By Rebecca Martin
Today at the Water Board meeting, a resolution was passed to approve the Town of Ulster as being ‘lead agency’ on the SEQR review for the Niagara Bottling Plant. We were told that the City of Kingston (i.e. the Common Council) had no authority to dictate whether our water was to be sold or not. That it was strictly up to the Water Commission. An appointed body by the Mayor of five people.
We also learned that the last safe yield assessment was performed last….in 1961. It is no wonder the 6.1 million GPD is based on the 1957 drought. The amount of water outside of what goes through their meters did not seem much in the way of being accounted for (contracts, development, population growth, etc.)
Below is what I presented to the Kingston Water Board. Video to follow tomorrow.
Presented by Rebecca Martin
I have some very specific points I’d like to make today, but before I do – I would first like to thank you all for your service to the Kingston Community. We all understand the enormous responsibility that you carry in making sure that the community’s water is safe and clean for the residents. Judy, I admire your long standing affiliation in Kingston City Government and know that the respect that you have has been hard earned.
We are here today, not because it is our wish for a fight, or a protest – but because we want to be useful. We understand that our community on the infrastructure front is in trouble and that bringing it all up to date, costly. But we also know that our Water Board making a decision to sell our water in this way feels short sighted, especially given the public’s need now for more information on the project, and in what other options might exist. What’s troubling is that the Water Board and Town of Ulster are far into this Niagara proposal and it was done without any input from the public. The project went to SEQR. That’s a final review process. The action wasn’t even all inclusive in its scope.
So you see, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why what you referred to as ‘hysteria’ last night is simply the public’s concern. We not only want to understand the parameters of this proposal and how our Water Department came to the conclusion that it’s a good idea for the community – we also want to seek other options in solving our infrastructure needs. In working with citizens in this way – you nuture a trusting environment with your public – because after all, it is the public’s Water Department. You may be an indepedendent commission at this time – and that may actually need to change given things are far different today than they were back in 1895 – but you are still part of our local government which means our tax dollars are paying for every aspect of your work.
1. Niagara Bottling Company came to you in April of 2014. At what point did you hire an engineering firm to do an analysis of Cooper Lake and when was the Board’s “Will-Share” letter written and submitted to “The Chazen Companies”, Niagara’s consultant?
2. As you know, Niagara Bottling Co. submitted a Consolidated Funding Grant Application in and around June. Their proposal was somehow selected as a regional priority by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council in August of 2014. A month prior to the public knowing that their water supply would be necessary for such a project to come to the area. What was the Water Board’s role in supplying any needs for this application to be submitted?
– Judy Hansen: None. However, it is revealed later (after Executive Session before Jim Quigley) that the Will-Share letter was submitted to Niagara in April. I would suspect that they needed that in order to submit a CFA grant.
3. The city of Kingston’s Cooper Lake’s Safe Yield seems to remain at the 6.1 million GPD. Is that correct? How does the Water Department go about determining this number outside of the 1957 drought?
– Judy Hansen: Last safe yield assessment was done in 1961.
4. Does the Water Board have an ongoing capacity list that includes yearly water usage of the community, contracts it has with other municipalties, etc for water use in the case of emergencies, promises to developments coming to Kingston, and the TOU for that matter as it applies. Can that list along with the Safe Yield be made available to the public each year so that we grow closer to our water source and our communities needs?
– Judy Hansen – The water department bases its use through meter reads.
5. The city of Kingston is a Climate Smart Community and convenes six times per year to strategize, plan and implement the goals of Kingston’s Climate Action Plan that was presented in 2012 under Mayor Shayne Gallo’s administration. There is an entire section on ‘Sustainable Resource Management’ and ‘water conservation and efficiency’ that includes protecting our water resources. A resolution was passed by the common council, signed by the Mayor. Was the Kingston Water Board ever a part of the Climate Smart Community effort? Has the board read the final report? With our Mayor sitting on the Water Board, was this report ever discussed while being advised as you were contemplating bottled water as a business that we wished to participate in? You can find the Climate Smart Kingston Plan by on the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council’s website.
-Judy Hansen – Participated in the Climate Smart Visioning, but never read the report or submitted it to the Water Board.
6. A SEQR review for the proposed Niagara Bottling Company is now underway with the Town of Ulster Town Board as lead agency. Do you understand that the City of Kingston and the Board of Water Commissioners were not listed in the Action of the EAF (Environmental Assessment Form)? As I noted last night, it appears as though segmentation has occurred and that’s illegal under SEQR – and if that’s true, then the Town of Ulster is in a very vulnerable position.
According to reports, the City of Kingston has not decided whether or not it will sell its water for the Niagara proposal. But given the TOU’s confidence and swiftness in SEQR makes it appear that maybe your minds are made up.
If the Water Board and the City of Kingston decides that it wishes to sell its water, it will trigger a SEQR review of its own. At that point, the City of Kingston or Water Board will have to list all of the and properly send out letters to express its interest in being a lead agency, if that is what it wishes to do. It only could if everyone comes back in agreement, too. Otherwise, the dispute would be handled by the DEC Commissioner. Those agencies and municipalities would include the DEC, the Town of Woodstock, Town of Ulster and others – and perhaps even the NYC DEP given that in the case of an emergency, the Ashokan Reservoir becomes involved as Judy informed us in her press release.
Following our conversation today, the Water Board signed off on a letter submitted by the Town Board requesting to be lead agency of the SEQR review. It passed. The city’s opportunity to be lead agency is now gone in this instance.
7. Finally, what I really want to impress upon you today is that the citizens coming last night, today – a week from today – and for as long as it takes are doing so because we want to be involved. We want to help. In light of this, has the Water Board orchestrated a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan and presented it to the Common Council? Is 16 million dollars really all that you need to provide clean water to Kingston residents at this time? What are the long term needs and plans for water infrastructure? What if the City of Kingston itself orchestrated a Capital Improvement Plan that included Water. Solar. Composting. What would that number be? With Kingston’s bond rating in good standing, bonding is cheap for municipalities to the tune of somewhere in the 2-3% range as I understand it. Given that infrastructure is a hot topic nation wide – there must be State and Federal Funds that could offset the costs once we identified our overall need.
As a concerned citizen who today speaks for many of us, I urge you to slow this process down. Give us a chance to work together. Lets call a meeting with our council and identify the Water Departments needs so to begin a conversation on what other options there might be.