Ashokan releases have an especially bad effect on Saugerties

(Photo by David Burgess)

Local officials are continuing to fight the release of turbid (muddy) water from New York City reservoirs into the Esopus Creek.

In an effort to distinguish the Village of Saugerties from other communities that abut the Lower Esopus Creek, Trustee Patrick Landewe wrote a letter earlier this month spelling out how releases from New York City reservoirs adversely affect the village.

The DEC and DEP recently agreed that the releases should continue, prompting protest in creek side towns. Other communities have sent letters to the agencies, but Landewe says Saugerties needs its own because of its unique relationship with the creek.

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The village’s swimming beach is located on the creek at the bottom of West Bridge Street, and turbid water would force the village to close the popular swimming hole.

Additionally, “the Village of Saugerties is also home to the Esopus Estuary, which is designated Significant Fish & Wildlife Habitat,” Landewe wrote.

“Since our quality of life and economic development depends on a scenic and healthy waterfront, we welcome strong enforcement against the city for its unauthorized releases of turbid water into the lower Esopus Creek,” Landewe added.

The village also seeks to have the city fund a flood analysis because trustees are “concerned that existing flood analysis underestimates the hazards downstream of the reservoir, particularly in regards to reservoir levels and increasing flood frequencies,” Landewe wrote.

Like other municipalities, Saugerties would like to see the city handle the turbid water by treating it in the reservoir rather than releasing it.

The town also voted unanimously at their July meeting to send a letter objecting to the releases.

The 12-page resolution, which contains 11 specific reasons for opposing the DEC consent order, outlines the problems the Town of Saugerties sees in the proposed regulations, including the lack of controls on siltation, wetlands degradation, inadequate fines for violations and a lack of provision for monetary relief to landowners who suffer ill effects from the releases.

“Our resolution is expanded; it has more details and more reasons for opposing the releases than the village resolution,” Supervisor Kelly Myers said. She has also been distributing a flyer asking citizens to contact the DEC and make their wishes for a stronger agreement known.

Myers said she is concerned that the public comment period will close July 16 with too many people affected by the releases not making their feelings known.

“New York City did something clever in setting the public comment period at a time when no releases are scheduled,” she said. “When the water is running clean, people are not concerned, and they are less likely to write.” That is, until the releases begin again in the fall.

Comments may be emailed to ashokan@gw.dec.state.ny.us or mailed to NYSDEC, Division of Water, Bureau of Water Resource Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.

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