Last week, the Regional Economic Development Councils announced this year's grant awards. Two of them, awarded to projects proposed for Hudson, seem to be at cross purposes. Columbia County was awarded $131,250 to design a recreational and natural trail in the Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Center, and the City of Hudson was awarded $600,000 to direct untreated storm water to that very place--the Hudson North Bay.
|Photo: Columbia Land Conservancy
Before the waste water treatment plant was upgraded in 2011, CSOs were fairly common. Today, with a waste water treatment plant that can handle 17 million gallons a day, CSOs occur much less frequently, but they still happen. For example, in May 2013, Rob Perry reported to the Common Council Public Works Committee that for 23 minutes, during a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the night, untreated waste water spilled into North Bay.
Everyone agrees that CSOs are a bad thing, but not everyone agrees that the plan the City is proposing to address the problem is the best course of action. Before the grant application was submitted, Dan Shapley of Riverkeeper sent a letter to Mayor William Hallenbeck urging him to "consider the impacts of discharging untreated storm water to North Bay on the Hudson River, part of the state-designated 'Significant Fish and Wildlife Habitat' known as Stockport Creek and Flats." Pointing out that storm water runoff "contains salts, oils, trash, sediments and other pollutants that can harm the ecosystem of the Bay and the River," Shapley urged the mayor to "consider actions that will reduce turbidity and rate of flow before storm water is discharged."
Among the comments made in 2010 on the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), prepared in conjunction with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), was this one from Michael T. Higgins of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
3.7.7 Comment: Redirecting storm water flows into South Bay would likely have a negative impact on the wetland and would be in direct conflict with other priorities within the LWRP that include protecting a[nd] restoring South Bay. (Michael T. Higgins, NYS DEC/Research Reserve Staff, March 26, 2010).
3.7.7 Response: Comment noted. Hydrological and ecological studies, among others, would be required as part of the process for any future plan to redirect storm water flows into the South Bay from the City's CSO system.Will hydrological and ecological studies be done before storm water flows are directed into the North Bay? If not, why not? It seems appropriate. There's a plan in the works to develop North Bay as a recreation and natural center.
It might be assumed that because the grant was awarded, the project as proposed has passed muster, but that apparently is not the case. The $600,000 for the project is coming from New York State Community Development Block Grant funds, which are federal funds, and therefore, according to the Regional Economic Development Councils guidelines, the project is subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.
So it seems an environmental review process must be carried out before the project can actually be undertaken. It would be nice if there were a CAC in place to offer input throughout this process and to help the City find ways to implement green infrastructure to ensure that the efforts to achieve storm water separation will not negatively impact the North Bay, the South Bay, or the river.
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