Category Archives: News

EPA adds lower Esopus to list of impaired waters

Since the NYSDEC failed to include the lower Esopus Creek on the list of impaired waters, the EPA took action to have the creek added to the list for excessive turbidity. The EPA announced its action in a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding Lower Esopus Creek, stating:

After considering all submissions and in accordance with the Clean Water Act
and EPA regulations and guidance, the EPA has concluded that current and available information
indicate that New York State’s narrative water quality standard for turbidity is exceeded in the Lower Esopus Creek and that 303(d) listing for this portion of the creek is therefore necessary.

The listing means that the EPA recognizes that prolonged releases of turbid water from the Ashokan Reservoir has impaired the stream and that the state must come up with remedies to address the situation. The rationale for the EPA’s listing is detailed in supporting materials which accompanied the letter, provided in PDF format here:

EPA Esopus Listing Letter
Esopus Listing Fact Sheet
Esopus Listing Response Summary

Watershed mapping workshop postposed to Jan 22nd

The exploration of and training on the Lower Esopus digital watershed sub-basin mapping tool has been pushed back 1 week.

Originally scheduled for Jan 15th, the workshop and training will now be on January 22nd, from 9am til noon.

The event is taking place at Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in the Kingston Plaza.
You are welcome to attend!

Workshop: TUESDAY, JANUARY 22nd, 9 am-12 noon

The digital sub-basin maps were created by the CCEDC GIS Lab in coordination with Hudsonia Ltd. for the Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation provided funding for this project from the Environmental Protection Fund through the Hudson River Estuary Program in partnership with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

Releases reduced to minimum

Now that contractors have finished installing one siphon at Gilboa Dam, DEP has decreased the diversions through the Shandaken Tunnel and is stopping the operational releases from Ashokan Reservoir that allowed for installation of the siphon. Ashokan releases are returning to the minimum community release level in accordance with the Ashokan Release Interim Protocol. The Ashokan Release Channel was gradually decreased today from 220 to approximately 10 MGD, with the last decrease at 3:00PM. The current release channel turbidity is 6.5 ntu.

The new siphon was turned on today and is capable of releasing up to 250 MGD from Schoharie Reservoir. The siphon startup was coordinated with Schoharie County and Town of Gilboa officials, NYPA, NYSDEC and the NWS. DEP will use the siphon to help prevent the reservoir from spilling, thereby allowing workers to continue the dam reconstruction in the area below a temporary notch in the spillway, including the construction of a second siphon.

Ulster County Exec comments on planned DEP releases

The Office of the Ulster County Executive issued the following press release regarding NYC DEP’s plan to initiate three weeks of releases into Esopus Creek:


Kingston, NY – According to Mark Klotz, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYS DEC) Director of the Division of Water, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) plans to install a new siphon at the Gilboa Dam that will replace those used during the reconstruction work on the dam that were damaged during Hurricane Irene, and dismantled. To lower the Schoharie Reservoir, NYC DEP intends to transfer water from the Schoharie Reservoir, through the Shandaken Tunnel to the Upper Esopus Creek and eventually into the Ashokan Reservoir. It is anticipated that the work will take three weeks.

Because of the expected turbidity of the water that will be transferred from the Schoharie Reservoir into the Upper Esopus Creek, NYC DEP requested that NYS DEC issue it a waiver from the water quality standards it must maintain in at the portal or entrance to the Upper Esopus Creek. It is anticipated by the NYS DEC that NYC DEP will release the maximum amount possible, which is approximately 550-600MGD, through the portal and into the Upper Esopus.

The Ashokan Reservoir is approximately 83% full, with the west basin at capacity and spilling into the east basin. Since this proposed work to the Gilboa Dam will result in a large volume of water entering the Ashokan Reservoir, the NYC DEP is also planning on releasing water from the west basin of the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek. Such an operational release is also expected to be at the maximum level of 600 mgd.

County Executive Hein stated, “This is yet another example of NYC DEP’s mismanagement outside of Ulster County negatively impacting the people of Ulster County. Over the course of the last year, Ulster County rebuilt 100% of our infrastructure damaged during Hurricane Irene. We accomplished this ahead of schedule and under budget. Yet NYC DEP, only now with the Schoharie Reservoir spilling, seeks to install a siphon capable of lowering the reservoir. Had the NYC DEP planned ahead and done this during the summer months, this would not be necessary now.

NYC DEP’s plan of action is purely operational, meaning that it is going to be accomplished for DEP’s benefit only, not the health or safety of the Lower Esopus or the people Ulster County. Better planning, which considered the needs of Ulster County’s residents and businesses along the Esopus Creek would have reduced the need for these releases. I implore the NYS DEC to hold the NYC DEP accountable for its ongoing disgraceful, environmentally-damaging behavior.”

NYSDEC reaches draft order with NYC to reduce impacts of turbidity

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released the following statement:


Public Information Session on Draft Order and Interim Protocol Set for June 19

A draft consent order to reduce the impacts of turbidity and manage reservoir releases to improve water supply, water quality and habitat, and provide flood mitigation in the New York City watershed and the Lower Esopus was reached by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The draft consent order provides measures with a goal of decreasing the need for aluminum sulfate to be used in the Catskill Water Supply System.

A public 45-day comment period on the draft order and the Ashokan Reservoir Interim Protocol for water release management will run through July 2. A public information session on both the draft order and the Interim Protocol will be held June 19 at SUNY New Paltz. Comments will be reviewed and considered in the development of the final order and revised Interim Protocol.

“The draft order with New York City provides concrete actions to improve water quality, habitat and flood mitigation in the Catskill Water System,” DEC Commissioner Martens said. “The City’s commitment to implement the requirements of the order is a major step to reduce the impacts of turbidity in area waterways. The Interim Protocol offers a path to protect the watershed until a more complete set of improvements can be considered and implemented. The Interim Protocol proposed a way to protect New people and address community and environmental impacts. DEC wants to hear from stakeholders on how we can improve this protocol.”

“As one of only five large cities issued a Filtration Avoidance Determination by the EPA, New York City has clearly made substantial investments to ensure that our water supply system continues to provide clean, safe drinking water to over nine million residents and that commitment includes reducing the effects of turbidity in the Catskill watershed,” said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Working diligently with watershed communities, the Department of Environmental Conservation and DEP developed rigorous guidelines for operating the Ashokan Release Channel to reduce the impacts of turbidity and flooding. We are pleased that this agreement solidifies the Interim Protocol, and look forward to the results of the comprehensive analysis we will undertake during the Environmental Impact Statement process.”

Under the draft order, the City will be required to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to analyze alternative methods and potential significant adverse impacts of operating the Catskill Water Supply System. The EIS will consider various options to reduce the impacts of turbidity including the continued use of aluminum sulfate, releases using the Interim Protocol and options to discharge water from various points along the Catskill Aqueduct, including the Hudson River, prior to its reaching the Kensico Reservoir. The draft order also requires the City to deliver the draft scope for the EIS to DEC within 60 days after the consent order is effective. DEC will issue the draft scope for public comment. The draft EIS is required to be completed within 18 months after DEC issues a final scope and the draft Final EIS by a date determined by DEC. In addition, the draft order:

requires the City to adhere to the Interim Protocol for releasing water from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek and a Water Quality Monitoring Plan in the Ashokan Watershed which are expected to result in a reduction in the impact of turbid discharges and protection of habitat in the Lower Esopus Creek. The City is required to comply with the Interim Protocol and Monitoring Plan until a Final Protocol is developed through a full public process and incorporated into the modified Catalum SPDES Permit;

establishes a schedule for removal of alum particulate from the Kensico Reservoir by June 2024 when major capital infrastructure projects are complete;

establishes a deadline of December 2012 for the City to propose two turbidity-reduction projects on the Upper Esopus Creek and commits the City to allocate $750,000 to fund these projects; and

requires the City to pay a Civil Penalty of $1.55 million of which $100,000 is payable; $500,000 is suspended pending timely completion of the infrastructure and alum particulate removal projects; and $950,000 is provided in escrow to EFC to fund environmental benefit projects which include:

  • $350,000 for two stream gauges on the Lower Esopus;
  • $200,000 to develop a stream management plan for the Lower Esopus;
  • $330,000 to implement the recommendations of the Lower Esopus stream management plan;
  • $60,000 for a technical review consultant to advise the Ashokan Releases Working Group; and
  • $10,000 for fish stocking in the Lower Esopus.

establishes a schedule for the modification of the Catalum SPDES Permit; and
establishes that DEP has consented to DEC as the lead agency in the SEQRA EIS process for the Catalum SPDES Permit modification and a range of associated issues.

The consent order can be viewed at:

In October, DEC released an Interim Protocol for releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. More information on the Interim Protocol can be found at:

DEC’s public information session on both the draft order and Interim Protocol will include presentations by DEC staff. Comments will be accepted at the information session in writing and verbally as time permits. The meeting will be held from 6 pm to 8 pm on June 19 at:

SUNY New Paltz
1 Hawk Drive
Lecture Center – Room 100
New Paltz, NY

Comments may be submitted by July 2 via email,, or by
mail to:

Division of Water, Bureau of Water Resource Management
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233

Water transfer from Schoharie to Ashokan, concerns about water availability

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation put out the following statement:

DEC today authorized the release of water from Schoharie Reservoir through the Shandaken Tunnel to Ashokan Reservoir. With the state facing potential drought conditions this spring and summer, this action will reduce the loss of water from the NYC water supply system. While reservoir levels themselves are normal at this time, NYCDEP staff is concerned about other factors that could limit the availability of water to the NYC system in the future. The current low stream flows, lack of snowpack, early bloom of vegetation and projected long-term forecasts of high temperatures may increase the probability of shortfalls in water availability later in the year. Water is not presently being released from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek, except for a small conservation release. Current projections are that water transferred from the Schoharie Reservoir will be contained within the Ashokan Reservoir and not result in additional releases into the Lower Esopus. The release of water from the Schoharie Reservoir will help assure the reliability of the water supply to continue to serve NYC and the upstate communities.

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection provided the following supplemental information with the DEC statement:

We have increased the Catskill Aqueduct diversion to 500 mgd to Kensico. Ashokan water quality continues to improve. We are going to move some more water from Schoharie to Ashokan but not enough to put us over the CSSO [Conditional Seasonal Storage Objective]. We dropped to the minimum release rate [10 mgd] IAW the Interim Protocol almost two weeks ago and intend to stay there. Turbidity of the release is now in the low teens and will continue to improve. We have also increased the diversion from Schoharie to Ashokan. Currently at 345 mgd and 18 ntu.

Esopus Creek turbidity in the news

Turbid releases from Ashokan Reservoir have made headlines in Ulster County for the past year-and-a-half since the NYC Department of Environmental Protection reopened the release channel into the Lower Esopus Creek. Now, the dumping of turbid water has garnered attention in New York City, the beneficiary of the turbid releases in the form of clean drinking water. Writing for the New York Times, Mireya Navarro focuses on how the turbid releases exacerbate the century-old upstate-downstate tensions over the city’s water supply. She writes that long-standing disputes over DEP’s operations in Ulster County have reached a “tipping point.” Read the full article: Muddying of Beloved Creek Is Last Straw for Neighbors of a City Reservoir. Navarro also posted a blog entry about the issue at the Green Blog: Upstate vs. Downstate: A Slow Boil Over Water Issues.

Reservoir Release Workshop

The Lower Esopus Ashokan Reservoir Release Workshop
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
6:30 – 8:30 pm
@ Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County
In their new Kingston Plaza location at 232 Plaza Road

Thank you to all who were able to attend the LEWP-sponsored Lower Esopus Positive Action Workshop at the end of January. We are in the process of confirming and revising the priority projects that were identified during the workshop. One of the major activities we have been pursuing since then is the removal of log/ debris jams along the stream. LEWP is helping coordinate a funding application that is being submitted by Ulster County Soil and Water Conservation District in early April. This funding is for debris sites that did not meet the imminent threat criteria required for funding through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

For many of you, the biggest concern is with water quality and quantity associated with releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. LEWP is holding a workshop to provide updates on this issue, including details of NYSDEC/ NYCDEP’s Interim Release Protocol; and to document your concerns and identify community action steps. Please save the date and email RSVP to Candace Balmer