Posted by & filed under Committee Meetings, Frontpage, LTCP, NYS DEC, Water Quality & Technical.

Last month Terri put together a meeting on the phone with NYSDEC. 

Water Quality FOILed information about some of what was said, re: 20,000 waterbodies and not enough time.

Since 2012, when the CAG submitted a resolution requesting reclassification of the Gowanus Canal, there have been eight requests for reclassification submitted to NYSDEC; four of them were in the past year. 

Link to FOIL documents:

The response was very similar to what they’ve consistently told the CAG.

One of the applications was 54 pages with absolute detail. 

There are three agency response letters that don’t say anything. 

We need another strategy that is more political – this isn’t just us – there is a unit to do reclassifications – do they just not move them? 

When you submit a reclassification application, they don’t respond with something pertinent. They want the applicant to provide all this information and wait. 

It’d be different if they said, “thanks, we’ll get to this in 35 years.”

They mimicked what they said on the phone – there’s nothing concrete that will help us figure out when or how to reclassify the waterway. 

Where were the ones that submitted? One in the Finger Lakes with lots of waterbodies in it, most in the Hudson Valley, more initiated by resident associations. 

I was thinking of asking how many have they reclassified without community input next. What bodies and how they were reclassified. Are there any internal processes/departmental processes?

The lake submissions were a little different because of freshwater/drinking water. Land use change is an initiator but obviously not prioritized. 

Sounds like less emphasis on this to be a huge comprehensive resource when we turn it in. 

Would be worth contacting Jo Anne Simon? Yes, is it worth asking the State Assemblywoman to be the petitioner? 

Once we have the application/materials ready, let’s have a resolution to the whole CAG to agree with what we’ve put together, and to have Jo Anne Simon submit it. 

Amy laid out materials to gather for the reclass application: 

  • Showing the impacts of the Land Use change vs. LTCP for 2040 that doesn’t look at rezoning
  • Shipping and navigability constraints 
  • Waterfront access 
  • Ecological data. Amy wants support on where other data sources might be.

DEP is blocking us. We need to answer to them that a better standard is attainable. When we sat on the stakeholders group in 2002, we quantified and documented a two-year process with the Army Corps and DEP. There was a huge push to make the canal swimmable, and at that time oil was still being barged to Union Street. When we passed the resolution, we knew we shouldn’t say swimmable. The lawsuit is recent – EPA required a pathogen standard for every waterbody, and the state was then doing it. The City sued against DEC, not Alley Creek – it was a rule-making on the state level. 

What is the chronology along the motions to move for reclassification – what happened with the city and the state, or why the city is so set on not having a pathogen standard for the canal? 

Angela Licatta did say there was a pathogen standard, but didn’t say what it was. 

I want clarification about the Gowanus Canal pathogen standard – SD lower than Class I, and how it is being used to inform anything happening now is unknown. 

Completely out of compliance with the LTCP. They have to keep the tunnel running at all times. That’s the whole issue with wanting to add more people. More sewage without a plan doesn’t work. Common decency, more engineers, more comprehensive planning. 

It is amazing proposing a plan for this many more people without an infrastructure plan in place.  

Barricading the end of the canal – we have to get the sludge out. Forget the barrier, that’s not going to happen. There’s no money. You can’t build the railroad across the Hudson because there’s no money. 

The thing that needs to be opened up again, momentum at the origins of the LTCP and the barges are gone and the rezoning.

Want to make sure everyone is cool with whom we ask for letters of support.

Let’s hit state and federal – we’re asking the federal Clean Water Act; City Council is cool, but they don’t have as much jurisdiction on reclassification issues as the State officials do.

Trying to build strong argument from the community for this, thinking hyperlocal. 

Bill out right now, 1618, reopening CSOs LCTP. Levin signed on, Lander might.

Is anybody barging still? No, not any concrete left.

Wait, so without the barges, is it still a commercial waterway? It’s navigable.

They were using the need for barges as a reason not to reclassify, so if you make the point there are no barges anymore, why not reclassify? 

The IBZ may not like taking away the commercial waterway designation.

Right, but without the barges, what makes it commercial? I don’t know the parameters. None of us know what goes into the decision making process. 

Other than actually putting it all together, I think we need to make the argument as to why a higher class is attainable. If there’s hope that it is attainable, there can be less sewage, better dissolved oxygen level, fewer toxins. 

When the flushing tunnel isn’t operating it is in violation of the LTCP. Right now they’re trying to fix the flushing tunnel pumping problem. Should be back on line December 14. DEP is acknowledging that there are sudsing agents, and the tunnel had too high of a velocity, so they’re lowering the discharge weir to reduce excess turbulence. It will be lower pressure. They’d been running it at a lower capacity, so curious to know if that capacity met the Long-Term Control Plan and levels of dissolved oxygen. 

Wonder if there will be a test. Most of the work done was modeling and a few observations. 

Would be great to have Hildegaard/CB6 support. 

Every community group south of Atlantic signed on, if we have a region-wide coalition for reclassification of the water, so we get every organization we can: Park Slope Civic Council, every CAG member who represents an organization needs to submit a support letter.

Be prepared, because if there is better recreational use for the water, it would bring in gentrification.

Key is to show broad community support. And then we’ll get this in and we’ll get another.

Charter Changes and Charter Vote 

I think it would be great to have a list of who is on the Water Quality committee going forward, and a sense of the protocol. When we meet, who makes an executive call in absence of a leader? Committees were supposed to be self-running in some ways.

Question of formal notification of people who don’t come to the committee meetings.

What might Water Quality want to do in the new year? 

It was originally three people who were leading Water Quality, one kept attendance.

Agenda should be set by everyone. We all should be throwing in the agenda.

Committee had its own place to post things on the website, that was nice in the past. Now there’s a Google doc, might be able to share. 

Want to formally submit something to NYSDEC for the reclassification before the holidays. December 3 draft would be ideal. There won’t be another committee meeting before then. 

Can we send out a Google doc to view for the whole CAG? Allow comments/ suggestions

Suggestion for small group – What’s App – can add pictures/text, easy way to keep in communication opposed to email/text message.

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