Agreement Reached to Fast Track NYC Water Improvement Plans

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County Executive Rob Astorino is joined by officials from throughout Westchester to announce plans to speed up approval of water quality improvement projects/

County Executive Rob Astorino and officials from northern Westchester’ s 10 watershed communities announced plans on Tuesday to speed up the distribution of the remaining East  of Hudson funds to pay for water quality improvement projects.

Under the intermunicipal agreement between the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee (NWCC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the board of legislators would pass one bill to distribute the $10 million left over to reduce phosphorous in the city’s drinking water supply. Previously, county lawmakers in most cases voted to approve work on a project-by-project basis.

The money is from the $38 million the county received as part of the landmark 1997 Memorandum of Agreement with New York City to create the East of Hudson Water Quality Investment Program Fund. Bedford, Cortlandt, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers and Yorktown are the 10 Westchester municipalities within the New York City watershed. So far, $28 million has been spent on various projects.

“The 10 towns up here in northern Westchester are a small part of Westchester County as a whole and so it just makes sense to give the towns direct control of the money as opposed to going through the county board of legislators, which is a much bigger kind of venue,” said Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy, the NWWC chairwoman.

Until now, approvals for certain projects have taken six to 12 months, Astorino said. With the agreement, the county will relinquish control of the process after it approves the one bill, reducing the time for each project  by at least several months.

“This will, I think, speed up the process, make it quicker and really put the decisions into the hands of the people we really need to make the these kinds of decisions, which would be the town supervisors and town boards in the 10 communities in the Westchester watershed,” Astorino said during the announcement on Tuesday morning at Yorktown Town Hall.

Murphy said the NWCC has identified 81 projects–some of which have already been done– after the state passed new stormwater guidelines about two years ago. The state’s goal was to remove 256 kilograms of phosphorous from the city’s drinking water supply in Westchester within five years.

In 2010, 28 of the retrofit projects were completed, followed by five more last year. This year, another 20 are scheduled to be completed. Murphy said she is optimistic there will be sufficient funds to finish all of the work.

County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, chairman of the board’s Committee on the Environment and Energy, said there is precedent for taking the action. Several years ago, the board of legislators passed one bill to distribute $7.5 million, half of which went to the 10 towns for water quality improvements and the other half going to the county.

The complete list of projects that are slated to be done can be found on the county’s website www.westchestergov.com.

 

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