Saturday, July 12, 2014

North Bay Report

It's been three years since the Columbia Land Conservancy published its master concept plan for the North Bay Recreation and Natural Area. If you are wondering what's been happening since then to move the plan forward, there was a report about it by John Mason in yesterday's Register-Star: "CLC seeks to get North Bay plan off the ground." The report is accompanied by a great picture of a least bittern by David Lee.

15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. You almost never see a Least Bittern standing out on a flat. David captured a rare moment. You can't tell by the photo, but North America's smallest and most elusive heron is only a little larger than a grackle.

    There was a difference of opinion this week about the circumstances under which the public may become involved in the conservancy's plan.

    The conservancy claims that the city and county must have a role - and more ominously, be present for - all future planning discussions.

    A doubtful public is making inquiries about the terms of the grant to learn whether or not this is true.

    If there are no such conditions attached to the $150,000 grant which made the Concept Master Plan possible, and if the Columbia Land Conservancy still wishes to place limits on public engagement with the plan, then it is perfectly free to do so.

    If that's the case, however, then the conservancy must be open about its decision and not pretend that a choice is a requirement.

    Just take last month's sewer proposal which would have such a negative impact on the North Bay that Riverkeeper was compelled to write a comment against it. Naturally, the grant application was blessed by our anti-environmental aldermen (whose names shall not be mentioned).

    The sewer proposal itself grew out of a long process, each step of which cheated the public of its federally-required participation. Even the Public Hearing for the proposal was mishandled, and received an official complaint.

    If that's the kind of culture the Columbia Land Conservancy wishes to preserve and perpetuate, then let them say openly it's a preference.

    But I hope my neighbors will join me in putting the welfare of the North Bay ahead of our little organizations, stories, plans and, careers. Let's stand with the ecology against such games.

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  3. At the address below you'll find the original "Memorandum of Agreement" between Athens Generating Company and our federal and state governments. This was the 2001 agreement that created the $2.5 million "Catskill/Olana Viewshed Mitigation Trust" which paid for the conservancy's Concept Master Plan.

    There's nothing specifying municipal or public participation for projects supported by this trust.

    So if neither the city nor the public has been involved in the North Bay planning before now, why the new rules which put the public at a disadvantage during the last planning phase?

    What county- and city residents should be doing right now is applying pressure to the Columbia Land Conservancy to have the public's concerns for the North Bay aired entirely free from the interference of our environmentally-irresponsible elected officials.

    In the agreement which made the Concept Master Plan possible you'll find nothing preventing this course of action, but the Columbia Land Conservancy wants no part of it.

    What we're witnessing is the way in public input always gets reduced to window dressing in Hudson. When it's done incrementally - and against the environment no less -, then the scrutiny will be equally incremental and consistently painful.

    To mangle a phrase from presidential history, "It's the wetlands, stupid."

    http://www.nh.gov/nhdhr/review/documents/moa_3.pdf

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  4. "whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over",- Mark Twain.

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  5. The Concept Master Plan calls for studies of Endangered and Threatened species, and the North Bay has both. If there's a possibility that these species can be adversely effected by the conservancy plan, then they're right to try and find out.

    But the conservancy has always acknowledged that implementation of the plan will be entirely out of its hands, so what chance is there that local government will do the right thing?

    It's concerning that a previous Common Council under Mr. Don Moore's leadership didn't want to know about protected species in the South Bay during the environmental impact statement. In fact, they did everything possible to suppress the news. The public had to use SEQRA to defeat the council's intransigence, and then later a criminal complaint to the state Attorney General. These actions were taken in defense of the environment.

    What follows are things the conservancy does care about, but that the city does not. But as long as the conservancy arbitrarily privileges proven anti-environmental officials above knowledgeable citizens, then I'll persist (relentlessly) in asking whether the conservancy itself is not harmful to the North Bay.

    For the first three years of the North Bay plan (i.e., Phase I), the "Action Matrix" specifies a technique known as "call playback" which is to "precede biological surveys" (Appendix C, Table 3).

    The call playback method is estimated to cost $5,000 over four visits:

    "Nocturnal and first‐light calling bird surveys are proposed ... to confirm these cryptic species, such as 
    rails and bitterns." 

    Only the first year of Phase I is dedicated to marsh-nesting breeding birds, such as the Least Bittern. This study is to be conducted prior to "boardwalk and trail design" (Appendix C.xi), but inexplicably not before establishing the planned canoe and kayak launch.

    And yet, it's the plan's own "Natural Resource Inventory" which observed that "any potential disturbance of [Least Bittern] nests from boat wake or canoes flattening [their] cattail stands can be detrimental to local populations" (p. 30). So wouldn't it behoove the conservancy to know how many Least Bitterns breed in 1st Bay before it endorses the implementation of a canoe and kayak launch there?

    The plan's Natural Resource Inventory (2009) cited data from the New York Natural Heritage Program confirming that Least Bitterns, Threatened in NY, bred "within 0.5 miles of the site."

    But when breeding bitterns were documented in North Bay/1st Bay in 2010 (the record was submitted to the New York Natural Heritage Program and the New York State Ornithological Association), what did the secretive conservancy do with the information?

    The Concept Master Plan was published in 2011, but didn't seem to reflect the discovery.

    Successive years of documentation by members of the Alan Devoe Bird Club have established Least Bitterns as regular breeders in both parts of North Bay. This year the birds even nested within city limits, but none of this has effected the planning for North Bay.

    So if the Columbia Land Conservancy is casual about a Threatened bird species which breeds on city property, why should the city care? I can promise you it won't.

    And if the conservancy is going to put fake conditions on public participation, why should we believe that they're better stewards of Least Bitterns than the public is? I can promise you they're not.

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  6. Canoe/kayak wakes? Will the CLC also be required to stop river traffic and flood tides?

    There's a third bay before the Brickyard on this shore, Brady's bay, Murders creek and the Rams Horn on the other side, surely these rare birds can share some of the river with humans.

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  7. The problem with chasing grant money; once received, the recipient gives up autonomy...Why would city leaders choose to give up control of who shares a very rare inner city (river access) commodity? Would they invite 100 people for dinner to share a tiny meat loaf?

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    1. Your comments when taken together contradict each another.

      I'm not about to explain publicly why your strategy, if you even have one, is as internally inconsistent as the Concept Master Plan itself.

      Just keep lashing out though, cuz that's what you do best!

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    2. "Water is for fighting over"... no meat loaf for you...

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    3. You see, for the Irish the fight ends with victory or death and Italians never forget cowards that draw down on an unarmed friend.

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    4. Think solidarity Joe, which may mean strange bedfellows.

      Let the meatloaf flow, so to speak.

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    5. Please understand Unheimlich, before lashig out, my expertise was in reaching out. NDTBA made room for others without regard to race, dues or fees. Our motto was, if you live in Hudson and don't own a tin boat, get one and we'll make room.

      This shore war could easily have been avoided if only our "rulers" attempted to expand use rather than restrict it. There were more boats/shacks in 60s.

      Furthermore, as a bird watcher, the most rare birds in North bay are the one that come under the bridge in kayaks.

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    6. All true, but now changed forever.

      In Pennsylvania your case would've been a no-brainer. The Commonwealth has to have the most generous adverse possession rights in the country.

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  8. NDTBA Inc's position has always been; only a fool would sue to start paying taxes and no fishermen should be removed from shore. Call and ask Judge Weiss, law professor W J Cade or attorney Scott Paton.

    The issue now isn't a case decided years ago but going forward, why is our group of fisher folk being denied access (at gun point) to "our" shore.

    How will Goofy and Giffy craft policy that allows tourists while denying local citizens who have lived and paid taxes here for half a century. It's a difficult task but I'm sure they'll come up with some unbiased new law.

    The shame is that hundreds of locals used North dock before and although there's plenty of room for many more, it remains restricted....

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  9. Must be terribly disappointing to the wealthy; pay off politicians, then find out that city waterfront can't be sold because the inner city poor have equal footing on shore.

    Poor millionaires!

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