Mohawk Valley Water Concerns [VIDEO]
Concerns about the water requirements of developments associated with Nano Utica are valid, but so are efforts being made to mitigate potential demands according to the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.
"People...say this is...five or six years now out of the last eight where (the water level) has gotten a little bit low...The biggest difference," Becher says, is not the weather, but "...the ownership of the downstream hydroelectric plants that are below Hinckley Dam. You (have) a plant at Prospect; you have a plant at Trenton Falls, and for years and years those were owned by Niagara Mohawk and they were very forgiving. So, if the water levels started to get a little bit low they could slow it down a little bit and try to preserve it. Niagara Mohawk [now National Grid] wasn't all that concerned. Now under ownership of Brookfield Power they're asserting their rights under their contract with the Canal Corp. very aggressively and they're saying, 'We want every gallon we can get going through our turbines.' And they look at that operating diagram that they use and they're following it very, very carefully...Right now at the elevation that it's at, it's not at all a problem for the drinking supply, and the power company's getting all the water they want but it's the recreational use that's losing out unfortunately."
As to whether or not the new low water levels represent the "new normal," Becher says the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license is up for renewal and public input in that process is encouraged. He says that those with concerns should speak out during that process.
Of Assemblyman Marc Butler's assertions that the amount of water available may not be sufficient to supply the "new draw" by nanotechnology in the Mohawk Valley, Becher says Assemblyman Butler's concerns are "very valid." He says, "...(T)here are actually two contracts that are in play here, and sometimes they are somewhat opposed to each other. The Canal Corporation has a contract with Brookfield Power that says we're (going to) provide a certain flow rates based on the time of year and the elevation. They also have a contract with us that says we're going to protect the drinking supply by not letting it go below certain levels...That portion hasn't kicked in yet and when it does then you have Brookfield Power saying well, we don't care about your contract with them; we want the water. And so, Brookfield is threatening to sue. Frankly the [New York State] Canal Corporation is kind of stuck in a little bit of a difficult situation."
Becher says that he believes that New York State will have to step in and play a role in resolving the situation. To that end he says that he will begin to pursue dialogue with state officials over the quandary and has not lost hope for a resolution.
August 2015 Interview with Pat Becher of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority on the Hinckley Reservoir water levels:
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