Editorial: Make local water issues top priority

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, is right to ask for a moratorium on any proposed project that might affect the Mohawk Valley water supply until local issues that resulted in last summer’s crisis are resolved. 

A bill she has introduced would do that and should be approved by the Legislature. 

Proposed projects would include a proposal by the city of Watervliet to look into the possible use Lake Delta dam to produce hydroelectric power. Last week, officials there applied with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit to create the Delta Dam Hydroelectric Project. If approved, the permit would allow the city north of Albany up to three years to study the project and determine whether they want to apply for a license. 

Destito doesn’t oppose hydropower. It’s a clean, renewable energy source makes good use of water in the growing need for energy. But her point in asking for a moratorium is well taken: Let’s not add new players to the equation until we figure out an effective water management plan involving the players we have now. 

Those players already include a hydropower producer -- Erie Boulevard Hydropower, which owns two facilities below Hinckley Reservoir on West Canada Creek – along with the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation, which regulates the water reserves for the canal system. 

Last summer, a draw on Hinckley by the canal corporation caused the reservoir to drop within three feet of impeding the water supply for 130,000 water authority customers Neither the authority nor the canal corporation demonstrated any serious concern over the supply until it was too late; in fact, documents show the agencies rarely communicated directly about the crisis. 

The whole thing left people skeptical, if not distrustful, of the agencies that are supposed to be looking out for the public good. 

Now a new report by the Hinckley Reservoir Working Group – created last year in the wake of the local water crisis – is questioning whether another dam is needed to store water upstream from Hinckley. The Gray Dam, which served that purpose, was dismantled in 2002. 

Watervliet officials say using Delta to produce hydropower wouldn’t affect recreation or water levels. That may be so, but like Hinckley, Delta is part of the support network for the state canal system. In fact, it was used last summer when Hinckley ran low. 

Destito is right, and local legislators should lobby their Albany colleagues to make sure her bill for a moratorium is approved in both houses. That includes Marc Butler, R-Newport; Bill Magee, D-Nelson, and David Townsend Jr., R-Sylvan Beach, in the Assembly, and Joseph Griffo, R-Rome; David J. Valesky, D-Oneida, and James Seward, R-Milford, in the Senate. 

Until state and local leaders figure this all out, adding another factor makes no sense.