Wednesday, May 13, 2015

About That Environmental Review

On the eve of Earth Day, the Common Council did something nice for the environment, or so it seemed. They agreed to postpone, until June 16, voting on a resolution declaring the proposed sewer separation project, for which the City has a $600,000 grant, a Type II Action in order to do an environmental review and complete a SEAF (Short Environmental Assessment Form). There was some concern at the time about who would do the review and if it could be done in time, and last week, Gossips wondered what progress was being made.

At the informal Common Council meeting on Monday, Council president Don Moore had the answer. On April 22, he had contacted Saratoga Associates to find out if they were interested in doing the environmental review. The next day, Moore requested a proposal from Saratoga Associates and for that purpose provided what he characterized at Monday's meeting as "all the relevant information" about the project: the links to seven documents relating to the project on the City of Hudson website and "one explanatory description authored by Delaware [Engineering] for the Council." Five days later, Dan Shearer of Saratoga Associates responded: "I have reviewed the information you provided and share Delaware's opinion that this is a Type 2 action." How is it that two engineering firms agree that discharging hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated storm water annually into North Bay would not have an environmental impact that requires investigation?

Moore also announced at Monday's meeting that Delaware Engineering had done a draft SEAF. That entire document can be viewed here, but this is the puzzling part.

To Question 13 a and b and Question 15, the responses are NO. This would seem to be the correct answer if what is meant by "the site of the proposed action" is just the spot on North Front and State streets where the street will be dug up to access the sewer, but if the goal is to redirect storm water, shouldn't you also have to consider the place where the storm water is going to end up as part of the site? Apparently not, since the storm water will end up in North Bay, which is part of the state-designated Significant Fish and Wildlife Habitat known as Stockport Creek and Flats, and one of the denizens of North Bay is the least bittern, listed as threatened in New York State.


  1. So Delaware Engineering assessed its own work, and nobody on the council has a problem with that.

    I spoke with Dan Shearer of Saratoga Associates who concurred with Delaware, that the city is only digging a hole. He repeated the same thing over and over: "I just took the documents at face value."

    He seemed totally unaware that there was a Class I wetlands a matter of feet away from this hole, never mind what the hole is for.

    Question 17: "Will the proposed action create storm water discharge, either from point or non-point sources?"

    Answer: NO

    These people - our representatives on the council - must feel shame. How are they not ashamed?

    When I asked my own Alderman Nick Haddad whether their callousness wasn't being driven by the council president (who is famously uncaring about the natural world), Mr. Haddad said no, that it was the entire council's decision.

    Well that's disgraceful then, disgusting actually. It's a thoroughly political and financial decision which flies in the face of their constituents' wishes. Their cowardice should cost them, and it will.

    But soon they'll explain that this or that expert stood before them and assured them of X,Y,Z ... that Delaware Engineering is extremely professional and can be trusted ... that after all, Saratoga Associates must know what a wetlands is ... that citizens lack the necessary technical knowledge (few things impress them more), and that anyway the public didn't ask enough permission.

    Yes, WE are the disgrace. Yesterday the President of the Common Council wrote about me in a private email, saying that it was "nothing short of embarrassing to have to listen to [my] disgraceful assertion(s)" at the council meeting.

    And that's how it's done, with Mr. Moore on the attack and the rest playing 'possum, or sheep.

    Haven't any of them noticed that in the entire year we've been discussing this project, not a single person outside of City Hall has supported it? Of course they voted unanimously to authorize the grant application for the project, against 100% of public comments against the plan.

    Since last year hundreds have come out in opposition to the proposal which, in a political year like this one, is a testament to the blindness of those who wish to be considered as candidates in November. Fairly obtuse!

    After this council's near-blinding incompetence in several areas, the thing that remains intact is its contempt for the public and for the natural world around us. Well then that must be their most enduring collective attribute, because we've seen it so many times before as we surely will again (wherever nature is concerned, interestingly).

    So let's take stock. Where are we now?

    Well, to paraphrase attorney Whitbeck to the public, "Go ahead and sue us."

    But I have a better and cheaper idea to start, seeing as there's a potential criminal angle in this. Recall that the last time the city obviously cheated on an EAF (Holcim's 10 acres), the public filed a criminal complaint with the state Attorney General. Because it's a felony to falsely report a felony, we had to be sure we knew our stuff.

    Only this time it's a federal matter. Nor would it be the first time the FBI investigated irregularities concerning Combined Sewer Overflow projects in the City of Hudson:;/content/Minutes/View/151

  2. The Council's attempt to tip-toe through the technicalities in order to avoid responsibility for pouring more pollution into the North Bay is bizarre. And its failure to correct the sadly misshapen Conservation Advisory Council statute speaks even more clearly to its arrogance in the face of reality. But why the Council persists in doing the wrong thing when doing the right thing would be so easy is a real head-scratcher.

    1. unheimlich posted this reply, which somehow went astray:

      The overriding proclivity of legislatures everywhere is to take their lead from whatever some attorney deems best.

      Over the years, our representatives on the Common Council have repeatedly proven their susceptibility to this catching fecklessness. Each new set of aldermen goes through the same transformation, increasingly cloistered from their constituents and listening only to these witch-doctors (or "bone-setters" in the Irish).

      The deepest trouble with this picture, and the thing most vexing to residents about the current sewer plan, is that the lawyers who advise our aldermen more effectively than we can ever do ourselves don't gauge their aims and successes by what the rest of us know as "value systems."

      And so our neighbors whom we voted for in the belief that they would represent our concerns have fallen in our esteem by aligning themselves with special interests intent on seeing how much they can get away with.

      Each alderman must now behave like the proverbial attorney who twists the common sense, insisting that we look at the finger and not the moon the finger's pointing to. After all, they're only proposing a hole in a street, period. You don't create runoff by digging a hole.

      How they can actually live with their cowardice and disgrace is fortunately not our problem. (I'm sure they'll learn that from their lawyers too.)