Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, first celebrated forty-five years ago. On April 22, 1970, millions took to the streets to protest the deterioration of the environment and to demonstrate in support of pursuing a healthy, sustainable world. It was fitting then, that on the eve of Earth Day 2015, North Bay enjoyed a little victory.

The Common Council was expected to vote last night on the resolution declaring the proposed sewer separation project a Type II Action, requiring no environmental review. In anticipation of the vote, Timothy O'Connor had delivered the Protect North Bay petition, with 416 signatures, to the aldermen. When the time came to consider the resolution, Common Council president Don Moore moved to postpone voting on it until June 16 and to use the intervening time to pursue an environmental review. 

Before the Council voted on Moore's motion, there was discussion about who would carry out the environmental review and how it would be paid for. City attorney Carl Whitbeck opined that six weeks was adequate time to do an environmental study "if Delaware Engineering is going to do it." Audience member Nick Zachos asked if having Delaware Engineering do the environmental review wouldn't be a conflict of interest, since they have been hired to do the sewer separation project. They have also appeared at two Council meetings defending the position that the project is a Type II Action, which does not require environmental review. O'Connor offered the opinion that Saratoga Associates, now doing the feasibility study on the Dunn warehouse, would be a perfect candidate. Moore suggested that it would be good to get two cost estimates, and it was decided a special meeting would have to be held to approve the amount to be spent and to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract.

When the time came to vote on pursuing an environmental review, Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) said that he felt enough time had been spent on the issue before voting no. His colleague from the Fifth Ward, Robert "Doc" Donahue followed suit. The rest of the aldermen present--Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) was absent--and Council president Moore voted yes, and the motion passed with 1,205 affirmative votes--just 190 votes more than what are needed for a simple majority. The vote is another example of the weirdness of the weighted vote: eight people vote for a measure, two people vote against it, and the percentage of affirmative votes is not an overwhelming 80 percent but a nail-biting 59 percent.


  1. Keep hope alive! Thank you, Council!

  2. 1.

    Through our alder(wo)men, the city has officially acknowledged that an environment exists at all, or at least it does in relation to the sewer plan.

    For those of us concerned for the wetlands, something now lies beyond the end of that pipe!


    With this acknowledgement, however, the city may already find itself in a budgetary bind.

    We'd be a lot better off had the ambitious Delaware Engineering firm not made the false claim in its two engineering reports that the project is "a major component [of] a condition of Order on Consent."

    These are the same Delaware reports cited in the city's grant application, explaining why the project's SEQRA classification was an "anticipated Type II," which is to say exempt.

    Any action required by a Consent Order would be exempt from review, but this one wasn't. Oops.

  3. 2.

    In the online manual "Community Development Block Grant Program: 2014 CFA Application Guidance," the state administrators of this federal grant explain that "program delivery and administration funds must be requested at the time of application." (Note: "must.")

    Eligible general grant administration and operating costs include "costs associated with the Environmental Review Process for the overall program" (p. 23).

    Under the section Program Delivery Costs, or "costs that can be directly attributed to activities for delivery of specific proposed activities," we find the provision under public infrastructure grants which allows for "preparation of site specific environmental review and environmental assessment such as well testing or phase 1 archaeology" (Ibid).

    I believe that the city's application earmarks $36K for general administrative costs, but what about the second category, Program Delivery Costs?

    Have Delaware Engineering and the DPW already wrecked our chances of conducting a proper Phase I review of the current ground conditions?

    Given the responsibility of conducting the environmental review, it's a no-brainer that Delaware will dismiss any need of the hydrology and water quality tests the city has successfully ducked for 31 years.

    If Delaware Engineering was the cause of lost funding for conducting a proper review, who can think of a more damning conflict of interest?

    Even if there's wiggle room around that MUST - "program delivery and administration funds must be requested at the time of application" - Delaware Engineering has utterly lost our confidence for guarding the public interest.

  4. An unlawful LWRP, an unconstitutional city gun ban and now this; it seems that this city is being (mis)guided by its attorneys trying to rule, rather than govern.

  5. Thank you, Common Council. Delaware Engineering should not be allowed to bid given the history. Can another firm not be found as well as Saratoga Associates. And quickly. June 16 will roll around very soon.

  6. Watching the following video by the National Audubon Society, "Conserving Important Bird Areas in the United States" will help correct the unfortunate oversight of the Columbia Land Conservancy when it drafted its North Bay's "Concept Master Plan."

    Everyone makes mistakes, and I'm not out to criticize the CLC today. Still, in my hope that people will decide to watch Audubon's short video about this worldwide program, I'm forced to reveal the principal reason almost nobody knows about Hudson's IBA. The oversight had harmful consequences for a program that relies on grassroots partnerships.

    North Bay is within an IBA established specifically for wetlands birds. I found this out the hard way after inquiring why only one of the landfill meadows was included in the IBA and not the meadow where Bobolinks nest? But instead of gaining a meadow, Audubon dropped the first one! Water birds only!

    The North Bay's breeding Least Bitterns, some nesting within City of Hudson limits, were the principal reason for establishing this IBA. I'm proud to say that my wife and I were the first to ever positively document these hard-to-find nests.

  7. From the EPA:

    A use attainability analysis must be conducted for any water body with designated uses that do not include the "fishable/swimmable" goal uses identified in the section 101(a)(2) of the Act. Such water bodies must be reexamined every three years to determine if new information has become available that would warrant a revision of the standard. If new information indicates that "fishable/swimmable" uses can be attained, such uses must be designated...

    Forty years ago there was no water treatment plant and yet we swam, fished and Navigated from Hudson's North Dock.

    Tens of millions of (outboard motor fuel) tax dollars later, our "servants" proscribe its use?

  8. The City permits the favorite at shore, while disenfranchising county folk with rod and reel.