Engineers study Kiryas Joel's water tap proposal

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    GOSHEN-Engineers working for Orange County have begun studying Kiryas Joel's records to determine whether the environmental impact statement (EIS) on the village's proposed tap of the New York City aquifer meets all the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The county plans to sue to stop the project if the EIS if found to be deficient. Stearns and Wheler Environmental Engineers of Cazenovia, N.Y. has begun its study, which is to be completed by the end of this month, Orange County Executive Edward Diana told legislators on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Engineers went through paperwork at Kiryas Joel's village hall on Monday. The work is to be completed by Aug. 30, a date that was initially determined by the perception that Sept. 4 is the deadline for filing a lawsuit to void the EIS and halt work on the project. Based on further legal research, the final date would be Nov. 8, giving the county more time to prepare its case, said Acting County Attorney David Darwin. Kiryas Joel plans to build an 18-inch water line from a tap in the city's aqueduct in New Windsor to the village. The line would pass through New Windsor, Blooming Grove and Woodbury. Estimates are that the village could triple in size based on the capacity of the line. Village officials have said that the village is growing rapidly in any event, and the use of city water to replace the village wells will head off potential water shortages that could affect the region. In general, spokesmen for the village have said, planning for future growth is praised. They have questioned why their attempts to make provision for growth that they know is coming is considered something to be fought. The Orange County Legislature has gone on record as opposing the pipeline. Legislators and others in the county government have questioned whether the EIS addressed all the concerns and followed all the procedures laid out in the SEQRA law. Should the county find major discrepancies, it would begin an Article 78 proceeding - a legal proceeding to overturn a municipal decision. According to Darwin, Kiryas Joel approved the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in May. With a four-month statute of limitations on governmental decisions, it would seem that the county had until September to challenge the decision. However, the law allows a public comment period following the adoption of an FEIS, meaning that it is not really a final decision. On July 8, the Kiryas Joel Village Board approved a "statement of findings," and this is the final decision in approval of an environmental statement, Darwin said. The deadline should be based on four months from this date, which would be Nov. 8, he said. Legislator Frank Fornario Jr. of Chester asked whether Darwin is 100 percent sure the deadline is in November, not September. "I never tell a client that anything is 100 percent, but case law we have studied indicates the final date is July 8." "We gave Stearns and Wheler the date of Aug. 30 so we could act by Sept. 4 if necessary," Diana said. Among the questions legislators and town officials have raised is whether the village met deadlines for informing interested parties, such as the towns and the county, of upcoming meetings and hearings. Donnery noted that county Planning Commissioner David Church had complained that the county received paperwork on the study very late. Fornario noted that the Town of Blooming Grove never received documentation because it was not an interested party at the beginning of the process. A change in the planned route of the pipeline brought it through Blooming Grove, he said. Once that happened, the town should have received materials sent to all interested parties, but it did not, he added. The estimated cost of the study is $20,000 to $30,000. Fornario said he has a longer list of procedural violations to ask about, but would hold his questions to allow others in the committee to speak. However, he did want to know whether the county could hold up the continuing work on starting the pipeline while the merits of the case are decided. Darwin responded that an injunction would be difficult to get. The county would have to show that it is very likely to prevail in the actual case before any court would require Kiryas Joel to stop work. Diana told the committee that one reason for selecting Stearns and Wheler was that the company does not do any business in southern Orange County. The only project in the county they are involved with is in the Town of Wallkill, he said. And, he added, the company has never done any work for the county or for Kiryas Joe