UTICA, NY (07/11/2012)(readMedia)-- The New York State Canal Corporation and the Mohawk Valley Water Authority have reached a historic agreement suspending litigation between the parties and protecting the public drinking water supply in the Mohawk Valley, both parties announced today. Under an interim settlement agreement signed by both parties, the Canal Corporation will manage Hinckley Reservoir levels above an elevation of 1195' under normal conditions, and agrees that the Water Authority has the right to take up to 50 cubic feet per second (32 million gallons per day) of water from the reservoir for its customers. The Water Authority agreed to make any improvements to its infrastructure necessary for these withdrawals, or necessary to expand its customer base.
Under the agreement reached before State Supreme Court Justice Samuel D. Hester, both parties will work together to develop a new operating protocol for the reservoir. One of the goals of that effort will be determining if or when the Water Authority can ultimately withdraw up to 75 cubic feet per second (48.5 million gallons per day). The development of the new protocol - referred to as an "Operational Support Tool" - is being spearheaded by the Upstate Freshwater Institute, a not-for-profit research corporation dedicated to the improvement of water quality and the advancement of freshwater research.
Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation, said, "This agreement reinforces the fact that today's Canal System is more than just a navigable waterway, it also supports important services like drinking water, flood mitigation, hydroelectric power, irrigation, and recreation. We are pleased that the customers of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority can rest secure in the knowledge that they will have a reliable, adequate source of drinking water from Hinckley Reservoir for years to come."
Elis J. DeLia, Chairman of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, said, "We are extremely pleased to announce this agreement with the Canal Corporation, which puts the past behind us and allows us to work collaboratively toward the future. We can now continue our focus of supporting regional economic development and providing our customers with cost-effective, reliable, and professional water services."
The parties have been continuing a dialogue aimed at reconciling needs related to the management of Hinckley Reservoir. This included a working group of state and local stakeholders that was formed in 2007, which held eight meetings attended by members of the public and elected officials. The Working Group collected extensive information to help evaluate and understand operation of the reservoir, as well as Delta Reservoir and other canal water resources. Hinckley and Delta were constructed nearly a century ago to supply water to the summit level of the Erie Canal in the Mohawk Valley.
Patrick Becher, Executive Director of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, said, "We have said all along that it was possible to meet the needs of water supply to our customers, hydro-electric power generation, and canal navigation concurrently. This agreement reflects the willingness of both parties to find middle ground, and we look forward to continuing to work together with the Canal Corporation and our other partners in developing a new operating protocol for the reservoir which can meet everyone's needs."
Brian U. Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation, said, "This is a major step forward for the people of Oneida County and the customers of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, and for the Canal System as a whole. It is vitally important that the Canal System adapt to a new and inclusive role which still has navigation at its core, but also accommodates the delivery of vital services to New Yorkers such as drinking water."
The settlement suspends a legal dispute between the Corporation and the Authority dating to 2005, when the MVWA commenced legal action in the seeking of a declaratory judgment regarding their rights to utilize Hinckley Reservoir water without the maintenance of the upstream reservoir required by the original 1917 Agreement.
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, said "I commend the MVWA and Canal Corporation for their willingness to stay at the table and find a way to reach an agreement that meets a wide range of interests. I am especially pleased to see New York State embrace good public policy that protects public health and safety while also supporting economic development in the Mohawk Valley."
The interim agreement calls for both parties to report back to the court in the fall regarding the progress in developing a new protocol for managing the reservoir, and again by December regarding the status of a final agreement.