State Senator John Bonacic today released a letter he wrote to City of New York DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd asking how the City plans on dealing with high reservoir levels. On December 1, the City reported its reservoirs were more than 25% higher than normal levels.
For several years prior to this past April’s flooding, Senator Bonacic has called on the City to be more proactive when it comes to managing its reservoir levels.
"Recent media reports have highlighted what those of us involved in watershed issues have known for a long time. The City has not done a good job managing the watershed in numerous areas. The added media scrutiny on dam safety is welcome and appropriate," Bonacic said, adding, "We also cannot forget that April is now less than four months away, and area residents should not be exposed to questionable dams at the same time the reservoirs are being kept at high levels. The City should reduce all reservoir levels and they should do so now."
For the past several years, Bonacic has sponsored legislation which would require the City to draw down reservoir levels to prevent flooding. This year, Bonacic’s bill gained support in the State Assembly when Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther sponsored the bill. Bonacic’s bill also passed the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. The City, in a self-issued report, has denied all blame from the 2005 flooding.
The City has now, however, admitted that their Gilboa reservoir is not up to modern engineering standards and needs to be repaired. "It’s nice of the City to finally admit this problem, but with reservoir levels well above the norm, this is not just a Gilboa specific problem. While I applaud the City for their recent outreach in the area of dam safety, the City must provide a constant and ironclad guarantee that all their reservoirs, not just Gilboa, are structurally safe. Residents of our region deserve nothing less," Senator Bonacic said.
"The watershed agreement was meant to be a partnership, but more often than not it is a chess game. The DEP makes small moves with what I believe is an overall strategy of trying to limit tourism and economic vitality in the region. Who would buy a home in an area downstream of one of their dams today? The DEP owes residents a promise that April's floods will not repeat and that their dams are safe," stated Senator Bonacic.
This is not the first instance the Senator has worked to force the DEP to act on watershed issues. Earlier this year, Bonacic passed legislation in the Senate which would require that the DEP open up its lands to the same recreational purposes that are allowed on nearby State owned lands.
Note: A copy of the December 1, 2005 Reservoir Level Report, as published on the DEP’s internet website is attached. A copy of the Senator's letter to Commissioner Lloyd can be found at www.senatorbonacic.com.