Assemblyman Steve Katz announced that he has identified “outside of the box” funding opportunities for lake improvement projects and other proposals related to the municipal separate sewer stormwater systems (MS4) requirements for communities in the 99th Assembly District.
Katz is encouraging use of an interest-free revolving loan program to help communities with up-front costs for projects without having to raise funds through taxes. He suggests using the interest accrued from the banked East of Hudson funds to repay the loans.
“In this day and age, with government budgets as well as household budgets scraping the bottom of the barrel, coupled with the economic crunch, we need to explore every avenue to fund the big government-mandated projects that taxpayers cannot afford,” Katz said. “The Environmental Facility Corporation’s Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund is a creative, ‘outside the box’ opportunity to help fund individual, local, and regional water projects – including both the individual and local projects in and around Lake Shenorock as well as the regional MS4 storm water mandate.”
Katz urged the Town of Somers to use funds from this program to afford improvement projects in and around the lake, which was once a source of drinking water, as well as to help neighboring communities offset the estimated $500 million cost of the federally-mandated MS4 regional storm water project.
“This sounds very interesting,” Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy said. Murphy is also the chairwoman of the East of Hudson Coalition. “We will see how this will play out with coordinating this with the funds we will be getting to do the MS4 retrofits.”
The coalition, which is made up of 15 towns and villages that includes Putnam County, has about $50 million put aside from monies collected through the 1997 East of Hudson funds that were awarded to Westchester and Putnam counties and funds from New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s Department of Conservation.
The $50 million is expected to cover the costs of the mandates for the first five-year phase.
The second phase is expected to cost over $450 million and no specific funding sources have yet to be secured. The coalition is in its third year of the 5-year phase.
In reference to Lake Shenorock, which has not been identified as an MS4-related project Murphy said Westchester County gave the town $100,000 to conduct a study on Lake Shenorock and its surrounding community to see what remediation efforts would be possible.
The privately owned lake in possession of a defunct homeowners association and has been an issue of contention in the Shenorock community. Some residents unsuccessfully tried to gather enough signatures to convert the community into a special park district that would tax the residents the cost to rehabilitate and maintain the lake.
Murphy did not know if the interest earned from the East of Hudson funds, which is already allocated for MS4-related projects, could be used to repay a loan for Shenorock.
Katz said because of a consolidation form, if an individual organization or local government applies for EFC revolving loans, the application is automatically entered into consideration for other government funding, assistance and grant opportunities.
“It’s a one-stop application that opens the door to a variety of revenue sources to help fund some of these expensive projects so that taxpayers aren’t further burdened,” Katz said.
Katz announced the opportunity as part of his “HealthyLakes” initiative, a measure he is working on with local officials to help mitigate costs and problems with the federally-imposed MS4 mandate. The assemblyman has been particularly engaged and vocal about finding alternative solutions and funding opportunities.
“While we continue to challenge the federal government on the necessity of this mandated project, and to encourage New York City to fund the majority of this project, I will not allow the costs to be passed along to taxpayers,” Katz said. “Especially when we have yet to consider each and every opportunity, like the EFC’s Clean Water loan program.”
The federally-mandated MS4 project aims to reduce the levels of phosphorous in the Croton Watershed, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of New York City’s drinking water.
The EFC’s Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund was created in the late 1990s with funding provided by New York City to protect and maintain their drinking water reserves east of the Hudson River. To date, the fund has at least $1.36 million still available through the end of this fiscal year to award in loans.