Tuesday, May 19, 2015

More About the Sewer Separation Project

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a tool on its website called the EAF Mapper, which makes completing an Environmental Assessment Form pretty much an automated process. You enter the location of your project, and the mapper searches the state's database for relevant information and completes the Environmental Assessment Form for you.

Timothy O'Connor used the EAF Mapper recently to generate a Short Environmental Assessment Form using State and North Front streets--the site of the proposed sewer separation project--as the location and shared the results with Gossips.

Curiously, the answers provided by the EAF Mapper to some key questions on the Short Environmental Assessment Form are different from the answers provided by Delaware Engineering on the draft SEAF presented to the Common Council at the Council's informal meeting last Monday.

While Delaware Engineering answered NO to Question 13a (Does any portion of the site of the proposed action, or lands adjoining the proposed action, contain wetlands or other waterbodies regulated by a federal, state or local agency?), Question 15 (Does the site of the proposed action contain any species of animal, or associated habitats, listed the the State or Federal government as threatened or endangered?), and Question 20 (Has the site of the proposed action or an adjoining property been the subject of remediation [ongoing or completed] for hazardous waste?), the EAF Mapper answered YES to all three of those questions.


  1. Of course we reject the argument that the impacts of the project are strictly limited to the digging of a hole, but the above results are based on that premise!

    The project area analyzed in the Gossips post is limited to the red dot you see at the intersection of State and Front Streets.

    The DEC prefers project sponsors to use eMapper when creating an EAF, not only because its automated software can be used by anyone (it takes 2 minutes!), but because the DEC's massive database reports buffer areas which were previously a tricky requirement of SEQRA.

    They're not tricky anymore, so why did self-interested Delaware Engineering give us a sham report?

    It was a conflict of interest from the start. The public said as much ... and was ignored.

  2. Oh what tangled webs are weaved, when being led by liars and thieves.

    Delaware screwed up the 4 million dollar first "fix" and now they are trying to cover up their error. It's all about the Benjamins.


    1. Does the covering up of Delaware Engineering's errors constitute a conflict of interest? Hmm, the question is complicated by the company's obvious financial interest.

      But fear not! Rather than look elsewhere for assistance, tonight the Common Council decided to rehire Delaware yet again to account for its past errors. We'll get to the bottom of Delaware's problems yet!

      Meanwhile, no one's asking why Delaware doesn't seem to be charging us for their terrible EAF consultation, and why the city would have to "pay for" someone else to do the job, as the council president put it.

      Is it possible that Delaware screwed this up too, and that we're helping them conceal another mistake?

      Normally the cost of an environmental review is a percentage of the block grant (ca. 15%). The only catch is, the expense had to be specified when the grant application was submitted.

      If that didn't happen (and it didn't), then whose fault is that? Is the North Bay expected to absorb some unknown engineer's oversight?

      It looks that way, and I suspect that's the reason we're stuck with conflict-of-interest-Delaware every time we turn around. But just try and get someone to admit it!

      Let me rephrase that: try and get someone to ask the right questions. I tried but failed ...

      To the council's great credit, tonight it reversed the three oversights described in this post which were contradicted by the state's eMapper.

      Of course there's still plenty of time to re-reverse tonight's good decisions. We can count on Delaware Engineering to help with that.

    2. The outflow used to exit on the North side of Dock St. Now it exits 200 yards uphill on Front.

      The city used this "upgrade" as a excuse to close the city's best wharf and Delaware has only made things worse.

      Maybe Crawford could patch things up.

      To echo Mr. Moore's comment; Godspeed Mapmaker!

  3. 1.

    The alder(wo)men asked good questions last night. That meeting could have been the most fateful of all for the North Bay had the council completed the EAF. Now it may be fateful the other way.

    I was going to suggest that someone take a closer look at the zoning, because I believe that Mr. Moore is incorrect about the Recreational-Conservation District. The way things ended though, now we'll have to re-worry all of the questions on the EAF in anticipation of the return of Delaware Engineering. We need Delaware's assistance like we need a hole in the head.

    Alderwoman Garriga asked a good question about the project map's "existing" stormsewer down Front Street hill to North Bay. President Moore concurred that the whole length of dormant pipe will be replaced to the corner of Dock Street. But later he returned to a familiar formulation I've heard from Mr. Perry, whereby he reversed, or seemed to reverse, his reply to Ms. Garriga.

    It's not the first time Messrs. Moore and Perry were coy about this part of the project, and now I'm sure there's something funny going on.

    Is it possible they're replacing pipes that are actually underneath the North Bay? That would be an extremely serious omission on their parts, and ultimately a matter for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

    Mr. Moore will delight to prove me wrong, but just try to get a straight, definitive answer to almost any question! It's like trying to get answers about the block grant, and whether it's the grant that is paying for the EAF, which is standard practice, or if we're stuck with Delaware Engineering's conflict of interest because someone screwed up the grant request.

    Otherwise, why can't we take the environmental review portion of the grant and give it to a more reputable firm? The muddled answer is always the same: because we aren't going to do that. Well why on earth not?

    Mr. Moore's life would be a lot easier if he'd just speak the words: "Someone screwed up."

  4. 2.

    So it's the usual Three-card Monty instead. For example, they've re-mapped this project several times, and on one occasion that was in response to criticism about an untrue claim at the very pipe Alderwoman Garriga asked about.

    Some of these re-mappings were comparable to last night's pie-in-the-sky talk of vortex structures, which is to say disingenuous promises with almost no chance of being implemented but useful for disarming a pestering public. Then, long after Mr. Moore has left office, we'll learn they can't deliver on their smoke and mirrors after all, surprise of surprises.

    The latest pitch is that we're at the beginning of a long project, and there will be many opportunities to introduce green improvements later. But if this first part of the project "will become the backbone of the city's future stormsewer separation projects" (from the grant application), then now is the time to discuss green alternatives, when they're about to replace the trunk of the entire system. Simply compare the current plan, yet to be approved by the state, with the already-state-approved plan for stormsewer separation and TREATMENT and you'll know that the current plan will make the better plan impossible.

    Why aren't we talking about this? Well we would be if SEQRA was followed by the letter (which begins with eMapper, Mr. Moore). A proper adherence to SEQRA would revisit the perfectly good separation-and-treatment plan that, technically, the city is already committed to. The alder(wo)men should ask themselves why they've never heard of it.

    One thing Mr. Moore refuses to grasp is that SEQR looks at cumulative environmental impacts. For example, it's not Foster's versus a far-off sewer excavation, but the impact of Foster's AND the excavations on the North Bay.

    Similarly, SEQRA requires project sponsors to account for how a project will develop through time, which includes all future excavations for which this first stage is to become the backbone.

    Desiring to avoid our statewide conservation laws, Delaware Engineering's poorly executed EAF explains a lot. Increasingly, the shared tone of Messrs. Moore, Perry, and Whitbeck suggests there's even more to question here than any of us realizes.

    I'm guilty myself of having laughed with everyone else at Mr. Whitbeck's humorous dismissal of Fred Stark at the March council meeting (at Bliss). Fast forward two months, and now everyone knows that Mr. Stark was correct and Mr. Whitbeck wrong about a very serious circumstance at North Bay. There are indeed PCBs in the soil beneath Foster's, and I must apologize to Mr. Stark.

    Ask yourselves, did the city's Corporate Counsel really not know about the PCBs? These people are running out of credibility, but rest assured Delaware Engineering will put things right.

  5. In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) opened more opportunities for the NHPA to take effect. The NEPA protects a larger amount of area of property compared to the NHPA, because it includes the environment around it, which will sometimes inherently include historic sites. In 1976, Congress extended the Section 106 review process to include buildings, archaeological sites, and other historic resources eligible for listing, not just those already on the the National Register of Historic Places.

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