Just as temperatures peaked near 90 degrees Thursday afternoon, Genesee County officials shared the disheartening news for folks that had pulled on a pair of shorts intending to cool off at the nearest spray park.
Count Shelly Fox, Jennifer Benkleman and Connor among them.
"I'm really disappointed," Fox said as the trio sat near the base of a drying spray park with a hot beating sun in Austin Park Thursday. "We can't afford air conditioning, and this was going to be our summer outlet to come cool off."
Due to a combination of hot weather and the failure of a pump controller at the city’s wellfield, the county called for a mandatory water restriction until 10 p.m. Thursday night.
County Manager Matt Landers asked that Le Roy and Batavia officials each close their respective spray parks, in addition to issuing a laundry list of reminders for residents to curb their water usage.
Landers said that he is “hoping the demand subsides tomorrow with the weather cooling a little, plus repairs at the plant” will keep the splash pad closures temporary.
“However, we are monitoring closely and will send out an alert tomorrow again if necessary,” he said.
He knew that Le Roy’s facility was closed and referred The Batavian to city management to confirm that the same decision was made to close the spray park at Austin Park.
Yes, it was, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.
"The city spray park is closed currently while we try to recover water in the city's tanks. The pump for well C is down, and we are unable to draw enough water from the aquifer to keep up with the demand. City of Batavia and Genesee County have been in constant communication throughout today, looking at ways to preserve water and get the pump back online as soon as possible," she said. "We appreciate everyone understanding the water restrictions that the county has put in place and hope residents and businesses can follow them until we can get well back up and running."
In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer said that the current water demand is exceeding the infrastructure’s capability to produce clean water and that restrictions are necessary to ensure that the limited public water supply is “distributed equitably among all residents and essential services.”
“The cooperation of all residents, businesses and institutions is vital,” she said.
The following restrictions are effective immediately:
- Outdoor watering is strictly prohibited. Outdoor watering includes lawns, gardens, splash pads, car washing and other non-essential water uses.
- Do not fill swimming pools. Turn off decorative fountains or any other water-consuming recreational purposes.
- Shortened Showers: Limit showers to a maximum of five minutes. Turn off the tap while lathering or brushing your teeth.
- Wait to use dishwashers and washing machines.
Help raise awareness: Spread the word about the water restrictions to friends, neighbors, and community members to ensure widespread compliance. These restrictions may cause inconvenience, but they are crucial to effectively managing the current water shortage.
Despite the letters of appeal with several reasons why city, town, and county officials did not want a company tapping into Batavia’s Well D, the Department of Environmental Conservation has ruled otherwise.
After a more than four-month review process of paperwork and supporting documentation from the applicant, Seneca Power Partners, and from city, town and county management and legal sources, the DEC has opted to grant Seneca a permit to “add Well D at the Batavia Well Field as a new permanent source of water supply.”
The permit has been granted for five years, with the option for Seneca Power Partners to reapply when that time is up.
“We have the same concerns we had when we issued the letters of concern (in July),” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. “We outlined our concerns to the DEC, and we will meet with DPW and our legal counsel to determine the next steps.”
Tabelski wasn't quite certain how the DEC arrived at its decision, given some confusing supporting information.
Environmental Analyst Guillermo Saar sent the municipalities and Brian Gregson of SPP a letter on Nov. 18 regarding the decision and reasons for the approval (PDF). In short, the permit authorizes the withdrawal of up to 698,400 gallons per day, or a total of 26 million gallons per year of water for the purpose of system maintenance, boiler make-up water, and non-contact cooling to support the generation of electric power in accordance with the terms and conditions of this permit. Water is to be withdrawn from a new groundwater supply, Well D, located at the Batavia Power Plant.
The longer version cites each reason stated by town, city and county officials, and DEC’s response to each. An example of DEC’s reasons includes a dispute about how much of an impact this additional water draw would negatively affect the county.
The opposing sides cited a significantly lower season average trend that “continues to exacerbate the overuse of the aquifer,” versus DEC’s determination that groundwater level data over the period from October 2007 through July 2022 “do not show that the drought experienced from 2015 to 2017 is indicative of a long-term declining trend in aquifer storage, but rather, a discrete event around which water levels recovered to statistically normal conditions.”
Or, with the Town of Batavia’s request to consider the “collateral environmental impacts” of this extra water taken for the company’s production needs, DEC reviewed statistics and prior water levels and found that the highest yearly draw for two decades, up to 2021, was 22 million gallons -- four million gallons less than what DEC has allowed.
A projected pumping rate of 700 gallons per minute, which is the equivalent of 1.08 million gallons per day, “would not adversely impact the Tonawanda Creek Primary Aquifer,” Saar said.
In the city’s letter of appeal, attorney George Van Nest argued that the DEC must determine that the proposed water withdrawal takes proper consideration of other sources of water supply that may become available.
First, that option was not listed by Seneca in the November 2021 Engineer’s Report included with the new Water Withdrawal permit application, Saar said. And engineers deemed the potential re-use of discharge water unfeasible “because the O-At-Ka discharge water is too hot for the Batavia Power plant’s cooling use.”
Overall, it was not the answer municipal leaders were hoping for.
“Genesee County was certainly disappointed by the DEC permitting Seneca Power a permit to draw water from Well D,” County Manager Matt Landers said. “The County and City will continue to monitor the water levels in the aquifer with the hope this additional draw doesn’t have a material impact on the City Water Plant’s ability to draw water during peak demand days in the summer.”
Water concerns have been on the rise, as the county has continued to see an uptick in demand, and drier summer weather, coupled with the need for updated aquifer systems that are part of an ongoing three-phase water project.
"The county will continue to observe the use/access of the water,” Legislative Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said. “Our concerns will be noted to our state elected officials too. We rely on the ground water for a portion of our water supply.”
County Highway Superintendent and engineer Tim Hens has become the Paul Revere of water each summer, asking residents to temper their usage and warning that one day a serious drought could arrive.
He wasn’t too worried to hear the news of Seneca’s permit, at least not yet.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do at this point, it’s just going to be a wait-and-see. In most cases it shouldn’t be an issue for us unless we’re in periods of extended drought and groundwater has dropped precipitously,” Hens said. “We did do testing to show that their well could operate alongside of ours, and know we can handle short durations from both sources.”
However, it’s the long-term impacts on groundwater that have to be monitored, he said. And no one really knows for sure if and how much that may become a problem in the future.
At the beginning of July, City and Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials had joined forces to oppose the request for water that they believed could potentially affect the flow for area residents.
The three municipalities called upon environmental analyst Guillermo Saar of the state Department of Conservation to consider the burden that a request to draw 715,600 gallons a day would put on Batavia and Genesee County if granted.
Seneca Power Partners, a company at 163 Cedar St., Batavia, made the request through a permit application to DEC’s Division of Environmental Permits. The municipalities' response was swift.
“The major users of the Well Field (Genesee County, Town of Batavia, and City of Batavia) oppose this application and seek to help Seneca Power Partners find an alternative means to access untreated water for their operations. The aquifer directly feeds the Batavia Water Treatment Plant (owned by Genesee County, and operated by the City of Batavia) as a major source of drinking water,” the municipalities stated. “While the Tonawanda Creek also contributes as a source of drinking water, the quality and turbidity of the Creek make it a much less desirable source. Any excess extraction of water from the aquifer will force the Batavia Water Treatment Plant to rely more heavily on the Creek, and that will, in turn, increase the cost of municipal water treatment and decrease sustainability.”
In its application, a 662-page document stating its case with several supporting documents, Seneca Power Partners said that the use of water is “an integral part of the energy production process and is proportional to production.” More water is needed to produce more electricity. A simplified route the water takes looks something like this:
Water + heated by natural gas = steam = spins a turbine = goes into a generator = energy converted to electricity. The steam often evaporates and cannot be collected after the process, applicant John Trendowski, on behalf of the company, stated.
- Batavia company seeks permit for water
- Fluid issue pits Batavia company against city, town and county
File photo of Seneca Power Partners' Batavia-based power plant on Cedar Street, by Howard Owens.
Just as the deadline for public comments was coming to a close Thursday, local municipalities were giving their reasons for opposing a request for what they believe is an excessive amount of water from City Well D.
The Department of Environmental Conservation is at the center of the request from Seneca Power Partners and opposing sides of the city and town of Batavia and Genesee County. DEC Communications spokeswoman Andrea Pedrick told The Batavian Thursday that “the public comment period ends today. DEC’s next step is to evaluate the application and any comments received to determine next steps.”
“The letter of opposition will be reviewed the same as any other public comments sent to DEC regarding this application,” Pedrick said. “It would be speculative to speak ahead of this review process.”
Seneca Power Partners surprised the municipality leaders with the permit request to draw 715,600 gallons of water per day from the city’s well for the company’s Batavia Power Plant at 163 Cedar St., Batavia. Such extraction of water daily could greatly affect the water supply for local citizens, the opposing letters stated in much more elaborated terms. (See Batavia company seeks permit for water, faces opposition)
The opposition ...
Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post agrees with the reasons cited by city and Genesee County officials for opposing the application. In addition to letters sent by the other two municipalities, Post also sent a letter with additional ramifications if the request is granted.
One topic that has not been considered in the application or related reports is “the collateral environmental impacts,” Post said.
He has witnessed how excess demands on the aquifer downstream, primarily east and north of the city’s wellfield, he said. DeWitt Park, Seven Springs Country Club, Rochester Zen Center, Retreat at Chapin Mill, Horseshoe Lake, and Genesee County Fish and Game Protective Association (at Godfrey’s Pond) all depend on the water supply from this aquifer to maintain wetlands, ponds, lakes, and headwaters of Bigelow Creek “in the same manner consistent with the past several centuries," he said.
Post disagrees with SPP's environmental assessment that there are “no known significant individual or cumulative adverse environmental impacts” from the large withdrawal of water for Batavia Power Plant each day. Reports used as supporting documentation for SPP’s request were based mostly during low usage of the aquifer than more current times would show, Post said.
“Our concern is that any further demands on the aquifer that sustains this region’s people, industries, commerce, agriculture, and the ecological system should be looked at in more depth than the current assembled application,” Post said. “I would strongly ask that all parties demand the time to more thoroughly investigate the consequences of this permit issue.”
Genesee County is still weighing its options for how and if to respond if DEC grants the request, County Manager Matt Landers said. He wasn’t certain whether public hearings would be a future option, and the county is “handling the situation directly with DEC” right now while keeping the public informed through press releases of its correspondence with the agency, he said. To his understanding, “the permitting decision is solely in the hands of the DEC.”
“We obviously hope our letter speaks for itself to the DEC and they deny the application for the permit,” he said. “We are hopeful that an additional strain on one of the main sources of water in Genesee County is not put in place. Putting additional strain on the County’s ability to deliver safe, clean and reliable water to the residents of Genesee County is certainly not in our best interest.”
County Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said the county would like to “encourage NYS DEC to consider our comments of opposition to the request.”
“We will work in cooperation with our municipal partners as the review process evolves,” she said.
In response to The Batavian’s request for a worst-case scenario if the request is approved, Stein said that could be a “possible reduction of available raw water … for our residents and further water restriction possibilities.”
The applicant ...
In its application, a 662-page document stating its case with several supporting documents, Seneca Power Partners said that the use of water is “an integral part of the energy production process and is proportional to production.” More water is needed to produce more electricity. A simplified route the water takes looks something like this:
Water + heated by natural gas = steam = spins a turbine = goes into a generator = energy converted to electricity
The steam often evaporates and cannot be collected after the process, applicant John Trendowski, on behalf of the company, stated. Batavia Power Plant tries to minimize its water usage and repairs any leaks within the system in a timely manner. Any wastewater generated will continue to be discharged to the city of Batavia sanitary sewer, treated by the publicly owned wastewater treatment plant for eventual discharge to Tonawanda Creek, Trendowski said.
As production increases, the need for additional water will also increase as there will be more evaporative losses. The facility will track water intake from the well and the city, as well as water discharged to the city of Batavia wastewater treatment plant, he said.
“Although after-efficiency processes may reduce water usage slightly, energy production is a water-intensive process. This project was selected from evaluated alternatives because Batavia Power Plant has struggled economically in the energy market over the last several years. By using the well located on the property on Cedar Street, the Batavia Power Plant can limit its intake water from the city of Batavia,” the application states. “The generation of electricity requires significant amounts of water for cooling purposes, which is proportional to energy production. By reducing the amount of potable water required from the city, the facility can alleviate some of these expenses.”
The water withdrawal by the city to supply water to Batavia Power Plant has occurred since 1996, and based on a hydrogeologic report for Batavia wellfield, “withdrawing water directly from Well D should not have an effect on the water supply for municipalities or industrial sources in the area,” the permit application states.
The application points to major tributary watersheds that connect to Niagara River and Lake Erie, including Tonawanda Creek, which is 1,538 river miles. The creek itself is not the best source of consumable water due to its high turbidity and need for treatment, city officials said in their letter of opposition.
In the letter accompanying SPP’s permit application, Brian Gregson, development manager of Seneca Power Partners, and John Trendowski, senior principal with C&S Engineers, Inc., are the primary representatives for the request.
Not familiar with Seneca Power Partners has seemingly operated under the public radar, with no company signage to indicate it’s even there (on Cedar Street near O-AT-KA), sparse information online, and few, if any, public mentions.
The permit application is now in the hands of the DEC for a final decision.
Top photo: National Grid transmission lines near the power plant; the plant on Cedar Street in Batavia; an aerial view provided within the application; power lines running from the National Grid lines to the power plant. Photos by Howard Owens.
City and Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials have joined forces to oppose a request for water that could potentially affect the flow for area residents.
The three municipalities called upon environmental analyst Guillermo Saar of the state Department of Conservation to consider the burden a request -- to draw 715,600 gallons a day — would put on Batavia and Genesee County if granted. Seneca Power Partners, a company at 163 Cedar St., Batavia, with an unpaid debt of more than $1.5 million in back taxes, made the request through a permit application to DEC’s Division of Environmental Permits.
“The major users of the Well Field (Genesee County, Town of Batavia, and City of Batavia) oppose this application and seek to help Seneca Power Partners find an alternative means to access untreated water for their operations. The aquifer directly feeds the Batavia Water Treatment Plant (owned by Genesee County, and operated by the City of Batavia) as a major source of drinking water,” the letter stated. “While the Tonawanda Creek also contributes as a source of drinking water, the quality and turbidity of the Creek make it a much less desirable source. Any excess extraction of water from the aquifer will force the Batavia Water Treatment Plant to rely more heavily on the Creek, and that will, in turn, increase the cost of municipal water treatment and decrease sustainability.”
City Manager Rachael Tabelski was not given any advance warning about the request from Seneca Power Partners, she said.
“This application to tap into the aquifer was a surprise, and there was no previous conversation with the City about utilizing Well D,” she said to The Batavian Wednesday evening. “As the letter, you received stated, the aquifer is a protected natural resource that provides water to many residents and businesses and needs to be scrutinized at the highest levels for the best outcome for all parties.”
According to a letter sent by the three municipalities, the amount requested, 715,600 gallons per day is 75 times more water usage than the current average of 9,513 GPD. This will “burden the aquifer's ability to supply the Batavia Water Treatment Plant,” the letter states.
“The aquifer has seen historic low levels of source water in the last decade, a pattern that has not reversed itself,” it states.
Other supporting reasons for opposition is that Genesee County has issued water conservation notices to residents two years in a row, in June 2021 and again in July of this year. The notices warned that “the water level in the aquifer that feeds the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant is approaching historic lows,” and “the deeper the water is below ground level the more inefficient the well pumps are..” It was the third consecutive year the county asked residents for a voluntary water restriction.
The City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant provides nearly 50 percent of the county's water needs. . Without an adequate source to supply the residential, agriculture, commercial and industrial users, they face the potential for water shortages, inadequate flows for fire suppression, and a risk of hydrological issues, the letter states.
“In an emergency, if the county were to bring in water from other outside sources there would be an unknown hydrologic mix that could severely impact residents that have lead and galvanized pipes,” it states. “This could lead to a serious social injustice for the most economically disadvantaged citizens.”
In the letter, it states that while the applicant claims that “they are operating in a socially responsible manner, their past activities indicate otherwise.” The company faced termination notices for water service in 2020 and 2021 for failure to pay its water bills, and is currently on the path to foreclosure of its plant and pipeline for failure to pay real property taxes since 2017. As of June 15 of this year, that tab is now at $1,528,402.32.
“How can we trust a company who blatantly ignores its water and tax bills with the responsibility to draw water from a protected aquifer?” the municipality leaders asked.
A final consideration is that Seneca Power Partners “has failed to consider other sources of water that would be more resilient and responsible." For example, O-AT-KA Milk Products, less than 100 yards away from the property line, discharges 1.0 mm gallons/day of non-contact water through its permit discharge and is “willing to entertain a discussion about rerouting a portion of this water to Seneca Power Partners.” As this is non-contact cooling water, it might be a suitable and more sustainable option to pursue, the letter stated.
“Therefore, and in light of the objections outlined above, we oppose the permit application to the DEC and ask that the DEC act in a manner to protect the aquifer and Batavia Water Treatment Plant,” it stated.
The letter, signed by Tabelski, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post, was complemented by another letter sent by Genesee County Legislature and signed by Chairwoman Rochelle Stein.
Genesee County leaders are opposing the request due to a troubling trend of a declining water table; the misrepresentation by SPP of how the request would actually affect the city, town and county residents; and a request that is significantly higher than the historic daily average water use by SPP.
“Due to these three reasons listed above, Genesee County is strongly opposed to Seneca Power Partners’ direct well water withdrawal permit application,” Stein said. “We hope NYSDEC staff understands our position and puts the needs of an entire county above the interests of a private company.”
Press releases about this matter were sent out by the city and county around 4:15 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, respectively. Questions emailed to Landers and Stein were not answered Wednesday evening. Tabelski said that she would discuss some of the questions with the city attorney and also referred the matter to DEC. Emailed questions to DEC Regional 8 Director Tim Walsh were not answered as of Wednesday night.
See related article about the permit process for DEC.
With the recent drier than normal weather and forecasted above-average temperatures, Genesee County officials are once again asking residents to conserve water.
“Work on various water infrastructure projects continues in the effort to increase the water supply, but this process is complex and will take several years to complete,” said Genesee County Highway Superintendent and County Engineer Tim Hens. “This work is to ensure that Genesee County has an adequate supply of water to meet projected demands for the next 100 years.”
County officials stressed it has plenty of water throughout the year on average days, but without conservation efforts, keeping up with demands during hot dry stretches is difficult. The County is again asking everyone to pitch in on water conservation efforts through the peak of summer heat.
“It’s important that we have the cooperation of residents in avoiding watering lawns, washing cars and filling pools on hot days. Water gardens at night or early morning when evaporation is less,” Hens continued. “We have contingency plans in place for emergency water supply and pumping, but if everyone works together to do their small part at conservation efforts we can avoid water supply issues.”
Genesee County officials announced that approximately $3.5 million in funding has been secured for three water projects across the county.
Genesee County received an inter-municipal grant for $1.213 million from the New York State Environmental Facilities Fund for remaining pump station upgrades related to the county’s Phase 2 Water Project. The pump stations are located on North Road in Le Roy and in Scottsville, Riga, and on Morgan Road in Chili. This funding completes Phase 2 construction and will increase water supply to Genesee County by 2 million gallons per day (MGD).
The City of Batavia received approximately $2.2 million in funding through the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) also administered by the Environmental Facilities Fund.
The funding will be used for upgrades at the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant and is a joint project between the City of Batavia and Genesee County to help restore lost efficiency at the plant, which is needed to meet peak demands.
The Town of Alexander also received a grant of $132,000 to aid the construction of Water District #6.
Genesee County continues to seek federal and state funding to assist in the implementation of Phase 3 of the Countywide Water Program. Under the Master Plan developed for water, the Phase 3 project further increases regional supply by another 3.1 million gallons per day but, more importantly, replaces a threatened water supply. Phase 3 is currently estimated to cost $132 million.
“There is significant demand for water across the county among residents, the agricultural community, food processing and the advanced manufacturing sectors. Meeting that demand requires significant upgrades in infrastructure,” said Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens. “We have a solid plan to help us meet the demand. Now we need the funding.”
Genesee County legislators on Wednesday afternoon – in the clearest of terms – asked Congressman Chris Jacobs for his help in finding federal money to assist the municipality with its multimillion dollar Countywide Water Project.
Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein set the tone for the roundtable discussion at the Old County Courthouse by emphasizing that residents’ quality of life and the county’s economic development hinge upon the amount of water flowing into the City of Batavia and Genesee’s towns and villages.
The purpose of the meeting – it lasted about 50 minutes -- was to educate Jacobs on the details of the water project, which is nearing the end of Phase 2 of a planned four-phase initiative.
County Engineer Tim Hens said the cost of the project is staggering -- $20 million for Phase 1, $23 million for Phase 2 (which will bring in another 2.4 million gallons per day), $85 million for Phase 3 (another 6 million gallons per day and the elimination of the aging City water plant) and an estimated $50 to $60 million for Phase 4.
“We’re at a point now where we can’t manage it on our own,” said Stein, asking Jacobs and his staff to explore all options through the network of federal agencies.
County Manager Matt Landers said the county “is on the same trajectory with the same issues and the same concerns,” referring to having to impose water restrictions at peak summer times and delays in completing Phase 2 due to COVID-19.
He said the bulk of the water generated by Phase 2 is “largely spoken of for other developments, expected growth and other water districts (including the Town of Bethany) coming on line.”
“So, we’re going to be chasing our tail; we’re in the same position for the next five or six years until Phase 3 comes on board,” he said, adding that Phase 3 is at the design stage. “Phase 3 brings us extra water, but it really doesn’t put us in position for the next generation …”
Landers said the county has taken steps to attract funding – enlisting a lobbying firm, hiring grant writers and using its resources (such as $8 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding) – but is in need of outside help to avoid placing the burden on taxpayers.
He said that breaking Phase 3 into a couple dozen smaller projects, such as individual pump stations or towers at $2.5 million, for example, could be the best way to present it to funding entities such as the United States Department of Agriculture or the Environmental Protection Agency.
Hens said the county estimated, in 1998, a 40-year forecast of needing 10 million gallons per day, but it already has hit that amount. Now, they’re looking at 21.5 million gallons a day for Phase 3 and Phase 4.
“The growth of the water system has far exceeded our expectations for not only residential demand,” Hens said, but also for dairy farmers, who comprise the county’s largest industry. “Cows drink probably eight times what the average human consumes in a day, so the usage on farms is pretty high.”
He also said the water project has fostered the expansion of the county’s food processing industry, mentioning HP Hood (that uses a million gallons per day) and O-At-Ka Milk Products.
Stein, noting that the Tonawanda Creek is an “environmentally-threatened water source,” wondered out loud whether there is an environmental bill coming out where funding for public water could be allocated. She also asked if some sort of “social justice” funding was available in light of the amount of low- to moderate-income citizens in the city and county.
While Genesee County is proud of its dairy and food processing industry, Stein said it lost an opportunity to attract the Great Lakes cheese plant in Le Roy because of limited access to water.
“We don’t want to be in that situation forever,” she said. “… seeking those federal dollars is really important to us. Our conversation is meaningful … and you’re going to talk about that when you’re in Washington.”
Jacobs said he and his staff would “scour departments within Washington, D.C., to find good fits for opportunities for this very important project.”
He said that water and broadband (internet) are “common needs” throughout his Congressional district that he continues to advocate for. The Republican said that as a member of the House Agriculture Committee he is learning about the problems facing rural communities and “hopefully, we’ll be in the majority next year and I will be in a better position to advocate as well.”
Derek Judd, who serves as Jacobs’ legislative director, said by video that low cost, long-term financing for water infrastructure is in the works but advised legislators to be prepared for a long timeline when it comes to Congress-supported community project funding projects.
Landers said Jacobs “should be proud” of the fact that Genesee County has developed a regional water supply in conjunction with the Monroe and Erie county water authorities and (with Niagara County in the future at the WNY STAMP site in the Town of Alabama).
Both Stein and Landers pointed out the “partnership” the county has with the city, towns and villages, and hoped that Jacobs would communicate their message to his colleagues at the nation’s capital.
Press release from Carl Hyde, Jr, Bethany Town Supervisor:
The NY State Comptroller has given his consent to the Bethany Water District # 5, which is a $ 16,680,000 project funded by USDA thru Rural Development. The Town of Bethany will proceed with David DiMatteo the Towns attorney and Clark - Patterson Lee the Towns engineering firm to move this project to reality.
Please note that the Genesee County Water System Hookup Administrative Review Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 9:00 AM in the Large Conference Room of County Building 2, 3837 West Main Street Rd., Batavia, NY 14020 to review three water hookup authorization requests in the Towns of LeRoy, Byron, and Elba. Agenda and meeting materials are available upon request from Erin Pence, Deputy Director of Planning at [email protected] or (585) 815-7901.
Press release from Tim Hens, County Highway Superintendent:
Heading into the weekend, it looks like a few days of 90° weather are forecasted for our area. It has been abnormally dry and this combo is exactly what causes water usage to spike. The County is continuing to urge all residents connected to the public water supply system to make small changes to conserve water usage. Please avoid watering lawns, washing vehicles and any unnecessary water usage. If you need to water a garden, please do so at night. Small changes at the residential level add up quickly.
The Town of Pembroke is wasting no time in accepting a grant and low-interest loan from USDA's Rural Development division because it is such a good deal.
"I’ve been doing this for many years," said Tom Carpenter, an engineer with Clark Patterson Lee. "This is the best funding package I’ve ever seen from Rural Development. We were requesting about a $2.3 million grant and I forget the interest rate when we were requesting this but it might have been 2 or just over 2 percent. They came back with a grant of $3.7 million and an interest rate of 1.25, that is the best I’ve ever seen."
The bigger grant and lower interest rate will save property owners in the proposed Water District #4 (see map above) about $90 a year from the original estimate.
At the town board's meeting last week, the board voted to accept the package from USDA and contract with Clark Patterson Lee for services associated with getting the water service designed and built.
Typically, there would be a public information meeting about the proposed district but due to COVID-19-restrictions, but Carpenter anticipates newsletters going to residents and business owners in the district along with survey cards to gauge interest in forming the district.
Both Carpenter and Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said they believe there is widespread support for the formation of the district in the community.
Carpenter said at a previous public meeting where he discussed the district, about 120 people turned out (before the pandemic) and only four or five people there opposed the district.
"You usually get people who are very, very for a district or very, very against it," Carpenter said.
There will be a public hearing on formation of the district at a future date.
Schneider said given the positive feedback he's received from residents, he believes the board will be able to approve the formation of the district with a permissive referendum, which would mean the district would move forward unless affected residents or property owners held a successful petition drive placing the proposal on a public ballot. In that case, voters would need to approve formation of the district.
Schneider said the annual cost of the district for a single, occupied dwelling would be $962 per year. The cost of debt for a residential property that is not developed would be $466 per year. A vacant lot would pay about half that amount. Agricultural properties are exempt from paying for debt service on a water district.
The total cost of the project would be $9,050,000, with $3,744,000 covered by a USDA grant, and the rest by a low-interest loan of $5,306,000.
"I can easily stand up at a public meeting and say there will never be a better funding package available for this project," Carpenter said.
The project would involve installing 109,000 linear feet of 6-, 8-, and 12-inch diameter water mains and providing for 302 water services.
Carpenter said the best-case scenario is the entire project is completed by the end of 2022.
The Town of Batavia will be experiencing low-water pressures in the western and northwestern area of the Town.
Due to high water demands, the County is obtaining water from ECWA/MCWA Pembroke connection. This connection lowers pressures in the Town of Batavia in those areas.
This will continue until further notice. Customers can call (585) 356-4900 if you have further questions.
Construction is under way of a new 750,000-gallon water tank in Elba that will serve both the village and the town.
Town Supervisor Donna Hynes said planning for the project began in 2015. In 2016, the Town of Elba received a grant and low-interest loan from USDA Rural Development to fund the project in a single phase. The grant is for $3,854,000 and the loan was for $13,658,000.
Hynes said it then took a year to complete SEQRA and all the necessary permits. Project construction began in mid-2018.
The project also includes approximately 248,000 linear feet of 8-inch and 12-inch water mains serving approximately 500 water users.
Construction should be completed this summer, then painted, and in service by early fall.
Photos: Submitted by a reader last week.
Information from the USDA:
The Town of Le Roy is the recipient of an $89,000 loan and a $34,000 grant from the USDA's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to build Water District #11.
According to today's announcement by the USDA, in Washington, D.C., this project will extend public water service to eight residential users in the town who currently do not have safe potable water. The announcement did not specify where Water District #11 to benefit eight households is located.
The investment will eliminate health concerns, lower costs and provide better water quality and quantity as well as fire protection.
Le Roy's project is one of 40 approved in 20 states intended to improve rural water infrastructure. The investments will benefit 111,000 rural Americans, according to USDA.
“These investments will have a far-reaching, positive impact on rural residents, businesses and communities,” said Joel Baxley, acting assistant secretary for Rural Development. “Improving water and wastewater infrastructure enhances quality of life, helps support economic development and ensures that rural areas have safe and abundant water supplies.”
USDA is investing $82 million through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Rural communities, water districts and other eligible entities can use the funds for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems. The projects must be in rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $4,639,000 in federal funding for six water infrastructure improvement projects across the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region. The funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development’s Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program.
Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand explained, the Town of Alabama in Genesee County will receive: $1,653,000 to create Water District #2 and the Town of Bethany in Genesee County will receive $722,000 to create Water District #4.
The Town of Clarendon in Orleans County will receive $790,000 to create Water District #13 and an additional $790,000 to improve the water improvement benefit area #12, and the Town of Torrey in Yates County will receive $684,000 to create Water District 1, the first municipal water system to serve this area.
“These federal investments in job-creating and economy-boosting water infrastructure projects are great news for the Rochester-Finger Lakes region,” Schumer said. “This federal funding will allow five towns across the region to construct and make critical improvements to municipal water systems needed to provide clean, safe drinking water to their communities.
"I am proud to announce these federal investments and will continue fighting to ensure rural communities across Upstate New York have the resources they need to build, protect and maintain their water infrastructure.”
“All New Yorkers should have access to a reliable source of clean water, and with these grants, communities throughout the Rochester-Finger Lakes region will be able to expand and improve their water systems,” Gillibrand said.
“These investments will help provide safe and clean water for residents in the towns of Alabama, Bethany, Clarendon and Torrey, and I will always fight in the Senate for the resources to protect the health and quality of life for residents.”
It appears the Village of Corfu and Genesee County could soon be embroiled in a legal battle.
Relations between the two governmental bodies began heating up when the village received notice the county wanted to double the rates for water use.
Corfu currently has 22 years left on a 40-year contract it signed with the county, in which Corfu is paying 60 cents per 1,000 gallons of water.
The county says it needs the extra money because it miscalculated how much it would cost to provide water to the entire county, specifically the East Bethany area.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, attended by the village board and legislator Gordon Dibble, Corfu attorney David Saleh read a letter from county attorney Kevin Earl, in which Saleh said the word “negotiate” was glaringly admitted. Earl wrote that the deadline of Aug. 27 is fast approaching for design, bid specs, bond counsel and financing for debt commitments and cannot be delayed any longer by lack of a signed Corfu document.
He said 13 of the municipalities in the county have already signed the agreement.
If Corfu does not agree to the increase, the county has threatened to reduce the village’s sales tax allocation by the amount the increase would bring in.
For instance, in 2017, the actual voluntary sales tax allocation was $180,410 and the 2017 total Village of Corfu water consumption was 12,812,000 gallons.
The difference in the surcharge rate between $0.60/1,000 gallons and $1.20/1,000 gallons is $7,687.20, meaning Corfu’s sales tax allocation would be reduced by that amount – to $172,723.27.
This is money which would have to be made up by increasing taxes, said Mayor Joe Johnson.
Johnson is concerned over wording he found in the county’s contract, which he interprets as allowing the county to triple the rate.
“There’s no cap,” said village Trustee Tom Sargent. “It’s $1.20 today and in two years, what’s to stop them from increasing it again?”
One resident who attended Tuesday night’s meeting was Matt Steinberg, who called himself “one angry Corfu taxpayer.”
“If the county is going to put us over a barrel like this, they are going to earn it,” he said. “We have zero interest in funding someone’s water system way out yonder, and I for one am in favor of the village spending the money it needs for litigation.”
Steinberg said he would encourage every resident in Corfu to stop shopping or doing business in Genesee County if the county withholds money from their sales tax allocation.
Trustee Al Graham displayed a map of the county showing proposed improvements in red. He said there is no red in Corfu.
“We have paid for our system,” he said.
“When the county says it wants to renegotiate things in the contract that isn’t beneficial to them, that’s not fair to us,” Saleh said.
Corfu previously had its own water system, and when they signed the agreement with the county in 2002, the village was pumping 75,000 gallons of water per day. Now that the county is using Corfu’s system, they are putting 185,000 gallons through the village system a day.
Currently, neither Genesee County or the Monroe County Water Authority are paying anything for using Corfu’s lines. Graham said when the agreement was signed 18 years ago, the county was supposed to shut Corfu’s water plant down, but they are still using it.
Johnson said what the county is doing is extortion.
“They are taking a contract we signed which is good for our residents and forcing one on us which is bad,” Johnson said.
Graham alluded to the letter from the county which he says gives Corfu two options – sign the new contract or have your sales tax taken away.
“There is a third option,” Graham said. “Keep the signed contract we have. We do not want to fight with the county, but I don’t see how they think they can do this. We are elected to serve the people, and at our second public hearing, 100 percent of the residents there said, ‘Don’t sign.’ We’d be derelict if we didn’t listen to them.”
Graham said Corfu is being bullied by the county, and it is very frustrating.
“We are trying to be reasonable, but they are ignoring our requests to negotiate,” he said.
Corfu will schedule one more public hearing before proceeding with its lawsuit.
CORRECTION: A statement by Mayor Joe Johnson was misreported. In his actual statement, encouraged Corfu residents to stop shopping in Genesee County, not Corfu, if the County withholds sales tax residents. The correction was made in the story. Our apologies to Mayor Johnson.