After months of sometimes rancorous discussion, this past week the town and village of New Paltz took the first of many legal steps toward setting up an alternative water supply for village residents during the impending ten-week shutdown periods of the Catskill Aqueduct in 2017 and beyond. In separate meetings, on April 30 and May 4 respectively, the town and village boards both authorized adoption of an intermunicipal agreement (IMA) setting the terms for the sale of water from the town to the village. Some minor revisions were made to the agreement prior to the votes, both of which were unanimous.
The IMA will go into effect, town attorney Joe Moriello pointed out, only “if and when the village and the town decide to build a backup water supply…This is all contingent upon a lot of things, and ultimately a construction IGA [intergovernmental agreement] with the City of New York.” If the municipalities are not each able to agree on the terms of an initial design IGA with New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency that administers the aqueduct system, the IMA will then become null and void.
The attorney explained that adoption of the IMA is a prerequisite to initiating the process of registering the proposed alternative water supply construction project with the Office of the New York City Comptroller, so that reimbursement from the city for expenses incurred by the town and village can begin to flow. As a result, Moriello said, “The town is not going to be in the position of being at risk.” The registration period typically takes about four weeks, and costs incurred would be reimbursable retroactive to the joint town/village board meeting that occurred on January 23.
Under the terms of the IMA, the town agrees to supply 500 gallons of water per minute to the village during the periods of shutdown of the aqueduct, for a maximum of ten weeks per year for up to 20 years as needed. Although the DEP has agreed to pay for all expenses of the project, ownership of any assets created on town property as part of the water supply projects, such as wells and pump stations, would revert to the Town of New Paltz after the initial 20-year term. After that the town would have the option to sell water to other users, but the village is guaranteed the right of first refusal, according to the attorney.
During the public comment portions of both meetings, Plains Road residents continued to voice opposition to the plan to use the aquifer under their neighborhood as the primary alternative water source, urging that the Wallkill River be used instead. DEP representatives present at the Town Board meeting repeated statements that they have made at previous meetings that the DEP would not fund any such project.
“I think overall it’s a pretty tight document,” said town supervisor Susan Zimet of the IMA. “It protects the residents of Plains Road to the best of our ability.”