Update February 2001
New York City Watershed
The warnings that PRFA published in the New York Property Rights Clearinghouse were mailed to every town supervisor in the Catskill and East of Hudson City watershed regions at the time, and many discussions took place with leaders in Delaware County. But none of the warnings were ultimately heeded and every feature in the draft and final proposed watershed regulations that PRFA found so dangerous was incorporated in the final rules. Delaware County Chamber of Commerce leader Mickey O'Rourke told me that, after his work to defend private property rights failed to have any lasting influence, he decided to move to Florida, which he did.
Five years later, some local officials and property owners are realizing the dangers that were so easily foreseen.
Property owners now watch with dismay as the City gobbles up the desirable river bottom and stream-side land. In 1995, however, PRFA predicted:
"The City will acquire title to an additional 355,050 acres of land, more than triple its current holdings to approximately 10 % of the land in the watershed. The acreage to be acquired by the city over 8 or more years is fully equivalent to the size of New York State's Catskill Forest preserve holdings...The new acreage will not only enlarge the State and City holdings to 20% of the watershed area, but it will have a vastly more significant impact on economic activity than the State's forest preserve holdings because it will be focused on 'environmentally significant' land. State holdings are disproportionately located at steeper, higher elevations. The City's new acquisitions will be along watercourses, broadly defined. The acreage sought will enable the City to acquire every undeveloped parcel or portion thereof within 300 feet or more of watercourses within its concern, as yet undefined, in addition to many partly developed parcels designated for acquisition. All of the lands will be effectively condemned by designation and the City's refusal to grant septic permits under its new power of micromanagement of that part of all construction."
The latter reference would seem to indicate that property owners and local officials would have foreseen, as PRFA pointed out, that the proposed rules stated that septic systems would come under the City's permit jurisdiction. But today local officials and property owners are surprised and up in arms that the City is assuming jurisdiction over septic systems. Will they actually protect home rule and private property rights during the scheduled renegotiations of the watershed accord which are now beginning?