Executive Board Meeting – April 20, 2015

Attending: Carl Stuendel, Bill Layton, Linda Burkhardt, Toni Coiro, Peter Bracci, Mike McCrary, Bruce Dolph and Counsel, Jeff Baker.
Others attending: Guests: Gail Schaffer and Joanne Noone from “Dam Concerned Citizens”.  Michelle Yost, Aaron Bennett, Rick Weidenbach, Frazier.

1. Call to order: 6:18 PM

2. Minutes – April 20, 2015 Moved by Linda, second by Bruce. Passed unanimously.

3. Carl informed the group that Cathy Magarelli’s mother recently passed away. It was suggested that the CWT board send a sympathy card to Cathy. All agreed.

4. Privilege of the Floor:
Carl introduced Gail Shaffer and Joanne Noone offering them privilege of the floor.   Gail is a past assemblywoman representing the Middletown area and past Secretary of State under Governor Mario Cuomo.   Her concern has been the safety of the dam, flood mitigation and environmental issues.  The building of the reservoir changed dramatically the nature of recreation, fishing and agriculture as there were no requirements for minimal releases.  A lower level outlet is being built into the new Schoharie dam, from which, for the first time since its construction, releases will now be required as a condition moving forward.   Joanne said she was glad to be learning about the CWT and the issues they address, and expressed her concern regarding the representation of Conesville (which along with Gilboa are the two communities in Schoharie County that are in the WOH Watershed) on CWT.    She wanted to know how CWT board members were nominated and elected.  Carl explained that nominees had to be elected officials and that they could not already be serving on CWC’s board.      The acronym SWAC was used in this discussion. It stands for Schoharie Watershed Advisory Committee.

5. Continuing discussion re regulatory relief options: Tool 5: State Legislation Allowing One Stop Permitting in Locally Designated Areas in Stressed Communities. (See Jan 19, 2015 meeting minutes.) Jeff Bakers comment: This is nothing more than a list and that very little assistance would be given to applicants. This concept is in the MOA. The funding for this possibility promulgated in the MOA has ended. Doesn’t break the bureaucracy. Many of the Eco Dev offices can help applicants through the regulatory processes.

Jeff again suggests taking advantage of the provisions in the MOA and WRR that enables a municipality to create and enforce its own Stormwater regulations. A response to Jeff: There is a presumption that City will delegate regulatory authority over stormwater, etc. The difficulty is convincing the City to actually do so.

Rick pointed out that under the current arrangement (with DEP in charge of stormwater regulations) it is difficult to influence Stormwater Regulators about design decisions even if you have a PE on staff.   Coordinated reviews would be most helpful so that stormwater input would be part of the design process of a project early on.

Rick pointed out the challenges.   Every design goes through just one individual at DEP, Doug DeKoskie, on any stream project at review periods of 30, 60 and 90% complete. DEP does not want its stormwater staff to get involved until the stream project is well along in the design approval process before going to DEP for stormwater review which adds another 45 days.

Rick continued: Going out to bid takes 2-3 weeks. If you have a project with a successful bid, the contractor must respond to DEP within 10 days to be reviewed by DEP. On July 7th a new process begins that will take up to three to four weeks to review the contractor. A new set of regulations now requires that each subcontractor will have to be approved by DEP, which could take an additional 3-4 weeks for any subcontractor. The fear being that projects will be delayed more and more slowing implementation down to unnecessarily slow rates.

Bruce invoked the boat launch mess in Walton that has taken 3 years already and is still not resolved. Rick again suggested that a small interagency committee of high level decision makers may be the most viable option to get past this logger head. This project is not just about NYC regulations, but also other regulations involving state and federal partners.

In summary, the two issues Rick sees are the bottleneck of design review being caused by a lack of staff and the late arrival of stormwater regulators to the design process. If indeed the bureaucratic maze that creates these problems is not overcome, implementation is going to be extremely slow due to conflicts between agency requirements and individual administrative processes within each agency.

Aaron stated that, although he is not directly involved in projects, he has heard similar concerns from the Ulster County Stream Program.

Before meeting with DEP about the issue, Jeff Baker said he would convene a meeting with design folks from each stream program to see if others are having similar issues.   Rick said the depth of the issue could then be gauged.   Jeff will send invitations by email to the relevant planners. He added that the City is going through its budget process now. He suggested that if staffing shortage is a major issue, the CWT should move fast to see if they would include it in this round of budget discussions.

Rick wanted to make it very clear that the person commenting on the designs at DEP, Doug DeKoskie, provides excellent input. It is not about him or his comments. It is that one individual cannot efficiently handle the review of designs generated by five stream programs. It is a lack of staffing at DEP not the quality of input or the individual at DEP.

He used the Herman More project in Hamden to illustrate the frustrations he trying to illustrate.   It is now two years old and the project is still at the 30% design review stage. In this case, the problem does not rest solely on the shoulders of DEP. Philosophical differences on the design of project between DEP and UDSA have been part of the problem even though USDA would pay for 75% of the project. It appears now that the DEP wishes to fund the entire project.

Mike offered that the process is causing a problem, in that the MOA and the FAD have the intent of cost effectively protecting water quality. The longer the projects are delayed is contrary to the intent of the MOA and FAD. He feels it is a legal issue if the CWT chose to pursue it.

6. Quarterly meeting – Report – Carl reported that the meeting was postponed. Carl indicated that the next meeting is set for June. The board expressed their disappointment. They are adamant that the meetings are extremely important to the partnership and should be a high priority for DEP and all the other involved stakeholders. Once a date is set it should remain so except for emergencies. Several suggested that this is a topic that should be on the agenda for the June meeting.

7. Updates:
a. Outcome of Flood Mitigation Program: Meeting 3/18.
i. Water Supply Permit Change – At this point in time it is still in the hands of the DEC. Counsel recommended that municipalities that have already committed to participating in the FBO, contact Tom Snow to communicate they are on board and are ready to explore the possibilities. Invite him to come to the Towns to see and hear where they are at. All continue to feel strongly that it must be an opt in.

ii. Inundation and DEP’s new FBO Selection Criteria

b. CWT submittal Expert Panel – Comments were sent in with Carl’s letter and white paper.

c. Aaron Bennett – report on the Ashokan Watershed Conf. – Aaron reported on the Conference of April 11th. It went well. At least 92 present. Robert Steuding spoke. He is author of The Last of the Handmade Dams. George Fowler of White Engineering spoke about the LFA in Ashokan.   Aaron was also pleased that Dave Warne attended.

d. Kurt Ossenfort Proposal – Jeff Baker – still in process. Jeff and Kurt have been in communication.

e. Below Dams Activities
i. Delaware – Frazier reported that Marge is working on a grant to the Community Foundation of Central New York. FUDR has three or four grants apps out seeking funding for the SCMP. At the DRBC Regulated Flow Advisory Committee, Frazier made comments to Decree Party members, appealing to them that there is a gap in understanding about the tailwaters, their value to the local economies, the fact there is no designated funding for this area, sediment transport is a big problem at the confluence of the tributaries and main stems affecting local infrastructure and the fishery that is being overlooked. More uniform releases would be beneficial to for all stakeholders. Informed them they the UDRTC is seeking help in the development of a SCMP, a commitment made by the Communities and NGO’s to develop this. Meeting with Paul Rush on May 8th seeking partnership opportunities. Trout Unlimited has now joined the UDRTC. Portions of the towns of Walton, Andes, Hamden, Tompkins, and Masonville have tributaries that drain into the tailwaters below the dams, and the UDRTC will appeal to them about becoming a member of the UDRTC. The Inter-municipal Agreement is final. By-laws for UDRTC are essentially done. Next meeting Town of Sanford and Broome County are invited.

ii. Esopus – Nothing new to report. The working group has met, but no news on the consent order. A memo to the DEP inquiring about the design in the feasibility study as to why they did not consider a higher level releases for warmer water as opposed to just having the low level release portal has been drafted. Paul Rush is meeting with the Esopus Group that is seeking more water. Why not consider the recreational releases, such as white water? DCC is urging the City to incorporate into the designs consideration for releases for the Esopus as the DCC group doesn’t need the cold water releases. Part 2 of the issue is related the trends in turbidity levels and to elevated NTU readings, such as on April 10th at which time it reached 227 NTUs at the portal on the Esopus. There are questions related to the seiche phenomena where the wind blows on the surface causing waves below surface resulting in a layer of suspended sediment that moves with the waves. When conditions are right the suspended sediment flows out the portal to the Esopus. On April 10th the NTU reading was 227 NTU at the portal on the Esopus. This high reading may have been the result of the seiche phenomenon.

iii. Schoharie – DCC Delaware River Releases Task Force. Seeking to force DEP and the NYPA to coordinate and develop joint protocols. Hurricane Irene impacts were terribly exacerbated by the management of the two dams. Every system failed, backup systems included, at the NYPA dam during the Irene event forcing them to manually control the gates.

A discussion ensued about releases from all the reservoirs. Frazier suggested that the tailwater communities seek more information regarding the OST. He suggested that the DEP may be willing to provide some education regarding that. The OST is used for the entire system. A better understanding of it could help us better understand the assumptions behind it and the rationale for decision outputs from it.

f. SUNY-Delhi – The DACUM process is ongoing.

8. Election – nominations, etc. Jeff has prepared a draft letter to seek nomination. Essentially the same letter from two years ago. Jeff explained that Carl must step down. Jeff explained the process to all.   Jeff will develop a letter.   Pete made the motion to send a letter indicating that if a municipality is more than a year behind they will not be considered a member. Linda seconded. Unanimous.

9. Treasurer’s report and warrant(s).
Warrants – No warrants.

Checking $1,000.14
Savings $104,564.89. 
Bruce moved to accept the treasurer’s report. Linda seconded.  Passed unanimously.

Carl raised the request of Counsel to raise rates by $10 per hour from $175 to $185.   Bruce moved to accept the increase request, Bill 2nd.  Passed unanimously.

10. Correspondence – None.

11. Other:
a. CWT and CWC had one meeting and it was very productive. Tony Van Glad, Bruce Dolph, Carl Stuendel, Mike Triolo and Berndt Leifeld were in attendance. This coming Thursday, April 23, they will hold their second meeting at the Windham Town Hall.   In addition to Carl, Bruce, and Tony VanGlad, as will Mike McCrary, Tony Coiro, and Steve Walker will be attending from CWT. Members would like to know if the CWC is anticipating the same problem with the 30-60-90% design review process and subcontractor vetting that DCSWCD is currently experiencing.

b. DEP has submitted to regulators a position paper calling for relief from some requirements imposed on them. With regard to the Watershed Ag Program (WAP) administered by the Watershed Ag Council (WAC), the City has asked for a reduction of thresholds, for instance a reduction of the current 90 percent required participation rate of eligible farms in the program to some lesser number.   WAC is very concerned about this.   Rick indicated there is a $20 million back log of BMPs. The delay in implementation is causing problems on farms. The WAP is not able to help them make changes or provide technical support. Rick will forward DEP’s paper (Evaluation of the Watershed Agricultural Program’s BMP Prioritization Methodology, Summary of BMP Implementation Status, Review of Current Metrics, and Justification for Developing Fewer Than 50 New Whole Farm Plans). Gail Shaffer pointed out that they city needs to maintain their investments. The Schoharie dam project came in $300 million under budget. In light of those saving they should not be backing off on the commitments they have made to the watershed.

12. Adjourn. Moved by Bruce. Second Linda. Unanimous.