Sure, it’s a beneficial thing that Niagara Bottling decided not to press the issue and engage in a long, exhausting battle that it might have been able to win to build the plant that would have exploited Cooper Lake water for tons of profit. Now there are no lawsuits to file, no girding of the loins for a grinding half-decade slugfest, no waiting to see if the direst predictions came true, no wells running dry from the drawdown… And it is a tiny, yet significant blow struck to the notion of privatization of water resources everywhere. It’s a victory that comes with a sigh of relief.
It seems to have happened because, as we’ve said as this situation unfolded, there seemed to have been no natural constituency out there pitching for it, nobody really speaking on its behalf. Niagara was apparently unwilling to mount any public campaign for it and the pressure became difficult to withstand as officials everywhere began to feel the heat.
But we’ve got to recognize that our natural partners in this, the city of Kingston water system, which maintains and manages the property as well as the resource, still faces huge challenges making expensive repairs that are vital to the system.
Partners? Here’s some interesting stuff…the city of Kingston, owning property in Woodstock assessed at $8,419,390, is the third largest property taxpayer in the town, forking over nearly $70,000 annually. Tucked into that, Cooper Lake’s 257 acres are assessed at $2,811,00 and the Kingston water treatment plant is assessed at $435,000.
(Not particularly germane to this line of thinking, but interesting nonetheless, is that the largest property taxpayer in Woodstock is the state of New York, owning property assessed at $14,812,400 and paying $140,000 per year; second is the New York City DEP, with a $12.5 million assessment, paying around $125,000; Kingston is third and Central Hudson is fourth, paying $61,000 and change annually.)
So, yes, we’re partners in this venture, with the terms spelled out on paper, explicitly, and implicitly, as we’ve shown by the ability to organize and contribute to the citizen effort that soundly rejected the Niagara proposal. With this, comes responsibility on both sides. We’d urge the city water department to be more responsive and inclusive of Woodstock in its decision making. And Woodstock should resolve to be more responsive and involved in the managing of the watershed.
There are big problems, as we said before. The Cooper Lake dam needs repair, says New York State, and the Kingston Water Department needs to, first, find the money to do that — wouldn’t it be nice if the Governor was to use some of that $5 billion surplus for such infrastructure repair — and second, decide whether to raise the dam during those repairs and thus increase Cooper Lake’s capacity. And, as the big leak down on the Sawkill illustrated this week, there is much expensive work to do along the lines.
So don’t clink too many glasses over this one. Be glad that citizen power still counts, but now that we’ve warded off this resource usurpation, think about how to use it to solve some already existing problems. After all, you don’t want your partners to fail.