Seven communities sign water protection pact

POUGHKEEPSIE – An historic agreement between seven Hudson Valley municipalities, designed to protect drinking water for over 100,000 people, was signed Thursday on the grounds of Marist College in Poughkeepsie.

The agreement creates the Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council and consists of the towns of Esopus, Rhinebeck, Lloyd, Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park along with the Village of Rhinebeck and the City of Poughkeepsie.

The agreement, 10 months in the making, brings together the seven municipalities that rely on the Hudson River as their primary source of drinking water, as a result of a report from Riverkeeper that developed a “Drinking Source Water Protection Scorecard” that arose from the US Coast Guard’s Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment” process.

This collaborative agreement between the local governments is expected to make the group more competitive for grants and other support associated with New York’s $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act which will provide multi-year projects for relevant projects including $1 billion for clean water infrastructure and over $100 million for protecting drinking water at its source.

Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality program director, said that the agreement has many benefits including the sharing of technological advances and advice between the participants as well as being recognized as a larger “shareholder” when it comes to applying for state grants.

Shapley told the audience gathered along the Hudson that “when a group of fishermen gathered more than 50 years ago to form the organization that became Riverkeeper, they had a clear goal in mind; protect and restore the Hudson River.

“The river, we’re proud to say, has never been the same since,” Shapley said. “Today, the Hudson 7 takes on the same task, in a different form. I believe in another 50 years, we’ll look back at this event as the start of something influential, and as important for the future of our river.”

Jay Baisley, the supervisor for the Town of Poughkeepsie, noted that times have changed and the environment is finally a concern for most everyone. “The environment and the water are our priorities” said the supervisor of the largest town in Dutchess County. Of the collaboration along the Hudson he said “we’ve never had a voice this big!”

Gary Bassett, the mayor of the Village of Rhinebeck stressed the need to protect the Hudson River and the drinking water it supplies to many by pointing out that sea-level changes could adversely affect the drinking water in both the town and village of Rhinebeck by 2021.

Esopus Town Supervisor Shannon Harris proclaimed that the Hudson River is the town’s “greatest asset” and “this collaboration represents the will of seven communities to advocate for cleaner water in the Hudson River.”

Hyde Park was represented by Supervisor Aileen Rohr and board member Emily Svenson. Svenson pointed out that most of Hyde Park’s business district relies on the Hudson for drinking water and steps like this agreement will protect that supply. The board member also pointed out that a world acclaimed sake manufacturer is moving to Hyde Park and they will be relying on clean drinking water for their production.