeting were surprised and apologetic, stating that they should have been notified of any such letter before it was sent.
Ric Coombe commented that this was a standard letter sent annually by the City to protect themselves, termed a Protective Writ.)

4. Reports:
a. May 31 meeting with Emily Lloyd and Paul Rush. Carl and Bruce described their meeting with Commissioner Lloyd and Paul Rush. It was a very encouraging and productive meeting.   They discussed swapping properties which was something Paul Rush felt could be accomplished for the relocation program where feasible. The WSP contains language to allow that.   They also discussed entrepreneurial opportunities in the vast research park that is the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. Carl and Bruce offered to help report progress in the partnership, getting positive things the City has done out to watershed residents through the CWT website and local papers.

b. CWT letter to DEP [Regulation Enforcement related to Non-Complying Regulated Activities (NCRAs)]  June 10, 2014 meeting with DEP in Grahamsville, NY:  Attending from the City included Hilary Meltzer, Brenda Drake, Robin Levine, Devon Goodrich, Dave Warne, Joya Cohen, Linda Geary (by phone).  Carl, Jeff Baker and Kevin Young attended from the CWT.  They clarified the City’s position.  The DEP is not going around seeking changes in use, disqualifying NCRA status of some projects.  CWT suggested the letters could be more sensitively written as they are interpreted as threatening by the recipients.  That was not DEP’s intent.  It was suggested that the DEP partner with watershed stakeholders to develop a guidance document that would help ease tensions and garner better understanding of the relevant WR&Rs.  Jeff suggested that many of the municipalities had developed zoning that will address the very concerns the City has and at least [be] as protective as the City regulations.

It was suggested that a hold and haul program could be developed for septic waste with  regular pump outs.

Carl and the attorneys emphasized that water quality is the issue and that some of these  situations pose little or no risk so there should be some relief related to this issue.

At the end of the meeting Carl expressed his gratefulness for the willingness the City had demonstrated at this meeting to revisit the legal documents bearing on enforcement, but he also wanted to remind those present of the emotional impact these enforcement letters had on Watershed residents and business owners.  A major reason CWT had asked for this meeting was because the owner of the Full Moon had passionately appealed to the CWT board saying he would be out of business if these regulatory enforcement issues continued much longer without resolution. (This is where Carl had brought up the letter to the Town of Tompkins.)

c. Re starting Quarterly partnership meetings DEP. Paul Rush is seeking to reestablish partnership meetings between the chairs of the CWC, CWT, WAC, Delaware County and the DEP.  Carl indicated he felt this was a good idea and would foster improved communications.

d. Regulation Position Paper – needs development regarding buyout and relocation program to assure that the regulatory process is relieved to enable a rapid transition from one location to the next.  Based on discussions between Carl and Counsel they concluded Kevin Young’s expertise on this subject would be most appropriate to address it.  It has been suggested that perhaps a general permit be adopted for the flood communities.

5. Volunteer Flood Buyout Program – the board discussed concerns regarding the inaccuracies in the Catskill Mountain News about the program.  No action taken.

6. TAG Meeting – postponed until fall.

7. Updates:
a. Status of:
i. Contracts – CWC, Stream Programs-  SWCD’s have received reassurance that things will be in place to avoid gaps in programs.

ii. CWC Program Rules: Section 17 Flood Hazard Mitigation Implementation Program – Carl thanked Michelle Yost and Jeff Flack (GCSWCD) and Dean (DCWSA) for the comments they submitted to CWC.   Still awaiting language on Residential Relocation (17:02:03.4.c).

iii. Water Supply Permit Change – Yet to be scheduled by NYC DEP.

b. Proposed Relocation Working Group Meeting – To be scheduled soon.

c. Kurt Ossenfort proposal – Jeff Baker – meeting with him tomorrow.

d. Watershed Inspector General – Windham – no report.

e. Outreach – Carl attended a tour in the Schoharie Reservoir basin indicating it was very well done. He reported that Nancy Burnett was on the tour and would like to have a follow-up discussion on the entire program with regard to whether or not it has been successful as we approach nearly 20 years.
Carl indicated that in a discussion with Dave Warne[, Dave] suggested that the CWT could help spread the word on some of the positive things coming out of the City.  Carl said the CWT would be willing to help.   Carl responded by saying that the CWT would like to see proof of economic benefit from the City’s efforts as part of working with them. The Executive Committee discussion affirmed his position.

f. Below Dams Activities
i. Delaware – Carl, Rick and Dean are participating in a two day reconnaissance tour with the Army Corps of Engineers [] focused solely on the East and West Branches of the Delaware below the Pepacton and Cannonsville dams.  An Upper Delaware River Tailwaters Coalition Conference is scheduled for September 12th at West Branch Anglers Resort in Hancock.

ii. Esopus – An extension of time for comments on the Cat/Alum scope of work is being pursued to go beyond July 8th.

8.  Warrants – Ric Coombe moved to pay the warrants totaling $2,077.50.  Seconded by Bruce Dolph. Passed.

9. Correspondence – no report.

10. Other
a. The Town of Woodstock (see attached resolution) passed a resolution unanimously to appoint Catherine Magarelli to the Coalition of Watershed Towns, Executive Committee. Bruce Dolph moved to appoint her to the CWT Executive Committee.  Stephen Walker seconded the motion.  Passed unanimously.

b. Carl also brought to the attention of the board Art Merrill’s (Supervisor, Town of Colchester) suggestion of clearing some trees out in some key places around the reservoirs to make scenic stops.   Such an idea in the town of Olive would not be warmly received.  They don’t like to cut down trees in Olive.  Perhaps they provide privacy the residents don’t want to lose.  Committee view was that it may be a town by town effort, but the CWT would support it where communities sought it.  Frazier informed the group the new Commissioner is pro tourism so the timing may be right to pursue this.  Aaron suggested that for security-of-the-water-supply reasons the City might like the idea of casual visitors stopping at these specially prepared pull-off areas.

c. Delaware County also met with the DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.  It was a productive meeting.

11. Adjourn:  8:00PM .  Motion to adjourn.  Linda Burkhardt, second by Bill Layton.