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Source: New City Patch

Calls for New Direction for Clarkstown Residents' Water Needs in Wake of Public Service Commission's 'No' on Desalination

Last week's news from Albany galvanized many in Rockland County.


Posted: November 18, 2014
Originally Published: November 17, 2014

Now that the New York state Public Service Commission has denied United Water’s request for approval to build a desalination plant in Haverstraw to syphon water from the Hudson River into Rockland County taps, the question is where to go next.

“There now is a clear mandate for a new direction,” said two environmental groups, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson.

For the PSC did not say there was no need for more water, just that the need was not as pressing as once thought. A PSC staff report said the county has until 2020 to come up with a real plan.

Part of that direction is expected to come from the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management. Created in June, its job is to develop programs to reduce demand, protect the Hudson River as a critical resource, protect floodplains, woodlands, wetlands and groundwater resources and prevent flooding.

In response to the PSC ruling, Jordan Christensen, Program Coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), said:

Today’s decision is an overwhelming victory for the people of Rockland County. The desalination plant would have been expensive for ratepayers, energy-intensive, and disruptive to an ecologically sensitive area with several threatened and endangered species. Residents of Rockland continuously expressed concerns over possible radioactive elements in the Hudson River, since the plant’s intake pipe would have been built just over three miles away from the Indian Point Nuclear Facility. For years, the public came out to hearing after hearing to demand water conservation as an alternative to desalination.

CCE applauds the PSC for its decision and thanks the Commission for listening to the 26,000 residents of the county who signed petitions, wrote letters, and testified in opposition to the desalination plant. Rockland County has already shown a commitment to better water conservation and, thanks to today’s decision, will not be burdened by higher water rates and degraded water quality due to an ill-conceived desalination plant.

Two leading Hudson Valley environmental groups applauded the decision as well. Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson issued a joint statement, saying in part:

Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper commended the PSC for listening to the citizens of Rockland County and the experts and giving the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management an opportunity to demonstrate that conservation and efficiency measures can ensure Rockland has adequate water supply more sustainably and inexpensively than the proposed desalination plant. However, the groups are concerned that United Water will not embrace the community’s and PSC’s call for better water management planning, and therefore they urge the PSC to closely monitor the utility to ensure that it fully supports the efforts of the task force to pursue a more sustainable water future for Rockland County.

The groups applauded a statement made today by PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman, who said of the desalination proposal, “We need to make new plans, not just dust off old ones.”

Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper said that there now is a clear mandate for a new direction and that the facts will continue to lead to the demise of the desalination plant.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski said:

For years we have been working together, residents and elected officials, fighting to protect our water quality, the environment and the threat of significant rate increases. Today’s ruling is a victory for the Rockland Community. I want to thank the PSC for listening to our arguments and protecting the public interest. As we move forward we must continue to develop a sustainable and affordable water policy.