Legislative Commission on
Resource Needs of New York State and Long Island
Perhaps the most important accomplishment of the 2007 Legislative Session was the enactment of legislation to increase the Environmental Protection Fund to $300 million. The additional funding for the EPF will fuel substantial increases in EPF programs such as municipal parks, waterfront revitalization, municipal recycling, open space land acquisition, farmland protection, as well as wastewater treatment projects, invasive species management and Ocean and Great Lakes initiatives.
Protecting out natural resources, making sure families’ lives are not compromised by environmental hazards and ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the vast wonders of New York are vitally important to me.
This newsletter will outline some of the Water Commissions’ accomplishments as well as some of our goals for the future. As always, I welcome hearing your ideas and concerns. Please feel free to contact me.
The Waters are Rising —
Increased Flooding in NYS
Over the past few years, severe flooding has impacted the lives of New Yorkers from all over the State. In June of 2006, after a severe storm, the largest flood event in NYS in over 30 years devastated much of the southern portion of our state, as well as areas along the Erie Canal and much of the Northeast coast. A number of upstream tributaries on the Erie Canal, from Utica to just above Albany, experienced 500-year flood events during this period. Other areas in NYS, including the Delaware River Basin and much of the NYC reservoir system, also suffered extensively from the effects of this flood. The June ’06 was not an isolated event. Unfortunately, across New York State there has been an increase in the number and significance of flood events. In May of 2007, in Roscoe, N.Y. a rural area 100 miles northwest of New York City, severe thunderstorms caused flash flooding in the southern Catskill Mountains, washing out roads, destroying homes and inflicting casualties. In Westchester County, local officials have noticed drastic increases in floodwaters in recent years, and on Long Island, recent flood events have severely impacted many areas in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In 2007, one storm alone caused $26 million in damage, harming homes, businesses and infrastructure in Suffolk County.
Many scientists predict that the future will bring even more of these unwanted and unprecedented events. More frequent, more severe storms are projected as one result of climate change in New York. These flood events often result in homes, businesses, infrastructure and lives lost. The issues contributing to flood events are complex, including changes in climate patterns and land use over time, wetlands loss, and development rights. Recently, the legislature passed into law two measures designed to examine issues related to flooding and make recommendations regarding needed action. The first law creates a task force to look at issues of flooding along the Erie Canal; the second establishes a sea level rise task force. Increased flooding across the State is an issue the Water Commission will continue to follow in the coming session.
For the second year, the New York State Assembly passed the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (A.7266-A, Sweeney). This Compact is the result of a multi-year international effort to create an enforceable process to protect the waters of the Great Lakes Basin. The governors of the eight Great Lakes States, in partnership with their two Canadian counterparts, have drafted two agreements – which amend the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, a 20-year-old agreement that oversees shipping and pollution issues in the Basin.
The first of these two agreements is a “Compact” between the eight Great Lakes States, effectively creating the first enforceable water management strategy throughout Great Lakes Basin. This Compact would be enforceable in federal court. The second agreement is a voluntary international agreement between the eight states and the two Canadian provinces that would provide international consistency across the Basin. When implemented, these agreements will direct the way the Great Lakes and the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are managed and protected. The Great Lakes Compact contains a number of important water-use protections, including requirements that withdrawal and diversion projects must prove they will do no harm, that a preference will be given to all reasonable conservation measures and that all diverted waters are returned to the basin of origin.
The agreements were signed by the Governors of the eight Great Lakes States in December 2005. In 2006, the New York State Assembly was the first and only legislative body to pass the Compact. The New York Senate, however, failed to move on this important measure. This year, the Compact was enacted into law in Minnesota and Illinois. In New York State, the Assembly was able to reach agreement with the Senate during the last week of the legislative session on the Compact; unfortunately, the bill was not passed before the legislature adjourned. When the Legislature returns the Water Commission will work diligently to ensure that the compact language is enacted into law.
The Compact will not be legally enforceable until it is enacted into law in all 8 Great Lakes States and then ratified by the Congress of the United States. The agreements can be viewed online on the website of the Council of Great Lakes Governors at: http://www.cglg.org/projects/water/CompactImplementation.asp.
Despite increasing need, federal investment in infrastructure funding continues to shrink. Once funding 90% of the water and wastewater infrastructure, federal and other sources of funding has decreased by 70% over the past 30 years for capital investment in public water resources (re: American Society of Civil Engineers). Compounding this problem is the fact that utilities in general have not set their rates at levels that cover infrastructure maintenance and replacement. Together, this has lead to a significant funding gap. The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis released by EPA in 2002 notes a gap between the planned investment in infrastructure and the infrastructure capital need from $3.5 to $26 billion per year – nationally - over the next 20 years.
It is important that NYS focus attention on this issue before it becomes a crisis. In an effort to get up-to-date information on wastewater needs, at the request of Assemblyman Sweeney, the Assembly included in the 2007-2008 State budget $300,000 to fund a statewide assessment of wastewater infrastructure improvement needs. The assessment will focus on the need to upgrade existing wastewater treatment infrastructure, and should be completed by March 1, 2008.
|Enacted into Law - 2007|
A.8016 State Revolving Fund, Sweeney
A.8202 Sharks, Colton
A.8203 Clams, Schimel
A.8204 Whelks and Conchs, Espaillat
A. 8206 Fish, Gunther
A.8208 Fish management, Sweeney
A.8209 Blackfish, Sweeney
A.8210 Scallops, Titone
A.8212 Striped Bass, Sweeney
A.8214 Crabs, Bluefish, weakfish and fluke-summer flounder,
A.8215 Marine Commercial Fishing, Sweeney
A.8339 EPF expansion, Sweeney
A.9002-A Sea Level Rise Task Force, Sweeney
A.9027-A Invasive Species Council, Sweeney
A.7179 Water Pollution of the Marine District,
A.8878 Dredging Jones Inlet, Weisenberg
Constitutional Amendment – State Ballot Referendum – Passed:
A.7242 Raquette Lake Drinking Water Supply Authorizes the state forest preserve to be used for the construction and maintenance of wells for municipal water supply in the hamlet of Raquette Lake.
Passed both houses and vetoed by the Governor:
A.7367-A Climate Change Task Force,
A.1159 Upper Delaware River Greenway,
A.2691 Wetlands Maps, Lifton
A.7133 Wetlands, Sweeney
A.7231 Private Well Testing Act, Jaffee
A.7266-B Great Lakes Compact, Sweeney
A.7268 EFC 0% Loans, Sweeney
A.7332 Cost Reimbursement, Sweeney
A.7365 Climate Change Solutions, Sweeney
A.8746 Returnable Beverage Container Act,
A.9169 Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Sweeney
A.9199 Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Sweeney
Other Legislation of Interest
A.7495 On-site Septic Systems, Sweeney
A.8090 NRD Liability, Sweeney
A.8588 Wetlands Restoration, Sweeney
|Energy and Water – A Popular Mix|
Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) in Long Island Sound
One proposal seeks to site an energy infrastructure facility in the state’s coastal waters. The Broadwater Energy proposal, a joint venture between TransCanada Corporation and Shell, would construct and operate an offshore-liquefied natural gas facility (LNG) in Long Island Sound.
Broadwater plans to build and install a floating facility moored in Long Island Sound to receive imports of LNG. LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to its liquid state and can be economically transported throughout the world in specially designed ships. Physically, Broadwater would consist of a ship-like vessel moored in Long Island Sound. The vessel would be about 1,200 feet long and 180 feet wide and would rise about 75 to 80 feet above the water. LNG carriers would unload their cargo to the vessel. Every two to three days, LNG shipments would arrive via ocean-going carriers that would enter the Sound and offload their cargo. After unloading, the LNG would be warmed back into a gaseous state (regasified) so the natural gas could be delivered to markets through the existing Iroquois pipeline.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead agency responsible for conducting environmental review of all LNG projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and is currently assessing the Broadwater Energy proposal under the pre-filing environmental review process. The Federal Energy Act of 2005 pre-empts state siting authority for LNG facilities. As part of the project review, the US Coast Guard issued a safety and security report, and FERC released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in the fall of 2006. A Final Environmental Impact Statement must still be released and the New York State Department of State must make a ruling as to whether the Broadwater proposal is consistent with the policies of the Coastal management program, although such a ruling could conceivably be overruled by the US Secretary of Commerce.
Many important concerns exist regarding the Broadwater proposal. These include concerns over potentially irreparable damage to Long Island Sound’s recreation and fishing industries resulting from regular intrusion of LNG tankers, concerns that Broadwater may not be the most efficient, safest way to bring more natural gas to Long Island, and concerns about the potential threats to human safety. Given that NYS is pre-empted by the Federal government on siting and oversight of this facility, it is imperative that the Federal Government fully and completely address all concerns before such a facility is allowed to be sited in Long Island Sound.
Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project (RITE)
The Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project (RITE) is the first of its kind in the world. The project uses tidal powered underwater kinetic hydropower turbines to harness the free-flowing energy of the tidal flow in New York City’s East River. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has awarded two $500,000 grants to Verdant, a Virginia-based company to run a pilot project of this concept. Both NYS DEC and the US Army Corps of Engineers have issued the necessary permits to install and operate a test field of six temporary underwater turbines for an 18 month period to evaluate the environmental, technical and economic feasibility of this renewable energy source.
The installation of the six-turbine demonstration project was completed in May of 2007. The pilot project attached the turbines, which look like small wind turbines, to underwater concrete piles attached to the bedrock. As the tide surges in and out, the turbine heads pivot to face the current and the turbine blades spin to generate energy. The six pilot turbines will generate enough energy to power about 200 homes.
Verdant plans to ultimately install a large scale underwater field of 200-300 turbines along the East River, with a goal of generating five to ten megawatts of power to be delivered to the grid - generating enough energy to power about 8,000 homes.
Before Verdant can proceed with a full-scale project, the company must complete the evaluation required under the pilot project. This information is also needed as baseline data for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hydropower license, necessary for a permanent facility. To date, Verdant reports no fish strikes.
An offshore wind park was proposed for the Jones Beach area of Long Island, but was recently abandoned because of cost concerns. The Long Island Offshore Wind Park was to consist of 40 wind turbines, capable of generating 140 megawatts of electricity, to be located off shore, southeast of Jones Beach and southwest of Robert Moses State Park.
Wind power is a concept that can and should be pursued. Wind projects are planned and implemented in other areas of the State, and given the renewed emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and pursuing green power, the issue of wind farms is likely to resurface.
Invasive species include the Asian long horned beetle, which is costing the City of New York and Long Island over $40 million annually, sea lampreys which now inhabit the Great Lakes, and zebra and quagga mussels which began in the Great Lakes and have spread to inland lakes and streams throughout the United States. Mussel eradication measures alone are estimated to exceed $200 million annually.
Ballast water of ships, one known source of aquatic invasive species, can also be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses. One such pathogen is viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), which causes large fish kills. VHS was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has since been found in 19 species of fish and has spread through Lakes Erie and Ontario, the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers and into the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.
In addition to providing $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund in State Fiscal Year 2007-08, the Assembly worked on legislation that was enacted into law, which will ensure that invasive species issues are fully examined and addressed. This law establishes the Invasive Species Council and an advisory board within the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop a comprehensive plan for invasive species management. DEC will be responsible for implementing an invasive species program focused on the recommendations of the former Invasive Species Task Force and the new Council, and will report to the Legislature with recommendations for future legislative action. (A.9027-A, Chapter 674 of the Laws of 2007)
In September of 2007, Assemblymember Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee and Assemblymember Darrel Aubertine, Chair of the Assembly Legislative Commission on State and Local Relations held a public hearing on invasive species and pathogens in the Great Lakes region of the State to help determine if additional measures are needed to address this pervasive issue. Testimony was received from experts from the State and local governments as well as from environmental activists.
Sweeney said “It is impossible to address this issue alone. The best thing would be for the federal government to be actively involved, but since they have been unwilling or unable to address this problem, New York State and other states must take it upon themselves to find solutions.”
|At the invitation of Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis met with representatives of the recreational fishing community at the Sportfishing Education Center in the Town of Babylon to discuss issues of significance for recreational fishing on Long Island. It is the first time in memory that a DEC Commissioner has met with the recreational fishing community. Pictured with Assemblyman Sweeney (at left) and Commissioner Grannis (second from left) are several interns from Cornell Cooperative Extension who work at the Sportfishing Center.|
Richard D. Morse, Executive Director
|To further our efforts to reduce waste, please inform us if you have a change in address by calling us at (518) 455-3711, faxing us at (518) 455-3837, or writing us at the above address.|
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