Statement from Assemblyman Butler regarding Hinckley Reservoir agreement

By WKTV News

A statement from Assemblyman Marc Butler regarding the joint announcement by the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation:

“While the agreement announced today by the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the State Canal Corporation promises to bring to a close a long and costly legal battle, there continues to be in my mind a number of troubling elements in what is being proposed.

First and foremost, I find it worth noting that the announcement was made in the air conditioned offices of the MVWA, and not at Hinckley Reservoir itself. It is my understanding that water levels at Hinckley right now are at extremely low levels, and the question needs to be asked about what condition Hinckley and the West Canada Creek would be in if millions of gallons more water were removed from the system daily.
Once the MVWA makes a contractual commitment to any users of that water, control of the Hinckley flow will be even more difficult to manage.

Secondly, a major portion of Hinckley Reservoir and some 18 miles of the West Canada Creek flow through Herkimer County. As such, Herkimer County should have not only been a partner, but should have had a presence at any negotiation that took place about the future of Hinckley and the West Canada. Instead, these negotiations were held in secret, and far-reaching decisions on major policies affecting our region were made without public involvement or input.

Making matters worse, no Herkimer County official, to my knowledge, was made aware of today’s press conference until a few hours before it was scheduled. Certainly none were made aware of the contents and nature of the announcement prior to the press conference. This continues a pattern of unilateral action by the Mohawk Valley Water Authority that has for the past decades ignored the needs and wishes of its neighboring county in relation to this water system. I believe many Oneida County residents and officials from towns in the Hinckley and upper West Canada area have also expressed sincere doubts about the Water Authority’s plans to draw more water from Hinckley.

I believe this continued disregard for Herkimer County’s input created the situation in which we now find ourselves; alternating periods of spring flooding and summertime drought on the West Canada, which I attribute in part to the destruction of the Gray Reservoir. Any long-term lowering of the West Canada’s levels would most directly affect Herkimer County because of the significant recreational business that the creek provides in terms of fishing, camping, tubing, swimming and other pursuits. That results in direct business activity for Herkimer County. Additionally, recent spring flooding has resulted in significant damage to homes and property along the West Canada. So while the benefits of the Water Authority’s plans would go primarily to Oneida County, any risk would primarily be on Herkimer County.

Finally, if the Water Authority pursues its plans to pipe water from Hinckley to western Oneida County, I believe that is contrary to the state’s water management policies that discourage out-of-basin transfers of water that benefit one region at another’s expense.”

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