Recent Flooding to Residents Living on the Lower Esopus Creek in the Town of Ulster, Town of Saugerties

In August of last year, reported on Central Hudson’s “Gas Village” training facility in the Town of Ulster that destroyed 28 Acres of Forest. The impacted community members who live next to the Central Hudson project and that are sandwiched between the CSX train tracks and Lower Esopus Creek in the Towns of Ulster and Saugerties have been organizing since then. After a recent stormwater flooding event, the group submitted the following letter to their local officials:

“Dear Mr. Quigley and the Town of Ulster Board,

Glenerie Boulevard and Katrine Lane residents experienced a major emergency on Friday, April 8th, as rainwater running off from the 28-acre deforested Central Hudson training facility site ran under the CSX tracks and flooded onto neighbors’ homes and yards — running under our properties and gushing into the already degraded Esopus Creek. The fire department could do nothing until the waters receded, and even the DEC came out to file a report.

As you can see, the water was within mere feet of reaching our cars and homes and caused damage to sheds and tools. 

VIEW: Photos and videos of the flood damage

As tempting as it might be to attribute this flooding to the 4 inches of rain that came down the night before or to climate change exclusively, the primary cause of the recent flooding was that the NYC DEP did not provide adequate storage in the Ashokan Reservoir for springtime rains. They could not increase their storage when the predicted rainfall of 3 inches increased to 4 inches. 

We are concerned that NYCDEP will provide no storage (especially this August and September), and if we receive a tropical storm, we can expect another damaging flood. The DEP had promised you that they would decrease the possibility of flooding, and we ask that you demand DEP provide the flood protection they promised.

The Central Hudson Facility project has only added to the flooding problem. According to longtime residents who have lived here for 35 years, they have never seen our streets flood like this nor seen runoff pour into the creek under their homes and so rapidly. 

And the only variable/change is the Central Hudson facility site under construction that has been clear cut and now destroyed for decades – an environmental disaster facilitated by the sale of Bread Alone’s connector parcel to Central Hudson’s headquarters. 

The exact site of the cascading flood on April 8th corresponds to the precise rock removal and the thinnest part of the tree removal line on the construction site. Clearly, the systems and streams that drain the new construction site, Central Hudson parking lot, and the Micron parking are wholly inadequate.

Currently, three existing pipes, approximately 30 inches in diameter, and the discharge from the new retention pond, flow through an undersized culvert and pipe into a small stream with deep and steep slopes. The velocity of the flow has eroded the stream banks and undermined the foundation of homes. 

The Town should have addressed this problem long ago when the Micron parking lot was constructed. The Town should require Central Hudson to construct a retention basin for the three pipes, a larger culvert beneath the tracks, and enlargement and bank stabilization of the stream into the Esopus.

This community is standing together, but our concerns are falling on deaf ears on officials at the state, county, Town, and Central Hudson levels — those seemingly only caring about the bottom line. They don’t live here, so they don’t experience the daily harmful effects they’ve approved and created. 

We are fed up with being ignored and irate since we questioned these potential dangers months ago. We demand that the multiple environmental impacts that this project has created due to the Town’s negligence be ameliorated by the Town, DEP, and Central Hudson at once before things get worse. 

Regardless of the Town of Ulster’s lack of notification to the site’s perimeter residents — (over 60% of us had no idea it was coming and indeed would have shown up in the public comment period), the Town, as the lead agency, failed in its due diligence. 

We are being affected directly as the potentially toxic flood water dumps into the creek but the thousands of neighbors downstream on the Esopus into the Town of Saugerties are being affected by this project too.

If this was an affluent community, we are convinced that a project as massive as this would cease to exist. Instead, our working-class neighborhood has been literally squeezed between two environmental disasters – the CenHud Facility and the muddy Esopus Creek due to the Ashokan releases.

Considering climate change at the very minimum, this project and ALL its impacts on the residents and our environment should have been studied thoroughly before getting anywhere near approval and a “NegDec” decision. 

Within a mere 3 months of your premature approval, Central Hudson clear-cut 28 acres of absorbant forestland, emptying the site of its porous floor and rootbed; displacing millions of birds and wildlife, and then subsequently removed tons of stabilizing rocks near the CSX tracks over four months of dynamite blasting to create retention ponds. 

And because this project was rubber-stamped, none of these actions were studied or vetted regarding their real-world impact on the surrounding neighborhood, the CSX train trackbed, and the Esopus Creek, nor the toxicity of the existing site’s soil. 

Central Hudson’s retention pond plan has failed; the massive potentially toxic runoff is running under our properties and gushing into the Esopus Creek. It seems we have endured the unending construction, blasting, vehicle noises, and inconvenience they have created for the last six months for no good reason.

In addition, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) filed by CenHud was grossly flawed and didn’t disclose the site was within wetlands. If sustainability experts or professionals had been hired to evaluate the project, that omission would have been rectified and the situation professionally assessed — but even the site’s officially contracted developers and landscapers involved in the site planning fail to display any modern-day sustainability or permaculture expertise or interest.

Instead, your Board pushed the project through to create revenue and increase Ulster County’s tax base, and as a result:

– The DEC levied a $37,500 daily violation to CenHud for dumping waste into the Esopus Creek last November

– For those of us on well water, we may have potential drinking water contamination from toxic runoff

– Many of us experienced dust and soot downwind of the site, compromising the air we breathe 

– The CSX trains are infinitely louder because of the deforestation, disturbing residents’ sleep, and work schedules

– The millions of birds, wildlife, beneficial insects, and even bears are all displaced due to 28 acres of trees being clear cut

– 5 longtime neighbors have already moved because of the site blasting and construction noise

– Our property values have been forever affected by the site’s existence

– Legacy trees in our yards have fallen because of the four months of dynamite blasting in the rain and 10 hours of daily pneumatic hammering vibrating our houses

– Light and noise pollution from 9W traffic and the storage facility drown our dark sky and peaceful environment because the forest screening is gone… and now…

– Floods – because the retention ponds Central Hudson built and assured us would contain the runoff do not work

– Increased insurance costs and claims resulting from the damage

– Add to that, the flooding weakens the land under the CSX tracks because now there is no shale buffer, and now we have to worry about a train derailment in our front yards

As much as we like lower taxes and bringing jobs to our community, our quality of life, the environmental impact, and our property values matter more. Clearly, our adjacent residential community was not prioritized when greenlighting this project. There should have been a balance. How much more money, time, and inconvenience will it cost now to fix these situations because they weren’t adequately addressed from the onset?

Since we initially reached out in concern in March of 2020 and then again in June of 2021, when the project restarted after pandemic delays, we have been polite, respectful, and cooperative. 

We have tried to work with Central Hudson at quarterly virtual meetings (our next one is in June TBA) to make suggestions without any real significant progress to ameliorate these effects (even offering a comprehensive 10-page proposal to offset their impact on us) — but this latest event is too much and falls squarely on the Town, DEP, and CenHud’s shoulders.

Our immediate demands (paid for by the Town and/or CenHud and at NO EXTRA COST to Ulster County taxpayers): 

1. We would like a study conducted and a short-term and long-term solution implemented for how the runoff will be dealt with on Glenerie Blvd. Eastern Parkway, 9W, and Katrine Lane in subsequent storms

2. Testing of drinking water for any of us on well water

3. We would like an acoustic engineer to study what can be done in the way of landscaping or infrastructure to absorb the additional train and traffic noise, and then a solution implemented based on their recommendations

4. We would like an expert to recommend screening and planting solutions to give us back some quality of life, cleaner air, and visual privacy from the site with absolutely no more clearcutting whatsoever

5. We want CSX to inspect the tracks from the crossing at Eastern Parkway to the switching station along the Glenerie Blvd. side to make sure the flooding has not compromised their tracks

6. Demand DEP provide the flood protection they promised

7. Community benefits: We can’t safely swim in the creek or hike the forest trails now, so we would like nearby public space dedicated or donated for recreational use for our kids and dogs to offset what’s been taken. This would partially compensate for the unbelievably negative impact and inconvenience this project has had on our community. 

Your hasty approval of this project has created emergencies and environmental disasters on multiple levels. As tax-paying citizens, residents, and neighbors, we demand accountability by the Town of Ulster and Central Hudson and retroactive solutions. We look forward to your timely response before any of these situations deteriorate further. “


50+ Esopus Creek Neighbors

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