In January, State Senator John J. Bonacic, announced a series of bills designed to improve dam safety and reduce flooding in the New York City watershed. Today, he went back to Downsville, in Delaware County, to report on the status of the legislation, and actions taken by the City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to date.
"I have worked on watershed issues with three DEP Commissioners since 1998. The current Commissioner, Emily Lloyd, is the first who has kept her word in terms of following up promises with action. The action is not enough, and the action must be continued, but finally, the City is moving," Senator Bonacic said.
In January of this year, it was discovered that DEP officials were photocopying dam inspection reports and using the same information for over a year. That report prompted a series of reviews of the DEP by the media and Legislators.
Senator Bonacic then introduced comprehensive dam safety legislation with respect to the DEP’s West of Hudson Dams which required:
- The DEP to provide detailed dam maintenance plans to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC);
- The DEP to tell the DEC what elements of those plans actually have been accomplished each year;
- The DEC to undertake detailed inspections of the DEP dams;
- The DEC to share those dam inspection reports with local officials.
In addition, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senator Bonacic which would take away the City’s authority to manage the water levels in their reservoirs. Area media called the passage of the bill, S.1768-a, a"stunning upstate power play over New York City." Numerous Senators from New York City, in direct opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s request, joined in support of Bonacic’s bill.
"Those Senators recognized that flood control is an obligation associated with good reservoir management, and not an option. Those Senators secured the reservoirs by voting for this bill - they acknowledged we are one State, and I appreciate their support," Senator Bonacic said.
Since the start of 2006, the City has taken a number of steps to operate their reservoir system more in accord with the needs of the watershed region. Those steps include:
- Implementing a snow-pack program in the Neversink Reservoir, which calls for the draw down of the Neversink when snow is at a certain level in the mountains:
- Implementing a rain-pack program at the Neversink and Pepacton, which calls for the draw down of those reservoirs based on rainfall;
- Opening a waste channel off the Ashokan Reservoir diverting up to 600 million gallons per day into a flood plain and away from residences;
- Agreeing to implement flood control measures during the reconstruction of the Gilboa Dam.
Senator Bonacic said the region’s municipalities should take some solace in the City’s actions, but should not rest. "One good year, does not mean there will not be future problems. Our residents should never have to wonder if the reservoirs management will cause their home or property to be flooded," the Senator said.
Earlier today, Senator Bonacic met with numerous Town Supervisors and officials from Delaware County to work on issues relating to the renewal of the City’s land acquisition permit - a DEC issued permit allowing the City to acquire land in the watershed. The officials also talked with Bonacic about early planning for the potential renewal of the EPA’s filtration avoidance determination next year.
"We have an opportunity every five years to tell the EPA some of the problems we are facing. Today, I started the planning process at the State level in Delaware County, and will be doing the same in Ulster, and Sullivan, and with Senator Jim Seward, in Greene and Schoharie Counties, about some of our concerns with the watershed. Senator Seward and I remain concerned about implementing flood control at all reservoirs, enhancing recreational uses of DEP lands in the watershed, working to make sewer and water affordable to homeowners and small business, and several other issues. We intend to make these things part of the discussion on whether or not the FAD should be renewed," Senator Bonacic said.
"On paper, and with some action to back it up, the DEP has dramatically changed their viewpoint on the need for implementing flood control. The fact that there has not been significant flooding in March and April of this year is a good thing, but we need to ensure the policies relating to flood control are continued and expanded. I look forward to working with our local officials and with Commissioner Lloyd to do just that," concluded Senator Bonacic.