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Putnam County Legislature Must Commit to Protecting Our Water

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Sustainable Putnam was disheartened to learn of County Legislator Amy Sayegh’s proposed resolution urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto Sen. Peter Harckham’s water protection bill, overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the state legislature. We oppose this action for a number of reasons.

The resolution claims that the bill “will adversely affect habitat improvement and sediment and nutrient reduction…as well as adversely affect public and private infrastructure through flooding impacts.” If true, these impacts would be concerning and surprising. But the bill only adds previously neglected waterways from longstanding New York State law already afforded other waterways. We were anxious to hear the county legislature’s evidence supporting these assertions at its committee meeting last Thursday at Tilly Foster Farm.

Second, the resolution states that county “Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) have established extensive stream remediation and habitat improvement programs and are the point people for private and public stream work in our communities.” So we’re also interested to learn about these Putnam County stream remediation and habitat improvement programs, with which we are not familiar. Regardless, how could there be a conflict between county programs and state laws designed to protect our waterways? Shouldn’t they complement one another?

Third, Putnam County’s SWCD district manager retired one year ago and to our knowledge has not been replaced. (She also served as senior environmental planner to the Putnam County Department of Highways & Facilities, liaison to the county Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and coordinator of the Putnam County Climate Smart Committee.) If you’re counting, that’s four hats for a single staff person. Now she’s gone. Claiming that the SWCD alone can handle protection of our Class C waterways strains credibility.

Finally, here in Putnam County, most of us rely on private wells and septic systems for our potable water and wastewater treatment. Whatever their designated class (AA, A, B, C, etc.), all of these waterways are connected and directly impact our drinking water, fishing, boating and other recreational uses, not to mention our wildlife. Let’s do all we can to actively protect this most valuable resource.

We strongly urge the legislature to vote against this resolution. In addition, we suggest they urge our county executive to increase relevant staffing to more diligently assist residents, farmers and businesses in complying with the existing water protections, as well as this new law, once signed by Gov. Hochul.

Joe Montouri
President, Sustainable Putnam

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