Issues of Water Quality and Quantity
FACT: Water Supply • HRVR plans to use Williams Lake as its water source, based on its claim that the lake is “self-supporting in terms of its water requirements during a drought.” HRVR claims that lake outflow is continuous year round and has never fallen below 187,000 gallons per day. In reality, the lake outflow can diminish and go dry for months at a time (see photo at left). Overwithdrawal may “mine” or permanently lower the level of water in the lake if more water is used than is naturally replenished each year. This poses a long-term financial risk to both HRVR and the community.
FACT: Waste Water • The proposed development will generate enormous quantities of waste water. HRVR has informed local residents that its sewage treatment plant will be at the northern end of Binnewater Lane, near the present entry road. Effluent will be treated, then piped to the stream that flows along Binnewater Road into the Rondout Creek, starting at a point close to Sawdust Avenue. Like the Williams Lake outflow, this stream often does not have enough flowing water to dilute incompletely treated waste water. This has significant potential to damage the downstream wetland and other property.
FACT: Wetland & Fishery • Williams Lake is home to a significant Federal and State wetland with a pristine fishery and ecosystem. Lowering the lake level even one foot may result in damage to both the lake’s ecology and the adjacent wetland, which requires periodic lake outflow to maintain itself. HRVR has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to accept its assessment of lake volume based on an old bottom-topography map whose source and methodology are unknown. Rigorously exact lake depth data is needed to assess water resources. DEC now requires that a new map be made.
FACT: Karst & Watershed Hydrology • Stormwater contaminants from site development may affect the water quality of Fourth Lake and bat hibernation sites. HRVR maintains that there are no karst aquifers on their property despite the presence of natural caves, sinkholes, sinking streams, and a disappearing Fourth Lake that loses millions of gallons of water each day. The DEC scoping document requires HRVR to conduct tracer tests to determine groundwater flow routes and potential downstream impacts including where Fourth Lake water surfaces. A key HRVR hydrology map shows Fourth Lake draining west into a wetland. This is incorrect (see photo, above right); the flow is actually in the opposite direction.The hydrology must be amended.
Glacially Sculpted Landscape.The 819-acre Williams Lake property lies at the northern terminus of the Shawangunk Mountains. It boasts three of the five Binnewater lakes (Williams Lake: 43 acres; Fourth Lake: 83 acres; Third Lake: 4 acres) and numerous wetlands and ponds teaming with wildlife. The lake basins were sculpted by glaciers eons ago. People are surprised in some years when the level of Fourth Lake drops precipitously, essentially becoming a meadow in a lost lake. Fourth Lake has no surface outlet. A most unique aspect of a portion of the property’s surface hydrology is that water from Williams Lake and a number of wetlands flows into Fourth Lake, only to disappear into an underlying karst or cave-bearing aquifer. No one knows where it goes, although it may pass through man-made cement mines.nBecause Williams Lake has a small watershed and Fourth Lake sometimes loses much of its volume to a vulnerable karst aquifer, it is important to protect the water quality.
Lakes and Wetlands. Historically, fishermen b\have caught largemouth bass, chain pickerel, northern pike, and panfish in Fourth Lake. Williams Lake supports similar fish species. These lakes are ideally suited to fish survival because their pH is buffered by underlying carbonate bedrock. Wetlands on the hardwood trees and rich ecosystems. At least one surface water body supports the endangered Northern Cricket Frog, near the northern terminus of its range. Like Fourth Lake, some of the many small unmapped property wetlands drain underground into one or more karst aquifers.
Recreational Resources. Williams Lake and Fourth Lake are ideally suited for primary and secondary recreational contact and fishing. The rail bed that extends through the property was formerly part of the Wallkill Valley Railroad. It has been identified by the Ulster County Transportation Council in their Non-Motorized Transportation Plan as a priority project area of regional importance as a possible Rail Trail link between New Paltz and Kingston. In addition to the rail bed, a network of wide trails provide easy access to lake vistas, Lynn’s Point, historic cultural features, and solitary forest retreats. These trails have been used for Olympic ski training and a host of bicycle and other races.
Historic Resources. The Williams Lake property contains superlative examples of historic room-and-pillar cement mines, as well as other important mining-related relict artifacts (e.g., kilns, chimney, building foundations). These artifacts speak of days of bygone glory when Rosendale was the cement capital of the world following the discovery of natural cement in 1825. Miners faithfully followed the Rondout dolostone along folded, faulted, and steeply inclined rock strata, sometimes to the dull roar of pumps when mining below the water table. Some of the mines on the property are among some of the safest in the region, making them well-suited for visitation by history buffs, geologists, and the public.
Bat Hibernacula. Isolated cement mines on the property have provided critical hibernacula to six bat species for decades. They rovide strongholds for one of the largest colonies of the endangered Indiana bat in NYS and the world. With the current threat to NY State’s bat population stemming from White Nose Syndrome, property mines will only be of greater importance in the future as recolonization efforts get under way. A private conservation easement on 422 acres of the property provides important protection. Geologic Paradise. Bedrock exposures and mines have been studied by acclaimed geologists and their students since the late 1830s. The property, its trails, and rail bed provide ready access to 400 million year old late
Groundwater. Groundwater within the Williams Lake property is contained in fractured bedrock, in solutional conduits, and in mines that have disrupted and integrated pre-mining aquifer systems. Groundwater flow in imestone and dolostone formations is particularly complex, is vulnerable to contamination, and may be linked to bat hibernacula.
WRITTEN COMMENTS DUE JULY 12 ON HRVR’S WILLIAMS LAKE PROJECT
Hudson River Valley Resorts’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for their luxury resort and housing development at Williams Lake is presently undergoing public review. Written comments on the DEIS must be postmarked or e-mailed to the DEC by July 12, 2011.
Mid-Hudson Sierra, which has been monitoring this project since 2007, is opposed to the size and scale of this development, which includes 160 luxury homes, a 130-room resort, a spa, fitness center, boathouse, skating rink, and various other facilities for resort guests and residents.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: (1)
WRITE TO THE DEC WITH
YOUR COMMENTS AND CONCERNS
Written comments, e-mailed or postmarked by July 12, may be sent to:
NYS DEC Region 3
Division of Environmental Permits
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
Following are a few of our specific concerns:
Water Supply: HRVR rejected last year’s independent report from Dr. Ralph Ewers, one of the nation’s foremost hydrologists, that termed their hydrological studies “worthless”. They submitted the same data and conclusions in their DEIS. HRVR plans to take all the water for their large development from 43-acre Williams Lake. Two expert local hydrologists, independent of Dr. Ewers, have concluded that Williams Lake does not have sufficient recharge capacity to supply this development, which, in the long term, will likely “mine” or permanently lower the level of water in the lake. This will negatively impact the high-quality wetlands adjacent to and productive fishery within Williams Lake.
Wastewater Discharge: Effluent from the project’s sewage treatment plant will be discharged to an intermittent stream, which ultimately flows into the Rondout Creek. This stream, and the wetlands through which it flows, could be severely impacted if the wastewater is not consistently treated to the highest possible levels of purity.
Loss of Recreational Open Space: HRVR’s plans for an exclusive private community will severely impact public access to the property, an area which was open to the public for day use, on a fee basis, for nearly 80 years. Until HRVR erected its gates, the area had been widely used for swimming, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and all manner of community events. In the present plan, no public access whatsoever is granted to Williams Lake itself. The DEIS contains language indicating that an easement may be negotiated for access to the rail trail that traverses the property, but no real commitment is made for access to other areas of the property.
Impacts of Heavy Construction on Local Roadways, Residents, and Wildlife: The DEIS greatly minimizes the impact from 10 years of heavy construction: 46,000 cubic yards of rock removal, 8,000 cubic yards of trenching, 165,000 cubic yards of graded “cut”: a total of 221,000 cubic yards (or about 27,625 dump truck loads) of material being blasted away, shifted around, or transported off the site. The DEIS states that this construction activity will have “no significant impact” on local roads, residents, or the wildlife which
inhabit the site (several of which are endangered species).
Mid-Hudson Sierra has been working for several years with the local citizens group, Save the Lakes, to protect the natural and cultural resources of the Williams Lake property. A great deal of background information as well as further details about the many problems associated with this project can be found on their website: www.savethelakes.us.
To view the DEIS itself (over 600 pages long, plus some 6000 pages of appendices), digital and hard (paper) copies are available at:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 3
Office: 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561.
Call 845-256-3054 to schedule an appointment.
The Town of Rosendale, Supervisor's Office: 424 Main Street, Rosendale, NY 12472.
The Town of Rosendale Library: 264 Main Street, Rosendale, NY 12472.
Downloads of the documents are also available at HRVR's website: www.hrvresorts.info/public.html. The DEIS submission is split into three areas: Table of Contents; The Report; and Appendices. Together, the expanded files total more than 600mb. 500mb is in the Appendices, which include the full Rosendale Comprehensive Plan and the like.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: (2)
CONTACT YOUR PUBLIC OFFICIALS; WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
We think that political pressure may have influenced the DEC to release the DEIS for this project prematurely, before all the requirements of the SCOPING document had been met. Instead of doing the science called for by the DEC, the developer has been engaging in a major public relations and lobbying effort touting the alleged economic benefits of their project.
If you live in or near the Town of Rosendale, or have any interest in the future of Williams Lake, please contact your state and local legislators and let them know your concerns about the possible degradation of this beautiful, biologically significant area.
Letters to Rosendale Town Board members would also be appropriate, as the project is contingent upon zoning changes to be approved by that body. Rosendale Town Board members and other local officials can be found on the website: www.townofrosendale.com.
And don’t forget to send your letters to area newspapers, which can have a major influence in determining public policy.
The Sierra Club has been working to preserve this significant area by funding some of the ecological studies done by the renowned local hydrogeologist Paul Rubin, who has found major flaws in the developer’s plans. Although HRVR has consistently denied site access to Rubin, amongst his other findings he has discovered, by measuring the outflow from Williams Lake, that the lake does not have sufficient capacity to meet the water demands of this project.
See below several flyers produced by Rubin and funded by state and local Sierra Club dollars.