On Monday, January 23, 2012, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein will host a public forum with New York City Department of Environmental Protection about area concerns including turbid releases into Esopus Creek. The County Executive will be joined by other upstate leaders, NYC DEP representatives and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation senior staff. The event will offer attendees the opportunity to have their voices heard and to ask important questions. The forum is scheduled for 6:00PM on January the 23rd at the John Quimby Theater at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge.
The Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership in cooperation with Riverkeeper prepared comments on the Interim Ashokan Release Protocol. The comments from municipalities and other stakeholders along the lower Esopus were compiled into a letter and submitted to the DEC. The letter calls for a deadline by which time the interim protocol would be replaced by a SPDES permit. Limits on turbidity are also recommended. The letter is available here for download as a PDF.
LowerEsopusStakeholderCommentsInterimAshokanReleaseProtocol 12-15-11.pdf (108.9 KiB, 1,079 hits)
Comments to DEC by lower Esopus stakeholders on the Interim Ashokan Release Protocol
Ulster County and Riverkeeper submitted a formal petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation concerning the releases from New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir. The petition calls upon DEC to meet its regulatory obligations and uphold water quality standards in the lower Esopus Creek. The DEC is criticized for relying on the Interim Protocol to authorize releases instead of using the SPDES permit program. In October, DEC issued an Interim Ashokan Release Protocol to govern discharges from the Ashokan Release Channel. Unlike a SPDES permit, the interim protocol did not contain any formal provisions for environmental review or public comment. The petition from UC and Riverkeeper reminds DEC of requirements spelled out in state Reservoir Release Regulations.
Yesterday, DEP stated through a spokesperson that it cannot make a public forum before year’s end, reported Adam Bosch of the Times Herald-Record. On Thursday, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein emerged from a meeting with the DEP and announced the prospect of a public forum in December to address ongoing issues with DEP operations in Ulster County. DEP said it did not agree to the abrupt timeline for the forum but is nevertheless willing to participate in a public forum. Read more…
In October, the DEC and DEP agreed upon an Interim Ashokan Reservoir Release Protocol (Protocol), which is available here for download.
Interim Release Protocol (135.8 KiB, 913 hits)
DEC/DEP Interim Ashokan Release Protocol
Water Quality Monitoring for Releases (68.7 KiB, 828 hits)
Water Quality Monitoring Plan for Release Channel Operations
The Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership, as part of the Ashokan Release Working Group, is compiling comments on the protocol from participating municipalities to provide DEC and DEP with feedback.
The protocol includes provisions for community beneficial releases, flood mitigation releases, and turbidity control releases. The interim protocol is driving recent reservoir releases as the DEP aims for a 90% Conditional Seasonal Storage Objective outlined in the protocol to create a void in the reservoir for flood mitigation and turbidity control. Since storms Irene and Lee filled the reservoir with turbid runoff, recent releases in the lower Esopus Creek have been noticeably turbid with fine colloidal clay sediment.
For the first time since closing the Ashokan waste channel in February, the NYC DEP is reopening the waste channel to make a void in the West Basin to capture anticipated stormwater runoff. See statement from NYS DEC and NYC DEP below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11-17
March 9, 2011
Farrell Sklerov / Michael Saucier (718) 595-6600 Michael Bopp (518) 402-8000
Statement from NYS Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and NYC Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway On Today’s Activation of the Ashokan Waste Channel
“Earlier today, after close consultation with and agreement from Ulster County, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency, DEP activated the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel for up to one week,” said Commissioner Holloway. “Activating the waste channel will increase the reservoir’s ability to capture runoff from intense storms by creating a void in the west basin of the reservoir ahead of tonight’s forecasted storm, providing enhanced flood protection for communities south of the Ashokan Reservoir along the lower Esopus Creek. This action, which reduces the amount of spillage from the more turbid west basin into the higher quality east basin, will also help protect the drinking water of approximately 160,000 residents of towns that rely on the Catskill Aqueduct such as New Paltz and High Falls in Ulster County; New Windsor and Cornwall in Orange County; several towns in Westchester County, including Yorktown and Ossining; as well as the residents of New York City.”
“We concur that activation of the Ashokan diversion channel is appropriate at this time to limit adverse flooding in communities along the Lower Esopus Creek and reduce turbidity in water flowing toward the New York City drinking water system,” said Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner. “Flood ‘action levels’ in the Lower Esopus will be actively monitored and adjustments to the diversion channel output will be made as needed.”
The latest information from the National Weather Service on the coming storm indicates that the reservoir could spill, increasing the potential for flooding in the lower Esopus. The action agreed to today will release up to 600 million gallons per day from the Ashokan Reservoir for the next week, depending on existing flows in the lower Esopus Creek. These releases will be discontinued if the stream gage on the lower Esopus Creek located at Mt. Marion is within one foot of flood action stage (18 feet) and the National Weather Service forecasts potential flooding. This is the first activation of the Ashokan Reservoir release since February 1, 2011.
The waste channel is a concrete canal used to convey water released in a controlled manner from the reservoir through the upper and lower gate chambers to the Little Beaverkill stream and the lower Esopus Creek. Located in Ulster County, the Ashokan Reservoir is approximately 13 miles west of Kingston and 73 miles north of New York City. It was formed by the damming of the Esopus Creek, which eventually flows northeast and drains into the Hudson River. The reservoir holds 127.9 billion gallons at full capacity and was opened in 1915.
DEP manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8 million in New York City, and residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. New York City’s water is delivered from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and comprises 19 reservoirs, and three controlled lakes. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dep or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nycwater.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation filed a Notice of Hearing and Complaint against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection citing unauthorized use of the Ashokan Waste Channel and failure to comply with its Catalum SPDES Permit. The DEC seeks $2.6 million in civil penalties from the DEP and an independent study of the impacts from turbid releases to the Lower Esopus. The DEC is also requiring an operating plan and parameters for use of the Waste Channel for the “beneficial interest” such as flood control for downstream communities. The entire complaint is available for download as PDF:
Ashokan Complaint (3.8 MiB, 1,156 hits)
Notice of Hearing and Complaint issued by DEC against the NYC DEP
On Thursday evening, February 10th, the local press and area residents attended an informational seminar hosted by the Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership and the Town & Village of Saugerties. Formal powerpoint presentations were made by representatives of LEWP, Ulster County, and DEP. A representative of the DEC was also present to answer questions as part of a panel. In the audience were elected officials including Mayor Bill Murphy of Saugerties, Town Supervisor Greg Helmoortel and a staff member from the office of Assemblyman Pete Lopez. Residents who owned property or businesses along the creek ask questions and expressed their concerns about the prolonged turbid releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. The Daily Freeman reported on the meeting. This was the second informational seminar this week focusing on creek turbidity issues. The first was held on Tuesday, February 8th at Town Hall in the Town of Ulster.
The NYS DEC is paying more attention to the way NYC DEP manages its Ashokan Reservoir after LEWP outlined concerns in a letter to state regulators. These concerns became more urgent with ongoing turbid releases from the reservoir which started in October. Read more at Times Herald-Record.
In response to a letter from LEWP, NYS DEC Regional Director William Janeway acknowledged that a planned release regime from the Ashokan Reservoir could improve aquatic health and alleviate downstream problems. Read full article in the Daily Freeman.