CWT Comments to NYS DOH on FAD Mandated Expert Panel – March 31, 2015

CWT comments: PDF HERE.

CWT endorsed these comments from Delaware County – A New Vision for the New York City Watershed: Using Successful Partnership Programs To Protect Water Quality While Facilitating Business Retention and Development: PDF HERE.

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Executive Board Meeting – March 16, 2015

Present: Carl Stuendel, Ric Coombe, Tony Van Glad, Stephen Walker, Bill Layton, Linda Burkhardt, Pete Bracci, Toni Coiro, Mike McCrary, Bruce Dolph and counsel Jeff Baker.

Others present: Marge Miller, Adam Wisnieski (City Limits/WNYC), Michelle Yost, Aaron Bennett, Mary MacNamara and Frazier.  

Guest Speakers: Paul Rush (Deputy Commissioner NYC DEP) and Eric P. Robert (Deputy Chief, Hydroelectric Project Manager NYC DEP).

1. Call to order: 6:15 PM

2. Minutes – February 16, 2015. Linda motioned to accept; Bruce Dolph second. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

3. Privilege of the Floor: Paul Rush and Eric Robert were introduced by Carl and given privilege of the floor to discuss NYC’s hydroelectric program and pending Cannonsville Project. Their Hydroelectric Operations Presentation was provided as a handout, (see attached).   Paul explained that a priority of this administration is to reduce its carbon footprint and that the Cannonsville project is an effort that would contribute to that. He indicated that the project must show a positive return long-term. In light of current energy market situation and cost of the project and projected megawatts generated, they estimate that at minimum it would be 35 years for the project to pay for itself. The City is also looking at the possibilities at their waste water treatment plants in the City to develop digesters to reduce greenhouse gases and reduce their energy costs long-term.

Responding to a question, Paul explained the reasons for the City’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which involved protecting their interests in the property for various reasons. Because under law FERC gives preference to municipal applications, the City was granted approval over Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC). Additionally, the City had reservations about the DCEC’s designs regarding safety of the infrastructure feeling the City’s design would pose less threat to the infrastructure. He also indicated that the DCEC in their preliminary design assumed that all water not diverted to NYC for consumption was available for flow. This could be in conflict with release requirements in the 1954 Decree.

Responding to a question from Pete Bracci, Paul indicated that subsequent to the decision by FERC to give DEP the permit to build, the DEP and DCEC met to explore ways in which the DCEC would be able to purchase the electricity at the City’s cost to produce it and then in turn sell to their rural customers or through some other arrangement, manage the electricity generated in a manner beneficial to DCEC customers. Paul informed the group that by law they can’t sell electricity at below market prices. Also, due to City law the City can’t legally build something that doesn’t pay for itself indicating that even the City’s plan may take 50 years to turn financially positive. He additionally commented that all electricity generated must benefit the City. Because of these issues along with other complications, the DCEC and DEP have discontinued further discussions. The DEP anticipates the local benefit will occur in the form of higher assessments on the improvements and local job creation during the construction phase of the project. Perhaps as many as 5 new permanent jobs may be created. Pete Bracci was pleased to hear that the DEP and DCEC were able to communicate and consider alternatives, but obviously disappointed that a longer term local benefit could not be arrived at.   Carl thanked them for their time and interesting presentation.

4. Discussion ‑‑ Regulatory relief options from January 19th meeting. Due to time constraints the three tools listed below were not discussed.
a. Tool 5: State Legislation Allowing One Stop Permitting in Locally Designated Areas in Stressed Communities.
b. Tool 3: Adopt and Expanded Type II List under SEQRA for New Residential Projects, Redevelopment of Existing Parcels, and Moderate Commercial Development.
c. Tool 6: Generic Variances for Flood Mitigation Related Projects ‑‑ Sewage.

5. Quarterly meeting – DEP, CWT, CWC, Delaware, WAC. The meeting has been rescheduled for April 16th. Michelle Yost had asked about the selection criteria for participation in these meetings. Chairman Stuendel indicated that he had only attended one of these meetings, and said he believes that Paul Rush, or some long-standing custom, had determined the list of attendees. Michelle said she (or a rep from Greene County) would like to attend.

6. Updates:
a. Status of Flood Mitigation Program: Meeting 3/18.
i. Water Supply Permit Change
ii. Inundation and DEP’s new FBO Selection Criteria document.

Carl asked Jeff to explain what is planned for the March 18 in Kingston. Proposed language for WSP is fine. However, Jeff reported on the conference call including Carl, Stream Program Staff, Planning, Kevin Young and Frazier to discuss the eligibility criteria for individual properties not part of the LFA that may fall within Soil Erosion and or Inundation lower level criteria. The concern being that it might pose liability issues for communities, how to make the determination of what criteria are used for determining where a property may fall, arguments between landowners as to why their property is not eligible now. All these confounding factors could cause a use of limited resources on non-imminent properties at risk. Jeff recommended that the CWT move toward eliminating the multiple tiers of threats in each category into one category under Inundation and Soil Erosion. Jeff explained the fear of potentially leaving the three tiers might lead to an opening for the City, perceived or otherwise, to purchase improved properties in and outside of LFA areas. Frazier reported that Kevin and he had added language for outreach to be passive, not aggressive, directed by the community with the contract between the community based on their decision of what tools they want to use in a FBO program and the Outreach Leader to avoid any incentives to solicit aggressively. Jeff will provide a final version of the changes to the FBO Selection Criteria and other components on Tuesday in advance of the Wednesday meeting.

Peter Bracci motioned to remove the lower levels of risk under Soil Erosion and Inundation. Second by Bill Layton. Motion passed unanimously.

Frazier reported that Alan Rosa and Tim Cox are also in favor of the concept and language in the White Paper.

Toni Van Glad inquired about new wider setbacks from water courses for activity. Jeff responded that if such a proposal was on the table for the watershed that would be a serious issue that we should have known about and it would have raised objections. Jeff believes that is taking place down in the City for flood protection.

b. Stream Programs/CWC meeting: Meshing programs. Michelle reported that it went very well. CWC coming out with their first grant round on June 1. CWC is looking hard at two grant cycles.   The CWC is apparently going to pursue changing the 20 year limitation for calculating flood damage so as to not to limit eligible candidates as we are coming up on the anniversary of the flood of 1996. Aaron reported that in an earlier, private discussion with Alan Rosa, he had raised this very concern about the 20-year time constraint, and that Alan had agreed. Aaron also mentioned that if an Anchor Business can be moved without an LFA, why not a Critical Community Facility. He recommended talking to CWC members about changing program rules to include Critical Community Facilities.

c. Pam Young’s (NYS DOH) request for comment ‑ FAD & Expert Panel – and CWT’s proposed submittal. Carl read a draft letter and asked the board to support it. It emphasized that in addition to outstanding water quality issues, community economic needs must be addressed as well, as required in both the MOA and WSP. Toni Van Glad moved to send Carl’s letter to Pamela Young after review with Counsel. Stephen seconded the motion. Passed unanimously.

d. Kurt Ossenfort Proposal – Jeff Baker – still working on it.

e. Below Dams Activities:
i. Delaware – No report given due to time constraints.
ii. Esopus ‑ Aaron introduced Mary MacNamara, a member of the Shokan Release Working Group. She is an advocate for the Lower Esopus. Their first quarterly meeting will be held this Friday. They are waiting to hear back from the DEC on the Scope of Work related for the EIS. She is looking forward to the Stream Corridor Management Plan for the Lower Esopus.
iii. Schoharie – No report given due to time constraints.

f. SUNY-Delhi ‑‑ Carl mentioned that the idea of developing a curriculum is still moving forward.

g. Treasurer’s report and warrant(s).
Tony Van Glad moved to pay $4,909.00. Second Linda. Passed.
Checking $1000.17
Savings $106,441.48
In response to a question regarding the status of membership dues: no cause for alarm, payments continue to be made.

7. Correspondence – N/R

8. Other:
CWC holding Annual Meeting on April 7 at 1 PM. Meet and Greet at noon.
The next scheduled meeting between CWT and CWC officers is tentatively scheduled for April 23.

Jeff reminded all that the term of office for CWT Executive Board members ends this coming June, and that his office will be sending out nomination forms with a cover letter very soon to get that election ball rolling.

Aaron announced the Ashokan Watershed Conference at the Ashokan Center is April 11th, 9AM – 3PM.

9. Adjourn:  Stephen moved to adjourn.  Second Bruce Dolph.