Tag Archives: DEC

Ashokan releases fluctuating during valve repairs

NYCDEP announced that perform critical and necessary repairs on the flow control valves for the Ashokan Release Channel from July 22 through July 31. During this time, flows in the release channel and points downstream will increase and fluctuate for brief intervals. The maximum release flows anticipated will be 600 MGD (930 cfs), and the minimum release flow will be maintained at 15 MGD (23 cfs) during the entire period. NYSDEC has approved the varying flow conditions and use of an alternate release point. Release Channel operations will otherwise continue in accordance with the Interim Release Protocol. 

Anglers and recreational users are advised to check local USGS gaging stations at Lomontville or Mt Marion and be aware of rapidly changing conditions. Stream level changes of 2.0 to 2.5 feet at both Lomontville and Mount Marion are expected from current conditions. The changes propagate along the creek from upstream to downstream and approximately 18 to 30 hours to travel from the Ashokan Reservoir to Mount Marion.  

Big news for the Lower Esopus

NYSDEC and NYCDEP issued a press release announcing turbidity limits and flood protections for the Esopus Creek downstream from the Ashokan Reservoir, as follows:

DEC and DEP Announce Plan to Help Safeguard Ashokan Reservoir Water Quality and Enhance Flood Protections for Lower Esopus Creek

Revised Release Protocol Protects New York City Water Supply and Addresses Lower Esopus Community Concerns about Muddy Water

DEC Adds Lower Esopus Creek to Resilient NY Program to Aid Flood Protection Measures in High-Priority Areas

State Senator Michelle Hinchey and DEP Commissioner Aggarwala Collaborate To Deliver A New Solution To Better Protect Downstream Communities

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala, and State Senator Michelle Hinchey today announced actions to limit muddy water releases, AKA ‘turbidity,’ from the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek. In addition, DEC announced the addition of the Lower Esopus Creek to the State’s Resilient NY program that identifies strategies to reduce flooding and ice jam formations in high-priority, flood-prone watersheds throughout the state.

“The newly revised protocol for the Ashokan Reservoir is intended to balance our commitment to protecting New York City’s water supply while addressing the concerns of the residents and businesses along Lower Esopus Creek,” Interim Commissioner Mahar said. “The updated policy will minimize the impacts of turbidity in the Lower Esopus and ensure the area remains a healthy and thriving environment for public enjoyment.” 

“Today’s historic shift in the Ashokan’s operations emphasizes DEP’s commitment to working closely with all stakeholders to continue our mission of providing the highest quality drinking water possible to half the state’s population,” DEP Commissioner Aggarwala said. “DEP is dedicated to using the gold standard in science to protect and enhance the watershed while working hand in hand with stakeholders helping to improve the quality of life for all residents throughout the region. I want to thank Senator Hinchey for her advocacy, DEC Interim Commissioner Mahar for his partnership, and all local leadership throughout this community for championing this issue. I look forward to continuing our collaboration on the important work that still lies ahead.”

Under newly implemented release protocols, DEP will limit downstream releases of Ashokan Reservoir water when it appears highly turbid, or muddy brown, and expand releases from both the east and west basins rather than restricting releases to only the west basin, which is often more turbid. These actions are formalized in the newly revised Interim Release Protocol (IRP), a set of standards for DEP’s release of water from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek through the reservoir’s release channel. 

Since the reservoir’s construction, water releases from the Ashokan have resulted in turbidity in the Lower Esopus Creek, impacting recreation and aesthetics. Based on public input and community concerns about turbidity, the revised IRP limits muddy water releases from the Ashokan unless specifically requested by DEC to support the aquatic habitat. 

After conversations with State Senator Michelle Hinchey regarding DEP’s history of turbid discharges into the lower Esopus Creek and the communities’ hopes for improvements, DEP commissioned computerized modeling scenarios to develop potential alternative reservoir operations that would limit muddy discharges.  

Senator Hinchey said, “Our Watershed Communities bear the profound responsibility of stewarding the country’s largest unfiltered water system—a duty we embrace with pride, yet one that has impacted our quality of life and created an imbalance in the well-being of our region for nearly a century. Today, in a historic collaboration with my office, DEP, DEC, Ulster County and our municipalities, we make history by delivering a new solution created specifically to protect our downstream communities from turbid releases and enhance flood resiliency against extreme weather. For decades, we’ve known this moment to be possible, that greater equity could be established to do right by our downstream communities. I thank DEP Commissioner Aggarwala for being an action-oriented partner, DEC, and local residents and advocacy groups for working with us to finally reach a mitigating solution.”

The Ashokan Reservoir supplies about 40 percent of New York City’s drinking water each day. DEP utilizes water discharges from the Release Channel to the Lower Esopus Creek as an alternative to reliance on the use of chemical treatment within the water supply, specifically the use of aluminum sulfate, during episodic turbidity events. 

Turbidity is typically caused throughout the eastern Catskills by severe weather eroding reddish clay glacial sediment within stream channels and stream banks that is ultimately transported and flows into the Ashokan Reservoir. The Ashokan Reservoir was built with two basins more than 100 years ago to help alleviate turbidity, enabling suspended particles to settle in the west basin before water passes into the east basin. 

Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger said, “Today’s announcements by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation represent important steps forward in protecting the water quality of the Lower Esopus and strengthening the resilience of downstream communities to climate change and the impacts of the flooding. I have long advocated for a collaborative approach to decision-making on the management strategy for the Lower Esopus, for a better overall protocol, and for more detailed and more accurate flood studies, and I greatly welcome the significant progress announced today. I want to thank Senator Michelle Hinchey, DEC Interim Commissioner Mahar, DEP Commissioner Aggarwala, Riverkeeper, the Ashokan Reservoir Working Group, our municipal leaders and community stakeholders, and local DEP and DEC teams for all your contributions to these efforts.” 

Town of Saugerties Supervisor Fred Costello said, “It’s exciting to be part of this transformative change and I want to thank the DEP and DEC commissioners for this fresh approach to a longstanding problem and thank Senator Hinchey for her leadership on this issue. I also want to thank my neighboring municipal government colleagues past and present for their dedication to this important issue and I think this a celebratory moment for all.” 

Village of Saugerties Mayor William Murphy said, “These actions are clearly a win-win and represent a tremendous comprise benefitting all communities along the Lower Esopus Creek. It all comes from an historic cooperative effort between our communities, DEP, DEC, and Senator Hinchey showing what can be done when people work together.”

Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley said, “As a government leader with an extensive history working with DEP, seeing an operational change solely meant to benefit communities downstream from the Ashokan is a tremendous step forward and I commend Commissioner Aggarwala for taking this initiative and the local DEP team for their open and ongoing communications. The lower Esopus Creek is a critical and complicated component of our community and I am pleased with this operational adjustment and DEC’s new commitment to improve the creek and help alleviate flooding issues.” 

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said, “I commend the actions NYC Department of Environmental Protection and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation have taken today, which will help improve the water quality of the lower Esopus Creek. By limiting the amount of turbid, muddy water that would be released from the reservoir and creating a more resilient and healthier lower Esopus Creek, I consider that a significant win for all of the stakeholders. I appreciate the work that all of our partners at the state and local level have done to reach this collective decision.”

Marbletown Town Supervisor Rich Parete said, “I appreciate DEP and DEC working with Senator Hinchey and downstream communities to better regulate releases and insure that all of our concerns are addressed.  It couldn’t have been accomplished without DEP and Senator Hinchey’s leadership.  It’s been a team effort.”  

Town of Hurley Supervisor Mike Boms said, “I am very pleased that the Town of Hurley is kept in the loop when it comes to decision making with lower Esopus Creek. Since becoming supervisor I’ve found DEP to be a cooperating partner and responsive to our downstream communities’ concerns. This historic shift in operations is extraordinarily refreshing and beneficial to the Town of Hurley. Thank you, DEP.”

Riverkeeper’s Dan Shapley, Senior Director of Advocacy, Policy and Planning, said, “We’re pleased to reach this milestone to better protect the Esopus Creek, an important Hudson River tributary that has been called the ‘jewel of the Catskills.’ Riverkeeper is proud to have been part of a coalition effort that has worked for years to find solutions that will prevent excessively muddy water from damaging fish, habitat, and communities along the creek. By committing to releasing cleaner water from the Ashokan Reservoir, New York City has taken an important step toward addressing a core and longstanding concern about water quality in the Lower Esopus Creek.Riverkeeper will continue to work with our partners to ensure that water released from the reservoir is managed to promote ecological health and to mitigate flood risks. The groups, agencies, and elected representatives who have worked with the Ashokan Release Working Group toward this milestone deserve our thanks.”

Resilient NY 

DEC also announced the addition of the Lower Esopus Creek to DEC’s Resilient NY Program, with the goal to improve community resiliency to extreme weather events that result in flooding and ice jam formation. Expert consultants retained by New York State are undertaking the state-of-the-art Resilient NY studies at no cost to local municipalities. These studies give communities a blueprint or path forward to abate the worst effects of future flooding.

The Lower Esopus joins 60 other watersheds across New York State already participating in the Resilient NY Program. To date, 43 studies have been completed through Resilient NY; 10 flood studies are underway and seven additional studies will be launched later this year and early in 2025.

More information on Resilient NY is available on DEC’s website.  

About the NYC Department of Environmental Protection

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to nearly half of the State’s population, including more than 8 million in New York City and a million more throughout the Hudson Valley. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $29 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year.

Upcoming Public Forum with County Exec and DEP

On Monday, January 23, 2012, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein will host a public forum with New York City Department of Environmental Protection about area concerns including turbid releases into Esopus Creek. The County Executive will be joined by other upstate leaders, NYC DEP representatives and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation senior staff. The event will offer attendees the opportunity to have their voices heard and to ask important questions. The forum is scheduled for 6:00PM on January the 23rd at the John Quimby Theater at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge.

LEWP comments on interim protocol

The Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership in cooperation with Riverkeeper prepared comments on the Interim Ashokan Release Protocol. The comments from municipalities and other stakeholders along the lower Esopus were compiled into a letter and submitted to the DEC. The letter calls for a deadline by which time the interim protocol would be replaced by a SPDES permit. Limits on turbidity are also recommended. The letter is available here for download as a PDF.

  LowerEsopusStakeholderCommentsInterimAshokanReleaseProtocol 12-15-11.pdf (108.9 KiB, 1,673 hits)
Comments to DEC by lower Esopus stakeholders on the Interim Ashokan Release Protocol

Ulster County and Riverkeeper petition DEC

Ulster County and Riverkeeper submitted a formal petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation concerning the releases from New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir. The petition calls upon DEC to meet its regulatory obligations and uphold water quality standards in the lower Esopus Creek. The DEC is criticized for relying on the Interim Protocol to authorize releases instead of using the SPDES permit program. In October, DEC issued an Interim Ashokan Release Protocol to govern discharges from the Ashokan Release Channel. Unlike a SPDES permit, the interim protocol did not contain any formal provisions for environmental review or public comment. The petition from UC and Riverkeeper reminds DEC of requirements spelled out in state Reservoir Release Regulations.

Read more…

DEP balks on December public forum

Yesterday, DEP stated through a spokesperson that it cannot make a public forum before year’s end, reported Adam Bosch of the Times Herald-Record. On Thursday, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein emerged from a meeting with the DEP and announced the prospect of a public forum in December to address ongoing issues with DEP operations in Ulster County. DEP said it did not agree to the abrupt timeline for the forum but is nevertheless willing to participate in a public forum. Read more…

DEC/DEP published Interim Release Protocol

In October, the DEC and DEP agreed upon an Interim Ashokan Reservoir Release Protocol (Protocol), which is available here for download.

  Interim Release Protocol (135.8 KiB, 1,617 hits)
DEC/DEP Interim Ashokan Release Protocol

  Water Quality Monitoring for Releases (68.7 KiB, 1,465 hits)
Water Quality Monitoring Plan for Release Channel Operations

The Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership, as part of the Ashokan Release Working Group, is compiling comments on the protocol from participating municipalities to provide DEC and DEP with feedback.

The protocol includes provisions for community beneficial releases, flood mitigation releases, and turbidity control releases. The interim protocol is driving recent reservoir releases as the DEP aims for a 90% Conditional Seasonal Storage Objective outlined in the protocol to create a void in the reservoir for flood mitigation and turbidity control. Since storms Irene and Lee filled the reservoir with turbid runoff, recent releases in the lower Esopus Creek have been noticeably turbid with fine colloidal clay sediment.

DEP reopens Ashokan waste channel

For the first time since closing the Ashokan waste channel in February, the NYC DEP is reopening the waste channel to make a void in the West Basin to capture anticipated stormwater runoff. See statement from NYS DEC and NYC DEP below.

March 9, 2011
Farrell Sklerov / Michael Saucier (718) 595-6600 Michael Bopp (518) 402-8000

Statement from NYS Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and NYC Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway On Today’s Activation of the Ashokan Waste Channel

“Earlier today, after close consultation with and agreement from Ulster County, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency, DEP activated the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel for up to one week,” said Commissioner Holloway. “Activating the waste channel will increase the reservoir’s ability to capture runoff from intense storms by creating a void in the west basin of the reservoir ahead of tonight’s forecasted storm, providing enhanced flood protection for communities south of the Ashokan Reservoir along the lower Esopus Creek. This action, which reduces the amount of spillage from the more turbid west basin into the higher quality east basin, will also help protect the drinking water of approximately 160,000 residents of towns that rely on the Catskill Aqueduct such as New Paltz and High Falls in Ulster County; New Windsor and Cornwall in Orange County; several towns in Westchester County, including Yorktown and Ossining; as well as the residents of New York City.”

“We concur that activation of the Ashokan diversion channel is appropriate at this time to limit adverse flooding in communities along the Lower Esopus Creek and reduce turbidity in water flowing toward the New York City drinking water system,” said Joe Martens, DEC Commissioner. “Flood ‘action levels’ in the Lower Esopus will be actively monitored and adjustments to the diversion channel output will be made as needed.”

The latest information from the National Weather Service on the coming storm indicates that the reservoir could spill, increasing the potential for flooding in the lower Esopus. The action agreed to today will release up to 600 million gallons per day from the Ashokan Reservoir for the next week, depending on existing flows in the lower Esopus Creek. These releases will be discontinued if the stream gage on the lower Esopus Creek located at Mt. Marion is within one foot of flood action stage (18 feet) and the National Weather Service forecasts potential flooding. This is the first activation of the Ashokan Reservoir release since February 1, 2011.

The waste channel is a concrete canal used to convey water released in a controlled manner from the reservoir through the upper and lower gate chambers to the Little Beaverkill stream and the lower Esopus Creek. Located in Ulster County, the Ashokan Reservoir is approximately 13 miles west of Kingston and 73 miles north of New York City. It was formed by the damming of the Esopus Creek, which eventually flows northeast and drains into the Hudson River. The reservoir holds 127.9 billion gallons at full capacity and was opened in 1915.

DEP manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8 million in New York City, and residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. New York City’s water is delivered from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and comprises 19 reservoirs, and three controlled lakes. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dep or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nycwater.

DEC action against DEP

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation filed a Notice of Hearing and Complaint against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection citing unauthorized use of the Ashokan Waste Channel and failure to comply with its Catalum SPDES Permit. The DEC seeks $2.6 million in civil penalties from the DEP and an independent study of the impacts from turbid releases to the Lower Esopus. The DEC is also requiring an operating plan and parameters for use of the Waste Channel for the “beneficial interest” such as flood control for downstream communities. The entire complaint is available for download as PDF:

  Ashokan Complaint (3.8 MiB, 1,663 hits)
Notice of Hearing and Complaint issued by DEC against the NYC DEP

LEWP hosted public information forums on turbidity

On Thursday evening, February 10th, the local press and area residents attended an informational seminar hosted by the Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership and the Town & Village of Saugerties. Formal powerpoint presentations were made by representatives of LEWP, Ulster County, and DEP. A representative of the DEC was also present to answer questions as part of a panel. In the audience were elected officials including Mayor Bill Murphy of Saugerties, Town Supervisor Greg Helmoortel and a staff member from the office of Assemblyman Pete Lopez. Residents who owned property or businesses along the creek ask questions and expressed their concerns about the prolonged turbid releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. The Daily Freeman reported on the meeting. This was the second informational seminar this week focusing on creek turbidity issues. The first was held on Tuesday, February 8th at Town Hall in the Town of Ulster.