J.M.W. Turner's "Chichester Canal" at the Tate Gallery, London

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Muddying of beloved creek last straw for city reservoir neighbors

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times - The Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County is kept clear by emptying its muddy water into Lower Esopus Creek. Local residents fear it may never run clear again.

For years, the resentment simmered as residents of Ulster County endured development bans, flooded basements and ruined crops, all for the sake of protecting New York City’s water supply. But the last straw in a string of grievances was the browning of a cherished tributary that is vital to recreation and agriculture in this corner of the Catskills. Discontent has given way to full-throttle fury against the city, which has always called the shots on reservoir management in the region.

The browning of a cherished tributary link is to a document issued by the Ulster County Executive Hein that includes an announcement of Ulster's filing of a lawsuit against NYC's DEP for polluting the Lower Esopus.

The tipping point was a two-year-old decision by New York City environmental officials — with state support — to allow frequent releases of muddy water from one of the city’s major upstate reservoirs, the Ashokan, into the waterway, the 34-mile-long Lower Esopus Creek. The purpose of the discharges is to rid the reservoir of clay particles and other materials stirred up by rainfall, ensuring that the water supply for nine million people downstate remains pristine.

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