Residents of the High Falls Water District (HFWD) can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they will have ample clean water available when the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commences its second shutdown of the Catskill Aqueduct this coming autumn. The district, which comprises parts of both the Town of Rosendale and the Town of Marbletown, normally gets all of its tapwater from the aqueduct. The HFWD’s existing water tank had enough water stored to get residents through the fall 2018 phase of the shutdown, but more aggressive measures will need to be taken during the second phase.
The solution to the impending shutoff — expected to last as long as ten weeks beginning in October 2019, and then again a year later — will be for water to be trucked from Rosendale to High Falls. Last week the Rosendale Town Board approved three resolutions that, paired with corresponding resolutions from their Marbletown counterparts, will make the transfer of water possible. Rosendale town supervisor Jeanne Walsh called the actions “the result of many years of hard work.”
The first vote was to approve an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) between the town and the HFWD to create the backup system. It replaces a previous time-limited IMA that had expired. The second resolution approved contracts between the Town of Rosendale and an engineering firm, Brinnier & Larios, PC, and an attorney, Mary Lou Christiana, to oversee the project. The third vote was to allocate $209,823 for the purchase of an International tanker truck from Navistar International to transport the water from Rosendale to High Falls. The selected vehicle has a 5,000-gallon stainless steel tank, and will remain the property of HFWD following completion of the three-year aqueduct rehabilitation project. Funding for the purchase is being provided to HFWD by DEP.
Built from 1907 to 1915, the Catskill Aqueduct is 92 miles long, carrying water from the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County to the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County, and normally supplies about 40 percent of New York City’s water. It is being cleaned and repaired in preparation for a major shutdown in 2022 of the Delaware Aqueduct, which begins at the Rondout Reservoir in Ulster County. That later $1 billion project will involve construction of a 2.5-mile bypass tunnel 600 feet under the Hudson River from Newburgh to Wappinger, replacing an older tunnel that has developed significant leaks. Once the bypass tunnel is nearly complete, DEP will shut down the Delaware Aqueduct for five to eight months to connect up the new tunnel on either side of the Hudson River.
To ensure that New York City has an adequate continuing supply of water during the Delaware Aqueduct shutdown, less radical repairs and cleaning are being done to the Catskill Aqueduct. “DEP will rehabilitate this 74-mile stretch of the aqueduct by cleaning the inside and repairing a number of leaks, replacing 36 valves at chambers connected to the aqueduct and performing other structural and mechanical upgrades to ensure proper function of the structure for generations to come,” the agency reported in October 2018. “Engineers will visually inspect the inside of the aqueduct and use a remote-operated vehicle to examine two pressurized sections of the aqueduct that will not be fully drained.”
“Workers this year will also test various methods for cleaning the inside of the aqueduct. The most effective of these methods will be used starting in 2019, when DEP will clean the concrete lining inside the aqueduct.” The agency went on to explain that the Catskill Aqueduct’s transmission capacity had been reduced over time from 660 million gallons per day to 590 million gallons due to “friction inside the conduit.”
The schedule of water releases from the Ashokan Reservoir was stepped up during 2018 to draw down the stored water, to prevent overflows during the shutdown period that began in October. Additional releases are planned through the remaining two years of the project.