March 31, 2009, Times Herald Record: Dried-up Toronto Reservoir upsets neighbors


Dried-up Toronto Reservoir upsets neighbors

Owner denies keeping water level too low

BETHEL — Supervisor Daniel Sturm takes a turn on Moscoe Road and pulls up to the public access point of the Toronto Reservoir. Normally, a few steps lead to the water, where families can put their boats in. This is a popular spot for boaters and fishing in the spring and summer and the location of the million-dollar homes of Chapin Estate.

But when folks pull in now, they see rocks and mud flats the length of nearly two football fields. A stream trickles by, flowing into a reservoir that is unreachable from the launch point.

"It is the lowest I have ever seen it," Sturm said. "There is a lot of people upset about this."

Sturm blames the owner of the reservoir, Alliance Energy, which is required by its license to keep the water at a minimum level.

Sturm says the company severely drew down the water this winter. He doesn’t believe Alliance is in compliance with its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license.

He’s not the only one upset about the dried-up reservoir.

State Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, called Alliance "a horrible steward" of the reservoir in a Feb. 23 letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

He said Monday he plans to attend an upcoming meeting in Bethel and will ask the DEC to attend.

"They (Alliance) don’t seem to care," Bonacic said. "We want to hold their feet to the fire. I need the DEC working more aggressively on this."

Sportsmen also are outraged, saying the draw-down could damage the fish and eagle populations. They’ve asked the DEC to investigate.

"We are aware of the situation," said the DEC’s Region 3 spokeswoman, Wendy Rosenbach. "There has been no significant wildlife impairment with what we have seen. We are keeping an eye on it."

Alliance denies anything is out of the ordinary. The FERC license allows it to draw the reservoir down to 1,170 feet mean sea level, and the company maintains the current level is above this minimum. The normal draw-down is 1,188 feet msl.

"The operation of the reservoir is fully within the boundaries established by the federal license," said Alliance Vice President Joseph Klimaszewski Jr. .

Public access to the Toronto Reservoir has been controversial.

The Moscoe Road access point is the only one open now. The developer of Chapin Estate has gated off the other access point. Residents are fighting Chapin over it.

The reservoir feeds the Swinging Bridge reservoir, where electricity is generated.

Alliance didn’t begin drawing down the reservoir until after Labor Day to "allow for an enjoyable recreation season," Klimaszewski said.

But Sturm says the condition of the reservoir could lower tax assessments and ruin any chance for families to enjoy the reservoir this year. The only way it can be filled is through rainfall.

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