NYCDEP holds important public meeting on Ashokan Reservoir/Catskill Aqueduct Shutdown on 11/18 at 6pm

“New York City is dumping millions of gallons a day of muddy water from its Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek. For over a decade, Ulster County residents have been demanding that they find a better way to manage their drinking water supply in the face of climate change – and protect communities downstream.”

On November 18 from 6-8pm, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) and towns along the lower Esopus Creek are hosting a public meeting to provide information about Ashokan Reservoir, its operations during the ongoing Catskill Aqueduct shutdown, and an overview of the protocols that currently govern releases from the reservoir.

Although the public may not impact decision-making for the October aqueduct closure (that is scheduled to remain closed through January), it is an important (and rare) opportunity for community members to learn more and to publicly hold New York City and the NYSDEC accountable. 

We received a copy of this letter from a community member who resides on the Lower Esopus Creek in the Town of Ulster. She wrote to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with an invitation to tomorrow’s meeting that we are sharing with permission:

Dear Mr. Mayor, 

As you know, New York City has closed its Catskill Aqueduct for repair work through mid-January – a change that will have major effects on the Ashokan Reservoir and the region. Specifically, the Lower Esopus Creek will experience increased releases from the Ashokan Reservoir, causing damage to the stream beds and surrounding areas. We can expect erosion to the existing shoreline and turbid water that severely affects water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation. The impacts also reach the Hudson River, a drinking water source for seven mid-Hudson communities.

On Thursday, November 18, we (residents of the lower Espous) have an important chance to hear directly from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection – and to be heard.

I’m writing to urge you to assign someone to attend the meeting, or attend it yourself. Since this work is being done to benefit New York City your office should be aware of just how adversely it affects the homeowners, business owners and communities of the lower Espous Creek. I have a dual interest in this in that I reside in New York City where I am able to enjoy the clean drinking water we are provided from the Catskill region but I also own a waterfront home in the Town of Ulster in the hamlet a Lake Katrine.  My house backs right up to the Esopus Creek where we have seen massive erosion over the past two decades due in large part to the releases from the Askokan reservoir. We have all but lost our entire retaining wall and are now experiencing massive erosion including trees falling off of our land into the creek. We are not receiving any relief or any assistance from New York City or the Town Ulster. We can no longer swim or fish in the creek because if it’s high turbidity. This has gone on for decades and it’s only getting worse.

Another fact that you should know is that we do not even have clean safe drinking water. After hooking up to “city water“ a couple of years ago we quickly found out that we could not even drink the water that we are paying for. It is not the same clean water brought down from the reservoir to New York City but water from a well that has now been determined to be cancerous.  All of this is completely unacceptable and that’s why I’m bringing this to your attention.  This work is being done, in part, so that New York City can continue to receive the beautiful clean water from the Catskill region, while the communities who are continually flooded out so that New York City can boast clean drinking water don’t even have clean water themselves. 

Excess water needs to go somewhere. Without adequate planning, the reservoir is forced to discharge its waters when it fills beyond capacity – typically through controlled releases to the Lower Esopus, or spills over the reservoir. Without the aqueduct drawing down the reservoir’s waters, such events become more likely, and Lower Esopus communities are left more vulnerable to flooding. Under the current operations protocol, the combined discharges into the Lower Esopus Creek may total up to 1 billion gallons a day. When faced with the addition of such large volumes of water, the Lower Esopus will see damage, as it has in years past and a much higher level.

These new challenges add to existing ones. For years we’ve been calling on New York City to stop its massive muddy releases into Lower Esopus Creek as a solution to its turbidity problem in Ashokan Reservoir. 

The event will be located at the Frank D. Greco Senior Center at 207 Market Street in Saugerties at 6:00pm (masks will be required for any attendees who are not vaccinated).

We sincerely hope that The New York City Mayor’s office will be in attendance and support the residents and communities of the lower Esopus Creek. 

Thank you