Bridges over troubled waters

Local politicians and environmentalists are getting seriously twisted over proposals by developers to create (mini) Ashokan reservoirs in Ulster’s northwest territories to produce hydro-electric power during area peak demands.

Pardon my confusion, but hydro power used to be the best thing since wind and solar. Maybe not just this kind of hydro.

The way pols are framing this one, it appears greedy developers are prepared to blow up our Catskill Mountains in quest of ill-gotten gain.

History suggests that any kind of major construction project in the Catskills will be met with vociferous opposition, regardless of any concessions developers might make to public protest. Does the Resort at Belleayre in Shandaken, now entering its 23rd year without a spade of earth being turned, ring a bell?

Decimation of native American peoples, notwithstanding, this kind of animosity between those who are already here and those who would like to join us, dates to at least the dawn of the 20th century.

The 1905 Watershed Act was designed to provide a rapidly growing New York City with a potable, reliable water supply. The high Catskills were the nearest source. It took 17 years to complete the reservoirs, engineering marvels in the day. Flooded out were villages, hamlets and homes, cemeteries, churches, roads and railroads, vast forests. Properties, some occupied by the same families for centuries, were taken by eminent domain. A few were moved to higher ground beyond the reservoirs.  The foundations of those long-ago settlements can be viewed when reservoirs run low during droughts or prolonged lack of precipitation.

Old-timers, some still standing when I arrived in these parts 50 years ago, remained resentful of “the city” for taking their family homes.  The new wave of immigrants takes their homes, too, but at least they pay three times the assessed value.

Former county exec Mike Hein, when he was feuding with the reservoir people about muddying up the Esopus, once referred to the city as “an invading army.” Often given to hyperbole, Hein wasn’t that far off on that one. The city owns the land and they have the law on their side. It will take more than press releases and press conferences to fend off this perceived invader.  

It is said that for every complicated problem, there is a simple, quick solution that probably doesn’t work. But rather than bloviating for the cameras, can’t we just try?

Want to create hydro power to feed the grid at peak times, as developers propose, then why not capture some of the millions of gallons flowing over the Ashokan every day?

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ANTONIO ON DECK – A pair of distinguished speakers will tackle the issues of race, social cohesion and the oppression of people of color, virtually, on April 13 (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. The public is invited to participate.

Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19th and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will be joined “in conversation” with Dr. Leticia Smith-Evans Hayes, vice president for institutional diversity, equity and inclusion at Williams, according to an article in Northern Dutchess News.

It is noteworthy that Delgado, a two-term congressman from Rhinebeck, and the former governor, are both highly accomplished African-American men speaking to the issues of what many see as systemic racism in our country. Some might find that ironic, given their success. I don’t. These are role models.

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ME AND MARIO – My radio sidekick, Mario Catalano and of Me and Mario, haven’t had a guest on our bi-Friday morning call-in program on GHQ-92 for a while. That’s about to change. Kingston alderperson- at-large Andrea Shaut, a Democrat, will be our guest during the 8-9 segment on Friday where we will discuss, among other topics, the Common Council approval last week of a $500,000 rezoning study.

In the interest of equal time – I’m a Democrat and Mario is a former county Republican chairman – we’ll host former Republican county judge Don Williams during our 7 a.m. segment. The judicial code of ethics limited what the judge could say publicly during his ten-year term. No more since he retired last year.

We look forward to lively discussions with both guests.