April 29, 2009, Greene County Daily Mail: Greene IDA decries state legislation, Lopez calls proposed bill a “witch hunt”

Greene IDA decries state legislation


link to complete article is here:
http://www.thedailymail.net/articles/2009/04/29/news/news2.txt

Lopez calls proposed bill a “witch hunt”

By Susan Campriello

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CATSKILL — A bill in the state Legislature would jeopardize new ventures facilitated by the Greene County Industrial Development Agency, according to officials.

The most contentious provision in the bill calls for paying prevailing wages for construction and building work, which, according to Sandy Mathes, executive director of the Greene County IDA, will increase the cost of projects by one-third.

“It will make a challenging situation worse,” he said, adding that New York already has a non-competitive market for work on industrial parks.

The legislation demands that work on IDA projects be completed by contractors and subcontractors that have appropriate apprenticeship agreements.

The bill requires a company receiving funding from an IDA would have to pay its employees no less than the median hourly wage for five years after a project is completed.

IDAs would also have to make available to the public all payment in lieu of of taxes schedules, including the name of the taxpayer and payment amounts.

The bill also sets rules for appointing board members from environmental organizations, school boards, organized labor, and other groups with community interests. It also directs IDA to support three projects of less than $100,000 a year if such projects exists and also to maintain a Web site.

Mathes said his agency, and agencies across the state, follows rules set forth by the Public Authority Law. In Greene County, the IDA is subject to an independent audit and other aggressive requirements and performs State Environmental Quality Reviews.

Mathes said the requirements in the legislation will significantly decrease the efficiency of his agency.

“There is nothing in that bill that would help us,” Mathes said.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, said he worries that the bill will gut functional IDAs in his district.

IDAs, he said, provide essential assistance for businesses in certain locations which would otherwise be unable to open.

Lopez said has heard anecdotally about problems the legislation targets within IDAs around the state, but is unaware of issues within his district.

He said the bill offers one solution for all the problems that may or may not face each IDA in the state.

“There is a tendency in Albany to overstate a case and sometimes take it beyond a rational approach and it reaches the point where it is like a lynch-mob mentality, it becomes fashionable to attach something,” Lopez said.

He worried that economy would suffer if IDAs were rendered useless.

“If we engage in this witch hunt, and we try to use this one-size-fits-all and if we try to impose an artificial wage framework that may fit in urban settings or Downstate but not our rural communities, we are going to come up empty-handed,” Lopez said.

The state Economic Development Council, the AFL-CIO and the Working Families Party were a few organizations that opposed a similar bill; that bill was rejected by the state Senate last session.

Lopez said that many hospitals and not-for-profit organizations have benefited from IDA initiatives because at times they cannot seek necessary funding through other programs.

State Sen. James L. Seward (R-Oneonta) said that for years Republicans in the legislature worked to re-authorize IDA legislation that did not put forth the restrictions in the current bill.

“This legislation would hinder economic development and discourage job development, something we sorely need during these tough economic times,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The Greene County IDA has a hand in 65 projects around the county including the Catskill Waterfront Revitalization project, the Greene Business Park, in Coxsackie, and the neighboring Kalkberg Business Park, in both Coxsackie and New Baltimore.

Lopez said some of the wage argument has grown out of conflicts between organized labor and the business communities, and employers and their workers.

Coxsackie Town Supervisor Alex Betke said that upstate communities do not have the organized labor force found in urban centers.

“We have seen a good mix of union workers and local small contractors and it has all worked out very well,” he said.

To reach reporter Susan Campriello, please call (518) 943-2100, ext. 3333, or e-mail [email protected].

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April 28, 2009, Mid Hudson News: Hinchey meets with head of US Geological Survey to press for continuation of stream gauges

link to complete article here:

http://www.midhudsonnews.com/News/2009/April09/29/stream_guages-29Apr09.html

WASHINGTON – Earlier this month, federal officials obtained assurances that 17 flood gauges along Catskills and Hudson River Valley waterways would be saved from decommissioning.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who was among those who won the earlier victory, met Tuesday with US Geological Survey Director Suzette Kimball in an effort to keep the remaining small number of gauges operational.

“We are still working on trying to put together the rest of the stream gauges so that we will have all of them back in shape and I am anticipating that we will be able to do that,” he said after the meeting. “The fact that we’ve got 17 of the most critical gauges back in place indicates to me that we will be able to get the few more that we need to keep this information flowing and to reduce the possibility of damages from flooding.”

Stream gauges are used by the National Weather Service to provide flood forecasting and warning information. They also help monitor the flow of waterways to support recreational activities.

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April 27, 2009, ESPN: Bears bounce back

Monday, April 27, 2009
Bears bounce back

By Colin Moore
Special to ESPNOutdoors.com
link to complete article is here:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=4105495&type=story
Black bears have hung in there and now their numbers are stable enough for 30 states to hold hunts.
Are black bears the new whitetail deer? They definitely have come back the way deer did in the latter half of the 20th century. Though they're far from as numerous as whitetails, their repopulation to the point where they now can be hunted in 30 states is remarkable. This year, tightly controlled bear-hunting seasons have been added in Oklahoma and Kentucky, and will involve the harvest of a couple of dozen animals. In other states with established populations, thousands of bruins will be taken without putting a dent in the number of black bears. A history of bears
Except for the upper Midwest, the hinterlands of the northern Appalachians and areas around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, black bears had all but become extinct in most of their traditional ranges prior to this century. Though black bears still are the most common of the three species of bears in North America, their population in the United States today, with the exception of Alaska, is miniscule compared to what it was when the first Europeans landed on the continent. Settlers virtually exterminated bears, which were easier to find and kill, and more valuable, than deer. Daniel Boone, who led the first settlers to Kentucky by the land route through the Cumberland Gap, noted that in one hunting season on the Big Sandy River in 1794, he killed 155 bears. He and his wife, Rebecca, rendered the fat and sold most of the meat and hides. By the middle of the 18th century, black bears had been slaughtered or pushed into the unpopulated mountain areas of the Appalachians and in the boreal forests of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Apart from in the Appalachians, the decline of bears in the South was a long, slow process. In Florida, the vast expanse of the Apalachicola National Forest once harbored enough bears to support a limited hunting season.
Most nuisance reports involve bears rummaging through garbage cans, robbing pet food bowls or bird feeders, even the highest of which are susceptible to a determined black bear.
Since 1994, however, killing a bear in Florida has constituted a third-degree felony. With Florida's human population exploding from 3 million to 18 million since 1980, bears don't have much of a chance to thrive in the Sunshine State. Similarly, bears elsewhere in the Deep South are protected as threatened species, though bears are sometimes killed intentionally or accidentally by hunters, whether in fall or during the spring gobbler season. In early April, Alabama authorities arrested two members of a Mobile County hunting club for killing three black bears in the northern expanse of the Mobile River Delta. It's believed that there are fewer than 100 bears throughout the state and given the habitat limitations, the prognosis for the animal's recovery in Alabama is doubtful. A success story in the Pelican State
Perhaps the best hope for Dixie bears is to be found in Louisiana, where the topography often favors bears over humans. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks are developing a viable population of the threatened Louisiana subspecies of black bears. Before the recovery project began eight years ago, only a few dozen bears lived in Louisiana — along the coast, in the hardwood bottomlands of the Atchafalaya Basin (the largest swamp in the country) and in remote reaches of the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in the northern part of the state. Now, though, bear populations in Louisiana and Mississippi are recovering. Winter resettlement projects move hibernating sows (and sometimes their cubs) to new dens in protected areas where they are likely to encounter boars. "The joint efforts really began in 2001, and by 2005 we located a sow that had been bred in the area that she was moved to," says Debbie Fuller, the endangered species coordinator for the FWS in Lafayette, La. "This spring we counted seven more sows with cubs. So it's working, and for a threatened subspecies, I would say that Louisiana's black bear is doing pretty good." Fuller notes that the program aims to stabilize bear populations along the lower Mississippi River drainage, in hopes of eventually increasing it. Bear hunting is still a long way off. Elsewhere, more hunting opportunities
In the fall, Oklahoma will become the 29th state to allow hunting for black bears, as a limited bear hunt will be allowed on private lands in four southeastern counties where the Ouachita Mountains straddle Oklahoma and Arkansas. Some fortunate bowhunter will be the first person in modern times to bag an Oklahoma bear legally; since it became a state in 1907, Oklahoma has never allowed a bear season. Twenty tags will be sold over-the-counter for the archery season that begins Oct. 1, and if bowhunters don't fill the bear tags, muzzleloader hunters will have their chance later that month. There will be no modern firearms season for bears, and still-hunting or stalk-hunting without dogs are the only legal methods. You can't kill cubs, but sows without cubs are legal. Oklahoma's bear population is estimated at 800, with at least half of them in Le Flore County, one of the counties in the special hunt area. "Most of the bears we have drifted in from Arkansas, where hunting them has been legal for a long time," says Micah Holmes, the information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "But there are bears in other parts of Oklahoma, including in the area east of Tulsa adjacent to southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas." Other counties may be added to the hunt area later. Holmes says that Oklahoma's bear population is young and reproducing at a healthy rate. "It's exciting for us that we have such a neat animal living in our state again and that the population is healthy enough to support hunting," says Holmes. In Kentucky, where incessant logging and hunting share equal blame for the demise of its bears, the animals are coming back in the rugged mountains of the southeast. For the first time in more than 100 years, bears will be legal game.
The bear population in the United States is estimated at 600,000.
The hunt quota, says black bear biologist Steven Dobey of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, "is a conservative one." Over two days in December, hunters in Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties can kill a total of either 10 bears or five females, whichever level is reached first. "Research clearly shows that Kentucky's bear population can sustain a hunt," Dobey said. It was only a few years ago that Kentucky and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation began restocking elk in Appalachia, starting with a few animals. Today, an estimated 10,000 elk roam the eastern mountains. Will the same sort of success story play out for bears? That's been the case in other states, thanks to applied science and the dedication of wildlife managers and hunters. How Eastern bears are faring
Black bears have always been plentiful in their traditional haunts west of the Mississippi River. In the Rocky Mountain states and surrounding states with woodland habitat, the populations are so healthy, hunting bears is almost taken for granted. In the eastern United States, bear populations are rebounding and range from stable to increasing except in areas where people have reduced habitat and displaced bears. A quick rundown:
Arkansas
Arkansans all but extirpated bears from what was once the self-proclaimed "Bear State" by the mid-20th century. But after decades of unrestricted hunting and destruction of habitat (with the conversion of hardwoods into farmland and excessive logging), Arkansas now has miles of protected bottomlands and swamps that buffer against humans. The state began restocking bears in the 1950s, importing bears from Minnesota and Manitoba. During a program that lasted more than 10 years, 254 bears were released into the Ouachita Mountains of the west and southwest. Gradually the population rebounded from the brink of extinction and today there are about 3,000 bears, virtually all descended from northern ancestors. Maine
Maine's 23,000 bears constitute the largest concentration of black bears in the eastern United States. Hunting seasons are long (Aug. 31-Nov. 28 for the general season, Aug. 31-Sept. 26 for the baiting season, and Sept. 14-Oct. 30 for the dog-hunting season). Permits cost $27 for residents and $67 for nonresidents. Each year hunters take a few thousand bears from arguably the least-threatened population in the country. The state's relatively harsh climate and remote inland habitat along the spine of the Appalachians ensures the bears' future. Michigan
More than 19,000 bears live in Michigan, and bear hunting is wildly popular. More than 12,000 bear licenses were issued last year; more than 55,000 hunters applied for them. Bear hunting takes place in mid-September in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and from Sept. 10 through Oct. 26 in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan's bear population has grown substantially in recent years, especially in the U.P., where about 85 percent of bears reside. Bear populations in both Peninsulas are believed to be stable or growing, and an increasing number of bear observations in the southern part of the L.P. indicating that bears are migrating into the farm country. Until 1925, when the legislature instituted hunting seasons, people could kill Michigan bears at any time and by any means. Though the U.P.'s population was never in jeopardy, the same couldn't be said for the L.P. until bears gained the status of big-game animals. Minnesota
The bear population has declined moderately in recent years, but other than reducing the amount of hunting licenses slightly, wildlife managers aren't worried that a trend is developing. More than 2,000 bears are harvested each fall (the 2009 season runs Sept. 1-Oct. 18) and 10,000 permits will be available in 2009. Missouri
The best guess is that a few hundred bears live in the Show-Me State, the majority of them in the Ozarks south of I-44. Bears have been sighted as far north as Hannibal, but the counties where the most sightings occur are in Carter, Ripley, Reynolds, Howell, Ozark, Barry, Taney, Christian, Stone and Douglas. As is the case elsewhere, Missouri's comeback story depends largely on how bears fare in the vast tracts of state and national forests. Signs are encouraging. In February, a man riding a horse in the Busiek State Forest in Christian County reported encountering a sow with two yearling cubs &emdash; an obviously positive sign. New Jersey
Black bears are present in all 21 counties of this, the most densely populated state. The northwest corner of New Jersey, in the Catskill foothills, supports the largest number of bears. No hunting is currently allowed, and the annual political battle over bear hunting in the state is as predictable as fall weather. New York
Between 6,000 and 7,000 black bears roam the state, mainly in what are known as the Northern and Southern Bear Ranges. The Adirondack region (in the Northern Bear Range) supports the largest black bear population in the state (4,000 to 5,000 animals) the Catskill region in the Southern Bear Range contains the second largest population (1,500 to 2,000). Elsewhere, the Allegany portion of the Southern Bear Range has a smaller but growing population of bears (300-500). As is the case elsewhere in the eastern U.S., only fall hunting is allowed and a few hundred bears are taken annually. The population is healthy and expanding in numbers and range. North Carolina
Excepting the central part of the state, where the human population continues to expand, bears are faring well. The western mountains still constitute the best hunting area, but bears are migrating to the counties of the coastal plains, as nuisance complaints suggest. Pennsylvania
There were only about 4,000 bears left in Pennsylvania by the 1970s; today there are more than three times that number. Hunters annually take about 2,250 bears on average, and the past seven years have seen the state's largest bear harvests. Pike, Monroe and Carbon counties typically produce the most bears for hunters, but bear hunting is consistently good in open areas and national or state forests in the Allegheny region. South Carolina
Bears inhabit the three mountain counties adjoining North Carolina or Georgia &emdash; Greenville, Oconee and Pickens &emdash; and though bear hunting is not considered a major sport in the state, hunters do kill a couple of dozen bears each fall during an abbreviated season. Bears are becoming more numerous in coastal counties, as reflected in the growing number of nuisance bear complaints and auto collision reports. Tennessee
The prognosis is good for Tennessee's bears, which wander in and out of Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and South Carolina. The bulk of the population resides in 11 eastern counties. Hunters there tag a few hundred bears each fall. Virginia
In Virginia, most black bears inhabit the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains or are in the coastal Great Dismal Swamp, but they have been reported in all except the far eastern counties. The stability of the population is reflected in last fall's hunting tally, when hunters in 64 counties took a record 2,204 bears. The harvest was 35 percent higher than the previous record of 1,633 bears set in the 2006-07 bear seasons. In effect, Virginia's bear harvest has been growing at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent. West Virginia
As was the case in Virginia, West Virginia hunters notched a record year when they took 2,064 bears in 2008. That's a 14 percent increase over the previous record of 1,804 bears killed in 2007. The huge Monogahela National Forest along the eastern border with Virginia, and the western mountains adjoining Kentucky, are prime bear country. "Numerous factors contributed to the record harvest," noted Chris Ryan, the black bear project leader for the Division of Natural Resources. "Mainly it's because West Virginia has a tremendous bear population that allows for a variety of different hunting opportunities. The expansion and increase in the bear population has led to the extension of hunting seasons designed to keep counties in line with their management objectives." Wisconsin
About 13,000 bears live here, most of them in the northern third of the state. However, an increase in sighting reports in the central and southern counties suggests that the population is spreading outside the northern timberlands. More tightly controlled hunting regulations, established in 1986, are cited as the biggest reason why Wisconsin's bear population has almost tripled since then. Nuisances, Though Not Usually Dangerous
Allowing hunters to shoot bears is more than just a management tool in the East; killing a few thousand bears out of a national population estimated to top 600,000 animals might help save the species. Bears are opportunistic omnivores that don't depend on killing to survive, but tooth and claw, they have the tools to do so. To humans, they're somewhere between harmless and dangerous. When black bears come into contact with humans, the outcome is usually no more than a Kodak moment. But not always.
Increased encounters with humans doesn't always end in a Kodak moment.
Each year, hundreds of hikers set out from either end of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, and many of them will have unpleasant encounters with black bears. The start of hiking season almost has become a spring ritual for the bruins. In their feast-or-famine world, hikers are the bearers of gourmet gifts, one backpack at a time. Whether they set out from Maine or north Georgia, heading south or north, backpackers are cautioned not to keep food in their tents when they bunk down for the night. That suits the bears just fine. Often they figure out how to get to food that wasn't hoisted high enough into a tree to be unreachable. The bears come out of their winter dens lean and hungry. In March, a 6-mile section of the Trail in Georgia between Neels Gap and Tesnatee Gap was closed to hikers because of emboldened bears. An estimated 1,500 bears live in the north Georgia mountains, and though most of them keep to themselves, there are occasions when the bruins pay the ultimate price for treating hikers and campers as a food source. A bear might be trapped and relocated if it shows up in somebody's campsite. If it makes the same mistake twice, it might pay the ultimate price. Wildlife managers throughout the southern Appalachians began taking a harder line with black bears after a female hiker was killed in 2000, and a 6-year-old girl was mauled to death in April 2006. Both deaths occurred in eastern Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. "We're no longer putting a bear back out there after recapturing it again and again for the same offense," says Scott Frazier, a biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "Georgia's bear management plan was changed last year to reflect the modern thinking that sometimes euthanasia is necessary." Part of that thinking no doubt was based on a troubling trend reflected in recent bear attacks. Though it once was generally accepted that grizzly or brown bears were more dangerous to humans than black bears, biologists aren't so sure any more. Of the 24 bear attacks since 2000 that were fatal to humans, 15 of them involved black bears. Dangerous animals that become habituated to people and human traffic pose a greater threat than those that only occasionally, or perhaps never, come into contact with a hiker or hunter. A predator, whether cougar or bear, carries no genetic memory of people. Rather, it is something learned through experience. Hunters who frequent bear camps where bait entices bears to within shooting range know that the animals associate human scents with food, not danger. Hunters are cautioned to do whatever it takes to keep a bear from climbing up to their tree stands. Even a bear that's only curious about the thing in the tree can swipe at a hunter's leg and open a vein. Though more than half of all nuisance black bear reports involve bears rummaging through garbage cans or robbing bird feeders or pet food bowls, it's no comfort to those who have been attacked, or who have lost loved ones to bears. No doubt the mother of the 5-month-old infant who was snatched from its stroller and killed by a black bear in August 2000 in New York's Catskills has a different perspective. Bears are neither good nor bad; they're opportunistic wild animals. And in the rough-and-tumble world they inhabit, their rules for survival trump everything.
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April 28, 2009, Times Herald Record: Belleayre brings in Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mary Wilson Festival: announces summer series

Belleayre brings in Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mary Wilson, more
Festival announces summer series

link to complete article is here: http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090428/ENTERTAIN/90428023

Ladysmith Black Mambazo.www.mambazo.com

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The Belleayre Music Festival has announced its summer concert series, and there are many good shows to see.

Among those playing this year are South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, band leader of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Kevin Eubanks, Mary Wilson of the original Supremes and the Original Wailers.

Belleayre is at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, Route 28, Highmount, NY. For more information, visit www.belleayremusic.org or call 1-800-942-6904.

 

Bellayre Music Festival schedule

Saturday, July 4 - 8 p.m.
West Point Jazz Band Knights
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, July 11 - 8 p.m.
Michael Feinstein
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, July 18 - 8 p.m.
John Covelli and Justin Kolb
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, July 25 - 8 p.m.
Festival Opera - Die Fledermaus
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Sunday, July 26 - 1 p.m.
Humpty Dumpty - Children9s Opera - Free
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Aug. 1 - 8 p.m.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Friday, Aug. 7 - 8 p.m.
Catskill Mountain Jazz Series
Pablo Ziegler - Trio for Nuevo Tango
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Aug. 8 - 8 p.m.
Catskill Mountain Jazz Series
Leny Andrade
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Friday, Aug. 14 - 8 p.m.
Catskill Mountain Jazz Series
Kevin Mahogany
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Aug. 15 - 8 p.m.
Catskill Mountain Jazz Series
Kevin Eubanks
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Aug. 22 - 8 p.m.
The Original Wailers
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Sunday, Aug. 23 - 1 p.m.
Uncle Rock9s Family Party
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Aug. 29 - 8 p.m.
Mary Wilson of the Supremes
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

Saturday, Sept. 5 - 8 p.m.
ABBA
The Tour
Belleayre Music Festival, Route 28, Highmount, NY. (800) 942-6904, ext. 1344.
E-mail: [email protected] www.belleayremusic.org

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April 28, 2009, Albany Times Union: Invasive algae found in third water body The Esopus creek contains harmful "rock snot"

Invasive algae found in third water body
The Esopus creek trout stream found to contain harmful "rock snot"
 link is to complete article is here: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=794567
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
SHANDAKEN — Another of the state's premier trout streams now contains an invasive algae with the unappealing nickname of "rock snot," according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Esopus creek in Ulster County is the third water body in the state to contain Didymosphenia geminata — a woolly-textured, gooey brown algae that can cover stream bottoms and damage fish habitat.

In 2007, rock snot turned up in the Battenkill, another well-known trout stream, in Washington County, and in the East and West branches of the upper Delaware River in the Southern Tier.

It is likely the algae was brought to the Esopus by an angler or other regular user of the creek, said Steve Sanford, head of DEC's Invasive Species Office. The Esopus is also popular for kayaking and tubing.

Because it is not possible to eradicate rock snot from a stream, the only way to stop its spread is by the cleaning of microscopic algae from boots, boats and other gear after leaving the water, Sanford said. "We have got to change people's habits," he said.

So far, Sanford said, the algae outbreaks in the Battenkill and Delaware have had only minor impacts on fish habitat — although that could change if the outbreaks spread.

Once in a creek, the algae grips rocks along the bottom, growing into thick, smothering mats that eliminate fly larvae and other small invertebrates eaten by trout and other fish. The growths, which can reach up to a foot thick, also can cover fish spawning grounds.

"It is a major concern for all of our streams in the state. We have to get the word out to take precautions," said Ron Urban, state chairman of Trout Unlimited, who said he has been spraying his fishing waders with a marine disinfectant to kill any algae.

The Esopus is one of the most productive wild trout streams in the Northeast. Most of its fish are wild rainbow trout and brown trout, and the state also stocks the stream with hatchery-raised browns.

DEC found the algae in the vicinity of several public access sites along a 12-mile stretch of the Esopus from the "Shandaken Portal" — which transfers water to the Esopus from Schoharie Reservoir — to New York City's Ashokan Reservoir.

Rock snot mats look like brown or white fiberglass insulation or tissue paper; while it appears slimy and stringy, it feels rough and fibrous, similar to wet wool and does not fall apart when handled.

Over the last two years, the algae has been found in the White and Connecticut rivers in Vermont and New Hampshire, after already contaminating rivers in Arkansas, Tennessee, South Dakota and Montana, as well as British Columbia and Poland. Believed to be native to far northern regions of Europe and Asia, the algae has been on the move into warmer, more nutrient-rich water.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at [email protected].

Block that algae:

Rock snot, or Didymosphenia geminata, an invasive algae that chokes trout streams, has appeared in the Esopus Creek in Ulster County. Steps to stop algae spread include removing obvious clumps of it from gear immediately upon leaving the water.

Items that may have been in contact with algae can be scrubbed for at least one minute in water of at least 140 degrees, a 2 percent solution of household bleach or a 5 percent solution of salt, antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent. Gear also can be placed in a freezer until frozen solid. If items cannot be cleaned or frozen, they must be completely dried and kept out of the water for an additional 48 hours to be safe. Any gear that has been used out of state should be treated before being put into state waters.

Source: State Department of Environmental Conservation

Block that algae:

Rock snot, or Didymosphenia geminata, an invasive algae that chokes trout streams, has appeared in the Esopus Creek in Ulster County. Steps to stop algae spread include removing obvious clumps of it from gear immediately upon leaving the water.

Items that may have been in contact with algae can be scrubbed for at least one minute in water of at least 140 degrees, a 2 percent solution of household bleach or a 5 percent solution of salt, antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent. Gear also can be placed in a freezer until frozen solid. If items cannot be cleaned or frozen, they must be completely dried and kept out of the water for an additional 48 hours to be safe. Any gear that has been used out of state should be treated before being put into state waters.

Source: State Department of Environmental Conservation

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April 28, 2009, Press Release: STREAMBANK MANAGEMENT Conserving Open Space & Managing Growth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 28, 2009

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Glenn Pontier at 845-295-2442 ([email protected])

 

 

 

Sullivan Renaissance Seminar:

 

STREAMBANK MANAGEMENT

 

Conserving Open Space & Managing Growth

 

 

 

[FERNDALE] – Sullivan Renaissance is holding a seminar that will offer “Streambank Management Solutions” on Wednesday, May 6th at 7:00 p.m. in the CVI Building. 

 

The seminar will focus on stream management issues, including tools to minimize erosion and reduce the impacts of storm water runoff.  Presenters include:

 

·         Mark Vian, Restoration Ecologist with NYC Department of Environmental Protection

·         Brian Brustman, Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District

·         Linda Babicz, Town of Callicoon Supervisor

 

“Streambank Management Solutions” is part of a series of workshops scheduled throughout this year, designed to explain the new county open space plan, illustrate how it can be used at the local level, and explore many of the plan topics in more detail.

 

Called Conserving Open Space & Managing Growth: A Strategy for Sullivan County, this plan was created in partnership with Sullivan Renaissance and adopted by the Sullivan County Legislature in December 2008. 

 

Space is limited, pre-registration is requested.  Refreshments will be provided.

 

Sullivan Renaissance is a beautification and community development program principally funded by the Gerry Foundation.  Additional funding has been secured by NYS Senator John J. Bonacic and Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther.  Sponsorships have been provided by WSUL/WVOS for Category A projects and by Bold Gold Media Group/Thunder 102 for Category B projects.

 

To register and for more information, call Sullivan Renaissance at 845-295-2445 or visit the website address at www.sullivanrenaissance.org.

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April 26, 2009, ProPublica: Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling

http://www.propublica.org/feature/officials-in-three-states-pin-water-woes-on-gas-drilling-426

Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - April 26, 2009 7:00 am EDT
Pat Farnelli, top left, Ronald Carter, bottom left, Richard Seymour, top right, and Norma Fiorentino, bottom right, live in Dimock, Pa. A year after Cabot Oil & Gas landmen knocked on their doors to sign drilling leases, they are finding that their drinking water now contains methane, the largest component of natural gas. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
Pat Farnelli, top left, Ronald Carter, bottom left, Richard Seymour, top right, and Norma Fiorentino, bottom right, live in Dimock, Pa. A year after Cabot Oil & Gas landmen knocked on their doors to sign drilling leases, they are finding that their drinking water now contains methane, the largest component of natural gas. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Norma Fiorentino's drinking water well was a time bomb. For weeks, workers in her small northeastern Pennsylvania town had been plumbing natural gas deposits from a drilling rig a few hundred yards away. They cracked the earth and pumped in fluids to force the gas out. Somehow, stray gas worked into tiny crevasses in the rock, leaking upward into the aquifer and slipping quietly into Fiorentino's well. Then, according to the state's working theory, a motorized pump turned on in her well house, flicked a spark and caused a New Year's morning blast that tossed aside a concrete slab weighing several thousand-pounds.

Fiorentino wasn't home at the time, so it's difficult to know exactly what happened. But afterward state officials found methane, the largest component of natural gas, in her drinking water. If the fumes that built up in her well house had collected in her basement, the explosion could have killed her.

Dimock, the poverty-stricken enclave where Fiorentino lives, is ground zero for drilling the Marcellus Shale, a prized deposit of natural gas that is increasingly touted as one of the country's most abundant and cleanest alternatives to oil. The drilling here -- as in other parts of the nation -- is supposed to be a boon, bringing much-needed jobs and millions of dollars in royalties to cash-strapped homeowners.

But a string of documented cases of gas escaping into drinking water -- not just in Pennsylvania but across North America -- is raising new concerns about the hidden costs of this economic tide and strengthening arguments across the country that drilling can put drinking water at risk.

Near Cleveland, Ohio, an entire house exploded in late 2007 after gas seeped into its water well. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources later issued a 153-page report [1] (PDF) that blamed a nearby gas well's faulty concrete casing and hydraulic fracturing [2] -- a deep-drilling process that shoots millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground under explosive pressure -- for pushing methane into an aquifer and causing the explosion.

In Dimock several drinking water wells have exploded and nine others were found with so much gas that one homeowner was told to open a window if he planned to take a bath. Dishes showed metallic streaks that couldn't be washed off and tests also showed high amounts of aluminum and iron, prompting fears that drilling fluids might be contaminating the water along with the gas. In February the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection charged Cabot Oil & Gas with two violations that it says caused the contamination, theorizing that gas leaked from the well casing into fractures underground.

An underground gas line in Dimock, Pa. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
An underground gas line in Dimock, Pa. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Industry representatives say methane contamination incidents are statistically insignificant, considering that 452,000 wells produced gas in the United States last year. They also point out that methane doesn't necessarily come from gas wells -- it's common in nature and can leak into water from biological processes near the surface, like rotting plants.

The industry also defends its construction technology, saying it keeps gas and drilling fluids -- including any chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing -- safely trapped in layers of steel and concrete. Even if some escapes, they say, thousands of feet of rock make it almost impossible for it to migrate into drinking water aquifers. When an accident happens, the blame can usually be traced to a lone bad apple -- some contractor who didn't follow regulations, they say. Those arguments helped the gas drilling industry win rare exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act when Congress enacted the 2005 Energy Policy Act [3].

But now an exhaustive examination of the methane problem in western Colorado is offering a strong scientific repudiation of that argument. Released in December by Garfield County, one of the most intensely drilled areas in the nation, the report concludes that gas drilling has degraded water in dozens of water wells [4] (PDF).

The three-year study used sophisticated scientific techniques to match methane from water to the same rock layer where gas companies are drilling -- a mile and a half underground. The scientists didn't determine which gas wells caused the problem or say exactly how the gas reached the water, but they indicated with more clarity than ever before that a system of interconnected natural fractures and faults could stretch from deep underground gas layers to the surface. They called for more research into how the industry's practice of forcefully fracturing those deep layers might increase the risk of contaminants making their way up into an aquifer.

"It challenges the view that natural gas, and the suite of hydrocarbons that exist around it, is isolated from water supplies by its extreme depth," said Judith Jordan, the oil and gas liaison for Garfield County who has worked as a hydrogeologist with DuPont and as a lawyer with Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection. "It is highly unlikely that methane would have migrated through natural faults and fractures and coincidentally arrived in domestic wells at the same time oil and gas development started, after having been down there ...for over 65 million years."

The Garfield County analysis comes as Congress considers legislation that would toughen environmental oversight of drilling and reverse the exemptions enjoyed by the gas companies. Colorado has already overhauled its own oil and gas regulations, despite stiff resistance from the energy industry. The new rules, which went into effect earlier this month, strengthen protections against, among other things, methane contamination.

Drinking water with methane, the largest component of natural gas, isn't necessarily harmful. The gas itself isn't toxic -- the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't even regulate it -- and it escapes from water quickly, like bubbles in a soda.

But the gas becomes dangerous when it evaporates out of the water and into peoples' homes, where it can become flammable. It can also suffocate those who breathe it. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as the concentration of gas increases it can cause headaches, then nausea, brain damage and eventually death.

Under Pressure

The carefully documented accident in Ohio in December 2007 offers a step-by-step example of what can happen when drilling goes wrong.

A spark ignited the natural gas that had collected in the basement of Richard and Thelma Payne's suburban Cleveland home, shattering windows, blowing doors 20 feet from their hinges and igniting a small fire in a violent flash. The Paynes were jolted out of bed, and their house lifted clear off the ground.

Fearing another explosion, firefighters evacuated 19 homes in the small town of Bainbridge. Somehow, gas had seeped into the drinking water aquifer and then migrated up through the plumbing.

Gas had shown up in water in this part of Ohio in the past. In 2003 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated nearby residents' complaints of "dizziness," "blacking out," "rashes," "swelling of legs" and "elevated blood pressure" related to exposure to methane through bathing, dishwashing and drinking. That study concluded that gas in the area could migrate through underground fractures and said that "combustible gases, including methane, in private well water present an urgent public health hazard."

According to Scott Kell, deputy chief of Ohio's Division of Natural Resources, those earlier instances were determined to have had nothing to do with drilling activity. But by the time the Paynes' house exploded four years later, the Natural Resources Department had begun to aggressively monitor for gas and this time it suspected a clearer link to drilling: It all had to do with how a well is constructed.

Called GEsford 3, this well is adjacent to Dimock resident Pat Farnelli's house. There have been complications in drilling that well, including a drill bit that clogged the well for weeks, forcing them to have to drill a new hole. That is one of the possible causes being considered for the contamination in Farnell's drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
Called GEsford 3, this well is adjacent to Dimock resident Pat Farnelli's house. There have been complications in drilling that well, including a drill bit that clogged the well for weeks, forcing them to have to drill a new hole. That is one of the possible causes being considered for the contamination in Farnell's drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

To reach natural gas, a well bore is drilled into the earth through dozens of geologic formations stacked like layers in a cake, until the bore reaches the layer holding gas. In Ohio, gas is produced from almost 3,700 feet, or three-quarters of a mile, below. In Colorado or Pennsylvania, wells can be a mile or two deep -- far below drinking water aquifers.

In many geologic regions, the deeper gas-bearing layers are under extraordinary pressure from the weight of earth and water above, but that pressure normally is contained by thousands of feet of leak proof rock that separate the gas from the surface. When a drill bit sinks down, though, the tight seal of each geologic layer is broken and the pressure is released, forcing water, gas or oil into the newly opened pathway. That’s how an oil well can become a gushing geyser.

To keep the gas and drilling fluids from leaking into the natural environment, drilling companies insert as many as three concentric rings of steel pipes inside the well bore to isolate what flows through them. When the bore passes through areas where extra protection is needed -- such as drinking water aquifers -- concrete is pumped into the gap between the rings of pipe to ensure an impenetrable seal. Most states, including Ohio, require these measures in part to protect drinking water.

"That's pretty much the holy grail, good and proper cementing and casing," said Michael Nickolaus, former director of Indiana's Department of Natural Resources, Oil and Gas Division and special projects director for the Ground Water Protection Council, a group of scientists and state regulators that studies industries' impacts on water. Nickolaus added that if these zones are properly isolated from one another, the issue of groundwater contamination, whether from gas or hydraulic fracturing, goes away.

The investigation into the explosion at the Paynes' home found that a drilling company working nearby had failed to properly build that protective concrete casing and had continued to process the well despite warning signs that should have alerted it to stop. Six weeks before the explosion, the company, Ohio Valley Energy Systems, pumped concrete into the well casing. But it couldn't fill the gap, evidence that somewhere a crack was allowing the concrete to seep into the space between the pipes, and probably out into the surrounding earth.

If the concrete could leak, then so could drilling fluids -- or the gas itself.

A week later, "despite the fact that the cement behind the casing was insufficient by standard industry practice," according to the state's report [1] (PDF), the company began hydraulic fracturing. More than 46,000 gallons of water, sand and chemicals were pumped into the well bore with enough force to crack the rock and release the gas.

Again, the drillers saw signs of a leak in the well. The company tried to recover as much of the leaking fluid as possible, but the state report said at least 1,000 gallons of fracturing fluid, including about 150 gallons of oil, disappeared into the space between the well pipes and possibly out into the ground.

Finally, the company shut down the well. But the underlying pressurized gas formation had already been punctured, and its contents were trying to escape. The gas collected inside the well for the next 31 days, until 360 pounds of pressure built against the valve at the top. It was enough, state investigators wrote, to force the gas out of the well bore by any means it could find.

"This overpressurized condition resulted in invasion of natural gas from the annulus of the well into natural fractures in the bedrock below the base of the cemented surface casing," the report states, adding that it was the first time anything like this had been confirmed in Ohio.

Ohio Valley Energy Systems did not return calls for comment on the state's findings.

On Dec. 12, three days before the Paynes' house exploded, methane was detected in the Bainbridge Police Department's water well, 4,700 feet from the gas well in question. Two days later nearby residents reported sediment in their water and artesian conditions in their wells, meaning the water was spurting out under pressure. By the next morning the gas -- still seeking an outlet -- had forced its way into Richard Payne's basement, where it reached a flammable concentration. All it needed was a spark.

Science Blames Drilling

Dimock resident Norma Fiorentino's drinking water well was a time bomb. On New Year's morning, her well exploded. After the blast, state officials found methane in her drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
Dimock resident Norma Fiorentino's drinking water well was a time bomb. On New Year's morning, her well exploded. After the blast, state officials found methane in her drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

As regulators in Ohio struggled to reconcile what was happening there, officials in Garfield County, Colo., were waiting for the results of the three-part, three-year study examining the connections between methane leaks and drilling there.

The report is significant because it is among the first to broadly analyze the ability of contaminants to migrate underground in drilling areas, and to find that such contamination was in fact occurring. It examined over 700 methane samples from 292 locations and found that methane, as well as wastewater from the drilling, was making its way into drinking water not as a result of a single accident but on a broader basis.

As the number of gas wells in the area increased from 200 to 1,300 in this decade, the methane levels in nearby water wells increased too. The study found that natural faults and fractures exist in underground formations in Colorado, and that it may be possible for contaminants to travel through them.

Conditions that could be responsible include "vertical upward flow" "along natural open-fracture pathways or pathways such as well-bores or hydraulically-opened fractures," states the section of the report done by S.S. Papadopulos and Associates [5] (PDF), a Maryland-based environmental engineering firm specializing in groundwater hydrology.

The researchers did not conclude that gas and fluids were migrating directly from the deep pockets of gas the industry was extracting. In fact, they said it was more likely that the gas originated from a weakness somewhere along the well's structure. But the discovery of so much natural fracturing, combined with fractures made by the drilling process, raises questions about how all those cracks interact with the well bore and whether they could be exacerbating the groundwater contamination.

"One thing that is most striking is in the area where there are large vertical faults you see a much higher instance of water wells being affected," said Geoffrey Thyne, the hydrogeologist who wrote the report's summary and conclusion [4] (PDF). He is a senior research scientist at the University of Wyoming's Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute [6], a pro-extraction group dedicated to tapping into hard-to-reach energy reserves.

The report, referred to as the Garfield County Hydrogeologic Study, has been met with cautious silence by the industry and by its regulators.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state's regulatory body, would not respond to questions from ProPublica because it hasn't thoroughly analyzed the data behind the December report, said its director, David Neslin.

Neither the Colorado Oil and Gas Association nor Encana, the Canadian energy company that drills in the study area, would comment on the Garfield County report. Both referred questions to Anthony Gorody, a Houston-based geochemist who specializes in oil and gas issues and frequently is employed by the energy industry.

Gorody dismissed the report's conclusions as "junk science."

"This is so out of whack. There are a handful of wells that have problems. These are rare events," said Gorody, president of Universal Geosciences Consulting. "They are like plane crashes -- the extent tends to be fairly limited. I do not see any pervasive impact."

Most of the methane in the study area, Gorody said, came from decaying matter near the surface -- not from the deep gas produced by the energy industry. He criticized the report's methodology, saying the way that researchers linked the stray gas with the deep gas formations was speculative at best.

To Dimock resident Pat Farnelli, seen here pointing to the drilling rig in her backyard, the promise of making money off her family's land came at just the right time. But perhaps not at the right price. Now she spends more than $100 of her monthly food stamp allotment to buy plastic jugs of drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
To Dimock resident Pat Farnelli, seen here pointing to the drilling rig in her backyard, the promise of making money off her family's land came at just the right time. But perhaps not at the right price. Now she spends more than $100 of her monthly food stamp allotment to buy plastic jugs of drinking water. (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)

Thyne, standing by his report, said researchers had traced the origin of the gas by conducting the equivalent of a forensic investigation, analyzing its isotopic signature, or molecular fingerprint. The molecular structure showed that most of it was thermogenic, meaning it matched the deeply buried deposit where gas was being drilled, called the Williams Fork Formation. A minority of the samples were difficult to identify by this method, so Thyne used another scientific process to study them. He is confident they, too, were thermogenic in origin.

In most cases, the study couldn't pinpoint the exact pathway the contaminants had used to travel a mile and a half up into the drinking water aquifer. So Thyne could only reason the possibilities.

The methane could be seeping into water wells through natural fractures, he said, or through leaks in the well casings or concrete, or from the well heads.

When a pipe extends 8,000 feet below the earth's surface, he said, "there are numerous potential leak points along the way. So is it leaking at 8,000 feet and coming up a well bore, a natural fault or fracture? Or is it leaking 500 feet from the surface? We don’t know."

The most plausible explanation, Thyne said, is that the same type of well casing and cementing issues that had proved problematic in Ohio were presenting problems in Colorado too.

"The thesis is that because of the way the wells are designed they could be a conduit," said Garfield County's Jordan, who commissioned the report.

Jordan worries that the methane leaks could be a sign of worse to come.

"We suspect the methane would be the most mobile constituent that would come out of the gas fields. Our concern is that it's a sort of sentinel, and there are going to be worse contaminants behind it," she said. "It's not just sitting down there as pure CH4 (methane). It's in a whole bath of hydrocarbons," she said, and some of those "can be problematic."

'You Can't Buy a Good Well'

When landmen from Cabot Oil & Gas came knocking on doors along the rutted dirt grade of Carter Road in Dimock, Pa., last year they sold a promise many residents in the farming community were eager to hear: Sign a gas lease and the land might finally pay for itself.

Many of Dimock's 1,300 residents had fallen on hard times. Approximately one in seven were out of work, and more than a few homes were perched on the precipice of foreclosure.

Cabot offered $25 an acre for the right to drill for five years, plus royalties when the gas started flowing. To outsiders it might seem a small amount, but it would make an immediate difference to people who owned fields but few other assets.

"It seemed like God's provenance," said Pat Farnelli, whose husband, a farmer, had taken a job as a night chef at a diner on the Interstate to pay one more month's mortgage. The day Cabot's man showed up -- with a wide-brim hat and a Houston drawl -- the Farnellis mistook him for a debt collector. "We really were having a rough time right then -- that day. We thought it was salvation. Any ray of hope here is a big deal."

Richard Seymour, seen here with his wife Wendy, runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is now running red and turbid and bubbles with so much gas that he fears he'll lose his agricultural certification. (Abrahm Lustgarten)
Richard Seymour, seen here with his wife Wendy, runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is now running red and turbid and bubbles with so much gas that he fears he'll lose his agricultural certification. (Abrahm Lustgarten)

That was more than a year ago, and since then Cabot -- which earned close to a billion dollars in revenue last year -- has drilled 20 wells and is producing $58 million worth of gas there annually. In its annual report Cabot bullishly called the Dimock field a once-in-a-lifetime "game changing event" [7] (PDF) for the company and announced it would drill 63 more wells there next year.

The wealth has begun trickling down to the residents of Dimock. A few will earn more than a half-million dollars this year, and bimonthly checks for $6,000 are not uncommon. Cabot and its contractors also support the local economy by hiring local labor and patronizing hotels and restaurants in nearby towns.

But the water contamination is forcing the people who live there to accept a difficult compromise.

"You have to evaluate which is more important, the money or the water," said a Dimock resident who declined to be named because he doesn't want to antagonize Cabot, which he says will pay him more than $600,000 this year for the wells on his property. "The economy is so tough. Suppose you could stop drilling -- no one wants Cabot to go away."

For some, though, the benefits can be easily erased.

Norma Fiorentino, whose well exploded on New Year's morning, got just $97 in royalties in February. Now a part of her monthly $646 Social Security check goes to buy water. "You can't buy a good well," she said.

Down the road, Pat Farnelli spends more than $100 of her monthly food stamp allotment to buy plastic jugs of drinking water. Next door, Ronald Carter paid $7,000 to install two water treatment systems for his family, then learned they won't remove the gas.

Cabot has begun voluntarily supplying water to at least five homes in Dimock, a gesture the company says does not mean it has acknowledged fault. "For now Cabot is simply trying to do the right thing while studies are being performed and data is being obtained," said Kenneth Komoroski, Cabot's spokesman.

Others have yet to get any aid.

"This isn't something that people should be living with," said Craig Lobins, the regional oil and gas manager for Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection. "It's serious."

Pennsylvania's DEP places responsibility for the contamination squarely on Cabot.

In January the DEP blamed the company for polluting one water well. Then in late February it sent Cabot a list of violations [8] (PDF) it said led to methane seepage in other area wells. Investigators think the seepage was caused by a weakness in the well casing or an improper cementing job, much like what had been reported in Colorado and Ohio. The good news was that they found no evidence that any of the hydraulic fracturing fluids had leaked into well water.

Komoroski, the Cabot spokesman, said it's too early to conclude the company is responsible for contaminating Dimock's wells.

He said Cabot has hired an expert who is still investigating exactly what happened in the case.

"The DEP's letter was premature," Komoroski said, "It is possible that Cabot is responsible. It's possible it is not. That's what we hired a hydrogeologist to help us determine."

Cabot has since cemented the entire length of its well casings in Dimock -- a safeguard similar to what has been prescribed in Ohio and Colorado -- and believes that measure, which is more extensive than state regulations require, will solve the problem.

Yet the DEP sees no need to require such precautions at all the state's wells, because what is happening in Dimock is "an anomaly."

"Last year we permitted 8,000 wells, and this may be the only incident that occurred," said the DEP's Lobins. "You can't cover every possible scenario that you could encounter out there, so when the regulations are crafted it addresses the ones that will be most protective of 99.9 percent of the wells."

Industry spokesmen also oppose making the precautionary cementing practices mandatory.

"For one thing it is very costly," said Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. "At the same time if you try to put in too much cement you can risk collapsing the well. So it's drawing a balance between protecting the groundwater" and "protecting the well that you are constructing."

At the bottom of the hill on Carter Road, Richard Seymour runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is running red and turbid and bubbles with so much gas that he fears he'll lose that agricultural certification. If there's a technology, like cementing, that can protect his water, then shouldn't it be required in every case, he asks?

"We feel pretty alone on this, pretty frustrated," Seymour said. "I assumed the DEP, EPA, the state -- the government -- would protect our land. We didn't know that as a landowner the burden was on us."

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April 26, 2009, Schenectady Gazzette: John Burroughs enjoyed beauty, solitude at his Catskills retreat, Woodchuck Lodge

Daily Gazette article
Sunday, April 26, 2009

By Bill Buell

Naturalist and essayist John Burroughs enjoyed beauty, solitude at his Catskills retreat, Woodchuck Lodge

Photo of
Joe Farleigh, a tour guide at Woodchuck Lodge, home to American naturalist John Burroughs, stands on the front steps of the building, built in 1862.

— John Burroughs enjoyed communing with nature as well as anyone, and he wrote about it better than most.

A naturalist and essayist whose writing helped spark the American conservation movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Burroughs enjoyed the popularity of a rock star for more than three decades up until his death in 1921 just a few days shy of his 84th birthday.

He died on a train returning home to Woodchuck Lodge in his beloved Catskills following a cross-country trip. While he loved the Rocky Mountains and toured the West with the likes of fellow naturalist John Muir and U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, Burroughs was synonymous with the Catskills.

Woodchuck Lodge, his home for the last 10 years of his life, and his burial site, both about two miles off Route 30 in the town of Roxbury, are great places to visit for those interested in Burroughs and for anyone who loves to experience the Catskill Mountains.

Pretty popular guy

“He was a self-taught scientist and a very accessible writer,” said Diane Galusha, president of the board of trustees of Woodchuck Lodge Inc., the nonprofit group that maintains Burroughs’ residence. “That made him a pretty popular guy, and to get away from people and find some solitude he moved to this beautiful spot in 1910.”

Woodchuck Lodge, which is a few miles inside Delaware County from Schoharie County, is open to the public only on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month, beginning in May and running through October. Docents are available to give visitors a tour of the wooden house on those days, but if you can’t make it that first weekend of the month, you’re welcome to drive about 100 yards farther up Burroughs Memorial Road and stop at Burroughs Memorial Field. A state-run historic site, Burroughs Memorial Field is where Burroughs is buried next to the big rock he used to play around when he was a child.

This Saturday at 11 a.m., Tom Alworth, a Burroughs scholar and the deputy commissioner for natural resources with the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, will give a short lecture at the site and dedicate a new outdoor exhibit documenting Burroughs’ life and legacy.

Burroughs grew up another mile or two up the road from where Woodchuck Lodge is. He is the seventh of 10 children of Chauncey and Amy Kelly Burroughs. He was apparently the only one in his family with intellectual interests, and he later wrote that when he was a young man of 16, he was “a callow youth, being jerked by the plough handles, but with my head in a cloud of alluring daydreams.”

Living in Washington

At 17, Burroughs earned enough money teaching at Tongore School, a bit further south in the Catskills, to gain some further education at Ashland’s Hedding Literary Institute and the Cooperstown Seminary. He had numerous teaching jobs, married Ursula North in 1857, and moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked in the U.S. Treasury throughout the Civil War. It was in Washington that he met Walt Whitman.

“He struggled trying to replicate what [Ralph Waldo] Emerson and other writers had produced, and Whitman told him to write what he knew,” said Galusha. “He told him to write about things that were dear to him, and that’s when Burroughs began to find his own voice.”

Burroughs and his wife returned to the Catskills in 1874 when he got a job as a bank examiner in Middletown. Three years earlier, in 1871, his essay, “Wake-Robin,” began gaining him some notoriety, and with the extra money he was making as a writer, he built a home along the Hudson River he named Riverby by the middle of the decade. About 20 years later, to escape his ever-increasing fame, Burroughs built an “escape” up in the mountains away from the river in Ulster County called Slabsides. That home, operated by another nonprofit group, is, like Woodchuck Lodge, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Traveling with Roosevelt

Burroughs, who had in 1867 written the first biography and critical work on Whitman, continued to write nature essays and was a regular contributor to the Atlantic Monthly. Elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Burroughs finished his career having produced more than 30 books and hundreds of essays and poems.

“He really started getting famous by 1875, and he continued to be a celebrity right up until his death,” said Joe Farleigh, a Roxbury native who has studied Burroughs for more than 40 years now and serves as a docent and member of the board of trustees at Woodchuck Lodge. “When he would go on trips with Roosevelt to the West, Roosevelt would often step out on the train platform and give a quick speech. Usually the group with him would also be out there on the platform, but when Burroughs was on the trip he caused too much of a distraction. He just started staying in the train while Roosevelt spoke.”

Roosevelt wasn’t Burroughs’ only traveling companion. Men like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone also went on numerous camping trips with him.

“I believe that they sought him out,” said Farleigh. “It wasn’t Burroughs seeking them. Everyone loved and admired him. He wrote about nature and made it accessible to everyone. At a time when people were just starting to worry about conservation, Burroughs told them that they could enjoy nature the way he did. It was all right at their doorstep. All they had to do was look outside.”

Finding some privacy

In 1910, Burroughs was back in Roxbury and the area where he grew up, moving into the house his brother Curtis had built back in 1863. Woodchuck Lodge needed $100,000 in renovations just a few years ago, and, although the building is stable, it is in need of some more work.

“He came up here for more privacy because he was constantly being visited by people at Slabsides,” said Farleigh, “and the building looks a lot like the way it did when Burroughs lived here. Burroughs added on the front porch when he moved in because he loved to sleep on his cot outside. He wrote about waking up on the porch and seeing the sun come up over Montgomery Hollow. About 35 years ago, I came up here with my sleeping bag and had the same experience. It was wonderful.”

Woodchuck Lodge stayed in the family for a while after Burroughs’ death before Ford bought the place and eventually resold it back to family members. Visitors enter the house through a screen door that swings inside so Burroughs would have room to put his cot on the porch. There are four rooms on the ground floor, including one small room Burroughs called the “cradle,” and two more rooms upstairs.

“He had to have some money, but he didn’t live like a wealthy man,” said Farleigh. “He even endorsed a breakfast cereal, something a rock star or a pro athlete would do these days. That’s how well known he was.”

And while he loved nature, he evidently wasn’t overly fond of woodchucks.

“He didn’t have any trouble shooting some animals, like woodchucks,” said Farleigh. “They would get into his garden and chew things up. He shot so many that he had two fur coats made of their skins.”

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April 23, 2009, Syracuse Post-Standard: Central New York Rep. John McHugh takes aim at acid rain in Adirondacks and Catskills

Central New York Rep. John McHugh takes aim at acid rain

by Mark Weiner / The Post-Standard
Thursday April 23, 2009, 6:27 AM

Moss Lake in the Central Adirondacks is shown in the morning hours. A bill has been introduced in Congress that's designed to improve the quality of lakes in the Adirondacks.
A water testing site is seen at Moss Lake in the Central Adirondacks.

See a slideshow of photos from the Adirondacks

Washington -- A Central New York congressman, seeing an opportunity that may never come again, has introduced a bill requiring the most drastic cuts in U.S. history to the pollution responsible for acid rain.

Rep. John McHugh said he wants to tie his "Acid Rain and Mercury Control Act" into a landmark energy and climate change bill that Congress will begin considering this week, with the goal of a vote by June.

The climate legislation to control greenhouse gases received a boost last week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that global warming is a danger to public health and welfare.

The EPA's action sets the stage for the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide pollution and five other greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

But the EPA, and the separate global warming bill making its way through Congress, do not address all of the pollution from coal-fired power plants. The pollution contributes to acid rain, which has devastated lakes and forests in New York for decades. Among the pollutants that McHugh wants to target is mercury, which also poses a risk to human health.

McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, who proposed a similar bill to tackle acid rain in 2007, said he believes now is the best chance to finally solve the problem with federal legislation.

"One of the primary motivators for reintroducing the bill at this time is because of the debate surrounding climate change," McHugh said. "I didn't want acid rain to be left out."

He added, "The carbon debate has taken center stage. My deepest concern is that if something is passed and signed into law without an acid rain component, it may be a long time before we have a chance to focus on that issue again."

A loon swims in open water on Moss Lake in the Central Adirondacks.

The acid rain problem has taken on added urgency after a recent study found a dangerous link with global warming. The study found increased leaching of harmful nitric acid from warming soils in the Appalachians.

McHugh, whose 11-county district stretches from Madison and Oswego counties into the Adirondacks, has already picked up bipartisan support from his Central New York colleagues in the House delegation. Both Reps. Dan Maffei, D-DeWitt, and Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, have signed on as co-sponsors of the McHugh bill.

New York's two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, say they will sponsor separate legislation in the Senate, similar to McHugh's bill.

McHugh's legislation would require coal-fired power plans to make some of the most ambitious pollution cutbacks ever mandated by the federal government.

The bill focuses on three pollutants that contribute to acid rain -- mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide -- destroying forests, killing fish and poisoning water.

Lab intern Danielle Lichtenstein (left) and PhD candidate Colin Fuss do a test for dissolved organic carbon as part of an acid rain project in a lab at Link Hall on the Syracuse University campus.

New York's Adirondack and Catskill mountains are particularly hard hit because their soils are more sensitive to acid rain than any other place in the nation.

Studies have shown that about 40 percent of Adirondack lakes are either always or sometimes acidic. Up to 25 percent of the lakes surveyed have been declared essentially dead, supporting no fish life.

To address the problem, the McHugh bill would:

• Require power plants to make a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from current levels by 2013.

• Require a 75 percent cut in sulfur and nitrogen emissions from 1997 levels by 2012.

• Authorize $13.6 million per year through fiscal year 2018 to implement the requirements of the legislation.

• Allow power plant owners to use market-oriented mechanisms to comply with the new standards, such as trading in pollution credits.

• Prohibit any trading of mercury pollution credits, placing an unmovable limit on mercury emissions from individual power plants.

McHugh said the reason for the strict mercury controls is the fact that the toxic chemical has been linked to neurological and kidney disorders, particularly in the development of fetuses.

The congressman's proposal received immediate praise from New York state environmental groups and independent scientists who study acid rain.

"I think this is as aggressive a proposal as I have ever seen," said Syracuse University professor Charles Driscoll, one of the nation's leading acid rain scientists.

Driscoll said the timing of the proposed federal legislation on both climate change and acid rain is important because recent studies show that under higher temperatures soils are less able to retain nitrogen, which leaches into water as nitric acid.

"I think there is some urgency," Driscoll said. "It looks like there are some interactions to climate and acid rain.

The Adirondack Council, the largest advocacy group for the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, agrees with McHugh that momentum could be strong enough in Congress to finally pass acid rain legislation.

Kevin and Diane Roy, of Oneida, watch a loon as they stand at the shore of Moss Lake in the Central Adirondacks. The Roys have been coming to Moss Lake for 25 years. A bill has been introduced in Congress that's designed to improve the quality of lakes in the Adirondacks.

John Sheehan, speaking for the Adirondack Council, said the prospects changed when President Obama took office and expressed his commitment to climate change legislation.

"I think our chances for an acid rain bill are better than they were last year, and they continue to improve with leadership from the White House," Sheehan said. "Ultimately, our chances have not been this good in a decade. We literally could not get the Clinton-Gore administration to say the words 'acid rain.' They did not want to deal with the issue."

The administration of former President George W. Bush attempted to regulate smokestack pollution with its Clean Air Interstate Rule, affecting 28 states. A federal appeals court struck down those rules last year, saying the Bush administration overstepped its authority in trying to curb the pollutants that cause smog, soot and acid rain. The pollution travels from Midwestern power plants and damages Northeastern forests and lakes.

The court defeat left coal-fired power plants as the largest source of mercury emissions in the United States that are unregulated on the federal level.

McHugh said he knows his new bill may not pass as standalone legislation. But he said he remains hopeful that the climate change bill sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., will include all or part of his acid rain legislation.

"I am most interested in ensuring that, however these issues go forward, that acid rain is part of the discussion," McHugh said. "The bill is intended as a reference tool, so if somebody asks what we should be doing, we have a bill that has already been printed up and is ready to go."

--Washington bureau reporter Mark Weiner can be reached at [email protected] or 571-970-3751.

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April 9-15, 2009, River Reporter: A Good Catskills Tourist Season? Some signs point that way

A good tourist season?

Some signs point that way

link to complete article here:

https://www.riverreporter.com/issues/09-04-09/head2-tourist.html

By FRITZ MAYER

MONTICELLO, NY — The national unemployment rate is up to 8.5 percent and rising, credit is still tight for buying such things as new cars and it doesn’t look as if things will miraculously turn around before summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tourist season in Sullivan County and the surrounding area will suffer.

At a meeting at the county government center on April 2, Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), had some good news about tourism figures from 2008. Last summer, the economy was already faltering and gas prices were at record levels well north of $4 per gallon. Yet, despite that environment, visitor spending increased in the county.

Lockwood told county lawmakers that visitor spending in 2008 was over $326 million, which amounts to a 12.1 percent increase over 2007 levels. By comparison, visitor spending in Orange County was $424.5 million, which translates to an increase of just 1.5 percent, and other counties, such as Rockland and Westchester, actually lost visitor dollars from 2007 to 2008.

Lockwood also said that her agency is ahead of where it was at the same time last year in terms of requests for the newly minted county travel guide. Lockwood and others are hoping that vacationers who opt not to fly to far-flung locations

overseas this summer will focus on the closer-to-home Catskills and Upper Delaware region, which for millions of people is just a gas tank away.

Others on the SCVA board also addressed the legislature. Rick Lander, president of Landers River Trips, said that so far reservations were ahead of last year’s level and they’re anticipating a good year, “as long as the weather holds up.”

In another development that might be a sign of the times, Tim McCausland, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, told the legislature that over the course of the past month or so he had seen more notices in the county for the formation of limited liability corporations than ever before. He attributed this to a growing number of people who want to control their own economic futures and are forming new small businesses.

Contributed graphic  
Anyone who picks up of the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Guide will get an instant reminder that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival in Bethel. The cover shows a large river and mountains with reflections of tie-died and psychedelic images floating through the scene. The guide has already been mailed to thousands of potential visitors who have requested information on the area. (Click for larger version)
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