AFTERNOON UPDATE: The full Stipulation between Scenic Hudson and DEC now can be downloaded by clicking here. An initial reading of the document suggests that many of the settlement’s provisions seem positive as far as the Waterfront planning process goes, as well as any possible future reviews by various agencies (from the Hudson and Greenport planning agencies to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) of a haul road proposal.
However, the document leaves one big question hanging which needs clarification.
On the plus side, the Stipulation states that “the issuance of the Permit was not, and should not be construed to be, an endorsement by DEC of any particular truck route or alternative route to be used by O&G Industries [...] as part of its operations in the Town of Greenport and City of Hudson.” DEC concedes that no coordinated SEQR review occurred related to such a proposal, and that the DEC’s negative declaration “should not be construed to be binding on any other agency with jurisdiction over the activities of the Permittee in or near South Bay, and should not be considered either “a substitute for the permit authority of any other agency.” All of that is excellent.
The one potentially troubling and unclear portion—and this could be a biggie—is a curious statement that the DEC permit “is limited to the pavement of two hundred +/- feet of the causeway in the adjacent area of the South Bay wetland.”
While that provision seems tempered by an acknowledgment that “it does not authorize any other activities in South Bay that would be jurisdictional under the Freshwater Wetlands Act,” it is unclear where this 200-foot stretch of pavement would go, and whether that number refers to the length or the width of the causeway. One assumes it refers to the area near the entrance to Holcim’s desired route off 9G, as evidently was discussed in the original deal with DEC, but that is not spelled out.
(If Scenic Hudson were agreeing to a 200-foot-wide paved area, that would be appalling. But given that such a provision would require extensive filling of the Bay, that seems improbable. The current abandoned railbed is more like 15 feet wide, bordered by some 25-30 or so feet along some stretches of its south side where Holcim carried forth illegal bulldozing, for which it was fined, back in 2004; marshes and open water border much of the remainder.) What’s puzzling is how a 200-foot-length of paving would serve any purpose to either party, as that would extend barely 20% or so across the Bay. Scenic Hudson needs to clarify this matter, as that one line could spoil some very good work on their part to secure an otherwise positive resolution.
The overall effect of the Stipulation would seem to be that the idea of an active industrial haul road is, though not dead, at least on hold pending future decisions and reviews.
ORIGINAL POST: This morning, a State official confirmed a persistent rumor that Scenic Hudson and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have made a deal concerning the proposed heavy industrial haul road from Becraft Mountain, across routes 9 and 9G, and through the wetlands of South Bay to the Hudson Waterfront.A representative of the State’s Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board confirms that the two parties have entered into a “Stipulation of Settlement” which “resolves and terminates the appeal to the Board.” A copy of that document is on its way from the agency.
The big question now is: What were the terms of the settlement?
DEC had issued nebulous “maintenance” permits to O&G and Holcim regarding the proposed haul road. There was little real opportunity for public input, no recognition that there isn’t any pre-existing permitted road in place, and no notice to interested parties that a decision had been reached. Holcim and O&G tried hard to spin this in the press as the final word on the question of bringing hundreds of trucks daily down from the mines and through the Bay.
Scenic Hudson, to its credit, filed an appeal noting that the permits issued were based on false premises and a lack of data about the habitats which would be affected. The DEC tried and failed to have this appeal dismissed.
Now that the mystery Stipulation has been made, it will be fascinating to see the actual terms. Has DEC backed off its hasty and ill-informed decision and voided the permits? Or, have they suspended their endorsement until the resolution of the Hudson waterfront plan contoversy? Or, as happened with the shockingly craven secret deal over the Athens Gemerating plant, have Ned Sullivan and crew sold out the citizenry again?
One hopes that Scenic Hudson learned its well-deserved lesson from Athens, and that this new, quiet agreement will turn out to be a real improvement over the DEC’s reckless behavior up to this point. Word is that the Stipulation will be produced tonight by a Scenic Hudson representative at the Greenport Planning Commission... So stay tuned.