Mud in the Esopus & A Massive Hydro Project

There’s trouble brewing for some of our Catskills reservoir towns and communities! Right now, there are two big threats facing the Ashokan Reservoir, and Mountainkeeper needs your help in fighting back to protect this vital drinking water source as well as the surrounding lands, waters, ecosystems, and communities.

Map of proposed project from Premium Energy Holdings

First, a power company from Southern California called Premium Energy Holdings wants to create an enormous underground hydroelectric plant adjacent to the Ashokan Reservoir. If this project moves forward, the company would be digging into valleys in the towns of Olive or Shandaken and damming streams to create reservoirs as part of “pumped storage” for electricity to be generated using associated water transport tunnels. Tapping into any energy generated would require a massive new high power electric transmission network. New York needs clean energy, but this is not the way to go.

Scroll to the bottom of this email for a sample comment you can copy/paste into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) online portal and make your comments part of the official record.

The proposal caught everyone by surprise, as Premium Energy Holdings had not reached out to New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) or the local communities that would be impacted by the project. It's a shame that the idea of hydroelectric power in our region came forward this way, because this ill-advised proposal for massive construction adjacent to the drinking water reservoir that supplies a portion of the water for nine million people seems totally implausible. Any reasonable ideas about generating hydroelectric from the reservoir system may now become harder to discuss, and local communities, already addressing more pressing issues, are being forced to divert attention to mobilize in opposition.

We believe this really bad project is unlikely to move forward, yet we must stay vigilant in our opposition until we are sure it’s been shut down for good. Remember: scroll down for a sample comment and instructions to submit your thoughts to FERC.

Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) is seeking permission to release turbid (muddy) water from the Ashokan Reservoir downstream into the clean flowing waters of the Esopus Creek in West Hurley, Kingston, Saugerties, and eastern Ulster County, a stretch sometimes called the Lower Esopus (see https://www.dec.ny.gov/enb/122281.html). The turbid waters have to go somewhere, and NYCDEP obviously doesn't want to send the muddy water into their drinking water system, but these releases would carry particles of clay and silt out of the reservoir and could go on for months at a time, especially following heavy rains and storms.

Turbid, muddy waters harm the ecology, economy, and quality of life along the stream, which flows into the Hudson River, and new information suggests that the turbidity may be contaminating drinking water for the Town of Esopus and other communities along the Hudson. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by NYCDEP supporting its request does not address solutions that would prevent both flooding and further contamination, like investing in stream bank restoration and flood resilience projects both upstream and downstream of the Ashokan Reservoir.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is accepting comments on the NYCDEP’s proposal through June 16th. Please speak out and tell NYSDEC to send NYCDEP back to the drawing board!

 

Thank you for all you do to protect our waters,

Kathy Nolan, Senior Research Director
Catskill Mountainkeeper

P.S. - I hope you’ve seen this GREAT opportunity to share your point of view about the challenges posed by heavy visitor use of our Catskills trails and other outdoor recreational resources, and potential solutions to mitigate harmful impacts of our region’s growing popularity. I invite you to take part this short survey and share your thoughts with NYSDEC and Mountainkeeper’s partners on the Catskills Advisory Group. Thank you!

 


Sample comments on Ashokan Hydroelectric to submit to FERC. You must include docket number P-15056-000 on the first page of your comments.

Please use comment # 1 if you’re a resident of Olive or Shandaken; # 2 from those who live near or recreate at the Ashokan Reservoir but not in Olive or Shandaken.

# 1  https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx
As a resident of one of the towns that is being proposed by Premium Energy Holdings as a site for a large dam, reservoir, turbine, and tunnels for use in pumped storage and generation of electricity, I vigorously object to the proposal and request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deny Premium Energy Holding’s application for a preliminary permit. The proposed project is massive, intrusive, and if constructed, likely to damage local lands, roads, and streams and to cause increased turbidity in waters serving as an unfiltered drinking water source for nine million people in New York City. Please do everything in your power to prevent this proposal from moving forward.

#2  https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx
As someone who recreates on the protected lands near the Ashokan Reservoir and the lands of New York State that are proposed by Premium Energy Holdings as a site for a large dam, reservoir, turbine, and tunnels for use in pumped storage and generation of electricity, I vigorously object to the proposal and request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deny Premium Energy Holding’s application for a preliminary permit. The proposed project is massive, intrusive, and if constructed, likely to damage local lands, roads, and streams and to cause increased turbidity in waters serving as an unfiltered drinking water source for nine million people in New York City. Please do everything in your power to prevent this proposal from moving forward.

 

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