Will DEC shut door in K’hook water gate?

VALATIE–Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan announced this week that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has revoked the permit given to the Kinderhook Lake Corporation (KLC) for a gate that would block access to the lake at the end of Rose Street Extension. But the letter presented to the Town Board from the DEC gives the KLC time to respond to the notice. The KLC says it now has until September to justify the need for the gate.

The gate was one of two environmental issues discussed at the regular Town Board meeting Monday, June 8 in Valatie. The other was the sale of the town park in Niverville.

The Kinderhook Lake gate issue previously came up last month, when representatives of the KLC attended the May Town Board meeting to defend their plan to install the gate. The barrier was intended to help protect the lake from invasive species of plants and animals brought in on boats that are not properly cleaned after being used in waterways where the invasive species already thrive. At that point the lake corporation board had a permit from the DEC to put up posts and a gate in the water at the end of Rose Street Extension.

Several residents who live on the lake also attended the May 11 meeting. They challenged steps already taken by the corporation to construct the gate. The residents said the DEC had ruled on the case in 1990s and decided then not to permit a gate to be built.

The situation changed at this week’s Town Board meeting with the introduction of a letter dated May 15, 2015, four days after the May Town Board meeting. The letter was from the DEC to William Cleary, president of the KLC board. In the letter James Eldred, deputy regional permit administrator for the DEC, writes, “It has come to our attention that the Department previously issued findings concerning KLC authority to block access at the Rose Street Extension location.” He says that letters from 1997 and 1998 denied permission to construct a gate, but DEC records of the matter were not retained. Copies of the DEC’s original decision were presented to the DEC in May of this year. “As such, these previously issued findings constitute newly discovered material information relevant to the subject permit’s review and issuance,” Mr. Eldred wrote.

The letter from Mr. Eldred confirms the residents’ position that the DEC concluded in 1997 that Rose Street was a public highway extending to the water’s edge and “the construction of barriers at the Rose Street Extension would interfere with the right of free passage from a public highway to a navigable waterway.”

No one at this week’s Town Board meeting spoke on behalf of the Kinderhook Lake Corporation. But in an email from Mr. Cleary sent after the meeting to the Columbia Paper he wrote, “There’s no decision with respect to Rose Street gate issue. DEC has given KLC to mid-September to respond to the opposition’s documentation.”

The other issue brought up at the Town Board meeting was the sale of the former Town Hall in Niverville and the adjacent 4.57 acres of parkland. The board is requesting that state legislature allow the town to sell the parkland as “surplus land.”

The board adopted a motion at a special meeting June 1 to ask for that parkland designation be changed through a home rule request so the town can sell the 4.57 acres with the building. At that meeting, Mr. Grattan said the board had a buyer for the building who was going to pay $100,000.

Town resident Matthew Nelson asked whether or not money from that sale of the land would be used for parks as part of the state’s “alienation of parkland” laws.

Mr. Grattan said money from the sale of the building would be put in a capital fund for improvements to the current town hall and money from the sale of the parkland would be put toward the “park program.”

“There wasn’t any clarity to what the breakdown was,” said Mr. Nelson, referring to how much of the $100,000 sale price would go toward park program. He also said there was no mention of the special meeting on the town’s website.

When Mr. Nelson asked about the value of the building and land, Mr. Grattan said the board had the property appraised in 2012 and the value was set at $160,000. He stressed that the town had tried to auction off the building four times and never had any bidders.

Town board member Deb Simonsmeier said the percentage of how much money would go towards parks and how much toward capital improvements would be dealt with by the state.

Also at the meeting:

  • Ms. Simonsmeier said that Senator Kathy Marchione (R –43rd) had arranged for the Village of Valatie to receive a funds for security cameras to be placed on Main Street in the village.
  • The town’s representative on the county Environmental Management Council, Ed Simonsen, said he had spent the day at a DEC training. He encouraged the board to look into becoming a Climate Smart Community, saying, “You get some sort of advantage if you apply for grants.”

He also asked the board to consider adopting a climate change resolution known as “the Cooperstown Resolution.” A version of the resolution has been passed by Hillsdale and is on the agenda at the next Chatham Town Board meeting. The resolution acknowledges climate change.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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