Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"You Don't Need a Weatherman . . ."

Last night, the Common Council was expected to vote on the resolution declaring the sewer separation project a Type II action, but once again they postponed the vote, as they have been doing regularly since March 17, when the resolution was first introduced.

The problem, it seems, is that the aldermen are not focusing on the resolution before them, which simply asks them to declare or not declare the project a Type II action, requiring no environmental review or mitigation. Instead they are behaving as though their vote on the resolution will decide if the proposed sewer project will be done it all. 

At last night's meeting, various aldermen bemoaned that they weren't engineers, that DPW superintendent Rob Perry wasn't there to explain things, that Perry wasn't an engineer, that information they were getting was "crowd sourced." Council president Don Moore, who professes to have devoted much time and effort to understanding the project, perpetuated what an audience member would later call a "false dichotomy" when he spoke of sanitary waste going directly into the river and told the Council, "I really believe that this project is a valuable project."

After a week of studying the project, the newly formed Conservation Advisory Council offered its recommendation to the Common Council, which concluded: 
Relatively affordable and effective technology exists that could filter contaminants from stormwater before it is dumped into the North Bay, but the current separation plan does not incorporate this. We believe that classifying this project as an Unlisted Action rather than a Type II action could allow it to move forward while alternatives for treatment are evaluated and added to the plan. We therefore recommend that Council members vote "no" on the resolution.
Last night, CAC member Michael O'Hara told the aldermen, "The question before the Council is relatively simple: Is [the proposed project] a Type II or isn't it?" He continued, "It would be a real stretch to say it will have no environmental impact," and advised that steps be taken to mitigate the impact. He urged the Council to consider the project an Unlisted Action rather than a Type II, stressing that "the real boundaries of your action" needed to be considered.

Moore's response to O'Hara betrayed his belief that in order to move forward the project must be classified a Type II and be exempt from any consideration of its environmental impact: "The other question I have is: What's the alternative?" O'Hara reiterated, "We did not recommend not doing the project." 

CAC member Nick Zachos tried to emphasize what he called a false dichotomy. "If we had acknowledged that this is not a Type II," he told the Council, "this project could have been going by now."

Still the Common Council once again postponed voting on whether or not the project is a Type II action. Instead, they are going to have a special meeting on Thursday, June 25, at 7 p.m., to take up the issue once again. Moore asked the aldermen to let him know "who they are looking to hear from." So far, the list includes DPW, DEC, and Delaware Engineering.


  1. What planet is Michael O'Hara on? Certainly not this one.

    1. I don't get it, A.T.. What did Michael O'Hara get wrong? Thanks.

    2. I think he's saying that Michael must be on another planet because of Michael's insight into the case. He must know that Michael was our former DPW Commissioner.

      Michael is on another planet because he understands ALL of the issues involved.

      Michael is on another planet from Hudson's Old Way of doing business, because he doesn't shut his eyes (sorry Mr. Moore) to see only what he needs to see.

      Michael is not advancing his own narrow interests at the expense of other people's concerns; he's taking in everyone's interests with no exceptions.

      Michael's example is what Hudson must move towards if it's to do more than just survive for the benefit of a tiny clutch of people who appear to be holdovers from another planet called the 1930s.

  2. 1.

    When CAC-member Michael O'Hara recommended that the Aldermen classify the project as an Unlisted action under SEQRA, he was inadvertently revealing yet another false choice of several that are repeatedly drummed out by the Common Council President: Type I vs. Type II; "raw sewage" vs. stormwater; "taking a position" vs. self-censorship ... These false dichotomies are becoming a form of brow-beating.

    In fact, it was at the April 13, 2015 Informal Meeting of the Common Council that the South Bay Task Force stated its preference for an Unlisted SEQR classification while also pointing out that the Task Force had "never" recommended or advocated a Type I status for the project.

    Because, as Gossips points out, the Resolution before the council was an up or down vote on a legal matter having to do with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, it was more a moment to wish for disinterested legal advice rather then the immaterial insights of an engineer (e.g., the city had approached Saratoga Engineering for help with an environmental assessment, but in the end only got bad and unsolicited legal advice).

    The text of the Resolution is a legal matter, and the council must be extremely cautious when listening to the advice of the City's arguably interested Corporate Council. But how can anyone know enough to be cautious?

    It is the ambition of the Task Force to deliver an authoritative answer to Messrs. Moore and Whitbeck, both of whom wrongly and dangerously assert that the project plan which both support is "a state requirement."

    If we're successful, the legal basis for the Resolution's claim will disappear along with the Resolution. After that, a forensic analysis should commence to examine the quality of advice the council is receiving from mayoral appointees.

  3. 2.

    Other quasi-legal advice emanated from the President's chair last night when Mr. Moore explained how the project will proceed in stages, with future opportunities to implement controls that are more protective of the environment.

    What Mr. Moore was laying out was a classic example of "Segmentation"under SEQRA:

    "[D]efined as the division of the environmental review of an action so that various activities or stages are addressed as though they were independent, unrelated activities needing individual determinations of significance

    "Except in special circumstances, considering only a part, or segment, of an overall action is contrary to the intent of SEQR" (NYSDEC).

    So there's another good reason why the individuals who unwisely committed the city to this poorly-considered project plan wish to avoid SEQRA altogether.

    But his shoot-from-the-hip expertise didn't end there. When Mr. Moore, who is not an engineer, scolded people for being inaccurate with their terminology, he mistakenly assumed that the same phrase when used by the DPW Superintendent was used correctly.

    In fact, the parties whom Moore was scolding were perfectly familiar with the technical issue under discussion, whereas Mr. Moore demonstrated that he's as poorly informed as our highly-paid DPW Supervisor who's not an engineer either.

    Perhaps neither gentleman knows that North Front Street - and by implication North Bay - were already the subject of an empirical "First Flush Evaluation" in the 1980s. An analysis of the results of that study can be found at the City website in public comments by the South Bay Task Force on an unseen application for the block grant which is making this wonderful discussion possible.

    To understand the significance of the phrase "First Flush," city officials need only refer to our guiding document for all CSO matters, the City of Hudson's federally-required and state-approved Long Term Control Plan for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO):

    "Separation of combined sewers frequently increases the quantity of some pollutants to the receiving water, since all runoff is directed to the stream; alternately, combined sewer systems can capture 50 to 90 percent or more of total wet weather flow" (LTCP, p. 3-4).

  4. The city spent an "extra" $4.5 million tearing up front street with the sewer upgrade and now another $600K? That's $5 million that could paid Hudson's share of a new (joint) storm water plant with Greenport, which has the exact same problem with storm surge during heavy rains.

    The city took river access away at North Dock saying they needed the land for this project, they lied. They said the were going to separate storm from sewer water, they lied. Why should we now continue to fund their fraudulent half measures?

    1. To do otherwise would be to turn the local social order on its head.