DEP poised to start hydro work
By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau
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The New York City Department of Environmental Protection placed legal advertisements announcing the initiation of the licensing process to install hydroelectric projects at four of the city’s dams, but the Delaware County Electric Cooperative is not mentioned as a partner.
The proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project was introduced in May 2008 by the DCEC in its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit. DCEC proposed building projects at the Cannonsville, Pepacton, Schoharie and Neversink reservoirs.
The DEP submitted a competing application in November. The DEP is the New York City agency that oversees city-owned reservoirs.
FERC awarded the city the permit in March while denying the DCEC’s application, citing preference to municipal applicants. The DEP has since said it has no interest in developing hydroelectric capacity at the sites. It now says it wants to work with DCEC on a project.
Greg Starheim, chief executive officer of the co-op, said Friday that it appeared that the city "is continuing to head down a path to develop the project and that its actions are inconsistent with trying to develop a project with DCEC.
"It’s frustrating," Starheim continued. "It they were serious about working with us we could have expedited the process. We are disappointed but it’s not unexpected and it does raise questions."
DCEC is a nonprofit electricity cooperative that serves 5,100 members in 21 towns in Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie and Chenango counties.
Mercedes Padilla, DEP spokesman, said in a written statement, "DEP continues to work closely with DCEC. We have drafted a comprehensive Agreement in Principle between DEP and DCEC and are exchanging comments to come up with a final document.
"The agency remains hopeful that a mechanism will be found to work closely with DCEC on the development of this important project while ensuring the integrity and safety of the water supply system," Padilla continued.
"The DEP submitted the pre-application document for license to FERC as required by the terms of the permit. This provides an overview of the proposed project, the environmental setting, the plant and animal species in the areas and provides the basis for developing the scopes of any additional studies FERC may require," she wrote.
"In order to ensure that the public has an opportunity to comment on this submission, DEP advertised in the Binghamton Press Sun, Kingston Daily Freeman, Middletown Times Herald, Mountain Eagle and the Oneonta Daily Star."
Starheim said the DCEC has done everything they could in their proposed plan to protect the city’s water. He added that DCEC officials have not been contacted by DEP officials.
"The city has credibility issues," Starheim said. "They are doing one thing and saying another." In July, Sen. Charles E. Schumer stepped in and urged the DEP to stop dragging its feet on generating hydropower at four city-owned Catskill reservoirs.
Schumer wrote a letter to the DEP urging it to speed negotiations with the co-op regarding DCEC’s efforts to build hydroelectric plants and harness overflow at four reservoirs.
The DCEC’s proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project involves installing modular-design independent-intake structures on the reservoirs’ dams, Starheim said. The group plans to use water spilling from the reservoirs to generate enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes.
DCEC officials said they hoped to get final approval in 2011 and have the hydro plants open within a year or two after that.
The project, as proposed, Starheim said, would create 100 construction jobs and generate between $400,000 and $800,000 a year in revenue for watershed municipalities and co-op member school districts.
Calls to Schumer’s office on Friday and Monday for comments on the city’s initiation of the licensing process were not returned.
Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.