FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 2000
CONTACT: Carol W. LaGrasse
DEC WEIGHS SELECTION OF CONSULTANTS TO RE-MAP WETLANDS IN THE NEW YORK CITY WATERSHED REGION
An Additional 994 Acres of Jurisdictional Wetlands Estimated
Another source of anxiety is about to hit private property owners in New York City's Catskill watershed region, just as they are being caught by the implementation of the City's new powers created by elaborate regional watershed regulations.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will soon reveal the consultants it has selected from those invited to bid last June on the re-mapping of new jurisdictional wetlands in the City watershed. According to the project documents, about 994 acres of new wetlands are to be mapped.
"The mapping of the wetlands places the private property under the jurisdiction of the DEC," said Carol W. LaGrasse, the president of the Stony Creek, N.Y.-based Property Rights Foundation of America, "This means that property owners have to go through the expensive process of applying for permits to use their land within the new wetland area as well as in the buffer zone 100 feet outside of the wetland. Many uses are prohibited."
As opposed to the time when the DEC wetlands re-mapping in Saratoga County was initially announced, the Catskill watershed project involves a region already embroiled in controversy over outside interference with its local affairs to the detriment of the economy. The Catskill wetlands remapping project has been quietly moving through DEC, unnoticed, while continuing controversy has swirled about the 1999 Saratoga County remapping, which has affected over 4,200 parcels.
To correct many of the injustices exposed during the continuing controversy in Saratoga County, Assemblyman Robert G. Prentiss held a press conference yesterday announcing the introduction of four bills (A. 9276-79) to reform the Freshwater Wetlands Law. The bills will provide compensation, the affordable right to appeal, and tax abatement for wetlands owners throughout the state.
When the potentially controversial project in the Catskills goes into action, the DEC apparently wants the consultants to have planned how to handle some unpredictable factors. One item required in the DEC terms is that the contractor allow for "the unknown nature of the potential economic, social and technical issues of conducting the work." In addition, the consultants are required to prepare for "litigation support" "related to the subject matter of this contract."
During December, the City asserted its power to be co-lead agency over review of a proposed golf resort in Shandaken. This assertion precipitated a battle with the Shandaken Town Board that is now embroiling the region. Local people seem to consider the City's action a harbinger of future outside assertions of sovereignty over the region.
The DEC's hiring of consultants to remap the wetlands in the New York City watershed and put the maps into a GIS data base is the agency's first use of a contractor to undertake amendments to the freshwater wetlands regulatory maps, according to the agency. The DEC did, however, use consultants to respond to some of the landowner complaints about the Saratoga County re-mapping.