State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope) extended an invitation on January 20 to New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd to visit with residents affected by New York City's drinking supply system. Copies of the letter were sent to Ulster County officials.
"To read the letters and talk to people from our region who are impacted by high water levels is heartbreaking. I think it would be reasonable for the Commissioner, who is responsible for overseeing the dams and reservoirs of the City's water supply, to listen personally to the same stories I hear every single day," Senator Bonacic said.
Senator Bonacic said that the relationship between the communities in the watershed and the City of New York is frayed for a variety of reasons, but that "the historically high reservoir levels, the need to dump water from the Schoharie Reservoir through the Esopus portal, and the fact that April is fast approaching" is causing much of the unrest and anxiety of area residents.
Senator Bonacic invited Commissioner Lloyd on January 20 to come to the Downsville and Western Ulster County portions of his district to participate in two evening public forums. "She needs to hear directly from the people. Her staff have been here many times and I believe they have insulated her from the true hardships being faced by watershed residents," Bonacic said.
The Senator said the forums with Commissioner Lloyd, if she accepts his invitation, should not be taken as "an open opportunity to attack, rather, they are an opportunity to educate the top policymaker for the City on what those who live near the reservoirs fear."
Bonacic also said he sees signs that Commissioner Lloyd is "listening" and added that he feels she is the first DEP Commissioner to legitimately listen to the concerns of upstate residents.
"I do see signs that she is listening, but listening must be followed by action. To date, she has ordered the construction of the waste channel off the Ashokan and has worked to develop a snow-pack melt plan for the Pepacton. Those are both good things - and could have been put on fast forward by her predecessors years ago. I encourage the Commissioner to be working to enact snow packs at all their reservoirs and also develop release plans when reservoir levels are abnormally high, as they have now been for well over two months," Senator Bonacic said.
Ulster County officials have recently joined Senator Bonacic's call for the Commissioner to appear to discuss flooding and dam safety issues. "I welcome county leaders joining the call for discussion, cooperation, and accountability from the City," Senator Bonacic said.
"It is my hope that Commissioner Lloyd agrees to attend local forums on these issues. As my invitation was sent over two weeks ago, I will be following up with her office this week. The City needs to take responsibility for the property it owns and my constituents justifiably expect nothing less," concluded Senator Bonacic.
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