Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on October 19, 2015 · Page A12
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October 19, 2015

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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page A12

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Rochester, New York
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Monday, October 19, 2015
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Page A12
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Page12A Monday,October19,2015 DemocratandChronicle. com SLIDINGPATIODOORS WINDOWS SIDING•DOORS 654-7000 “Are we concerned about the arboretum? Yes, we are. But we don’t have an answer,” the supervisor said. “We’re stymied.” No matter the explana- t ion or who’s to blame, the B aldwins and others who s hare their frustrations want the flow to be restored. They have urged the authority, which discards a great deal of waste water daily, to funnel some of it into the stream bed. That couldn’t come too soon for Colm Murphy, o wner of Webster Golf C lub, which has used the s tream and connected p onds for irrigation for a half-century. “That’s our only source of water. It’s been there for years. It’s flowed every year,” he said. “Once that plant went operational, boom — it stopped.” Water authority disagrees Perhaps not surprisingly, water authority off icials say their critics in Webster are all wet. They maintain the little stream never had a regular flow of water and point out that federal and state regulators who have revisited the site recently agree that the authority’s done n othing to make the stream any drier than it w as before. “They can find no reason to say the water treatment plant has had any ef- f ect on the volume of flow in that stream,” said Richard Metzger, the authority’s director of operations. “ Everybody who’s l ooked at it … doesn’t come up with the same conclusion she does. It’s hard to follow her logic,” Metzger said of Sandy B aldwin, who’s been the m ost indefatigable of the neighbors. “Just because she says it doesn’t mean it’s true.” State Department of E nvironmental Conserva- t ion employees who trekked to the stream this summer “did not observe any blockages or other impediments to flow,” the a gency said in a statement. The stream appeared to carry the same amount of water when it left the water authority’s property on the north as w hen it entered on the south. Metzger said if the stream runs dry, that may b e a natural occurrence. “That creek has been classified as an intermittent s tream for decades. Intermittent means it flows sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t flow. That’s not a new classification,” he said. There’s no question the s tream is intermittent n ow. If there’s a lot of rain, the ponds top out. And in periods of no precipita- t ion, the stream dries up again and the ponds slowly drain. B ut it was not always this way, the neighbors insist. S andy Baldwin insists the creek never ran dry b efore, and has pulled together old aerial photos and family snapshots to s how the flow was always enough to keep the pond full. B aldwin said she and her husband slapped the w ater authority with a notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit against a public body — and sat down for a hearing. “We thought it would lighta little fire under their butts s o they’d give us more information, but it didn’t do athing,” she said. The couple have not filed an actual lawsuit and say they prefer not to. Murphy, the golf course owner, said he is considering litigation himself. “They caused this problem, they should fix it,” Murphy said of the water authority. “If they don’t, we may have to f orce them to.” Water and wetlands The water authority provides drinking water t o about 740,000 people in suburban Monroe County and parts of four neighboring counties. It’s an independent entity, answer- a ble only indirectly to M onroe County elected leaders. In its first half-century of service, the authority’s water supply came chief- l y from its Shoremont t reatment plant in Greece. But authority officials had long desired a second plant on the county’s east side, to better ser- v ice growing demand in t hat part of its territory and to create a redundant source should Shoremont fail. In 2008, after persuad- i ng critics that the plant was necessary, the water authority was given the go-ahead by state officials. Two years later, they broke ground on t heir plant on Basket Road, which can cleanse and distribute up to 50 million gallons a day of w ater drawn from Lake Ontario. The Basket Road facil- i ty rests on a 42-acre parcel near Webster’s border with Wayne County. The land contained roughly 10 acres of wetlands that were protected under federal or state law. The un- n amed stream flowed t hrough those wetlands, according to maps and aerial photos compiled by t he neighbors. Wetlands are protected by law because they teem w ith life and perform vital roles in their ecosystems. But those laws also a llow wetlands to be destroyed, and it’s become c ommonplace for them to be filled in or paved over when people or institu- t ions covet the space for another purpose. The water authority o btained permits to permanently fill in about six a cres of wetlands and impact adjacent wetlands temporarily. In compensation, the authority built 10 acres of wetlands elsewhere on the property. Ahydrologist who’s c onducted studies of the stream at the Baldwins’ request believes the authority and its engineers miscalculated the impact of filling in those wetlands during construction. “Ithink it was a simple oversight. Anyone could have made this mistake,” said Paul Richards, an ass ociate professor in the Earth sciences depart- m ent at The College at Brockport. Richards thinks the w etlands fed the stream. T here may have been natural springs beneath them t hat provided water. Fill- i ng in those wetlands turned the stream from p erennial to intermittent, he said. The replacement wet- l ands, while nearby, are not physically connected t o the stream and do not appear to supply it with water, he concluded. T he authority also was given permission to temporarily impact flow in t he stream during construction, and the Bald wins say it was graded over in 2010. She complained then to the authority, which asked the DEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the agencies that h ad issued the wetlands permits — to come out and inspect the construction site. They weren’t impressed. “Staff could not attribute any of the issues the citizen raised to the construction of the ... water treatment plant,” the DEC said in a statement sent to the Democrat and C hronicle . Baldwin let the matter d rop after flow resumed later in 2010. “Everything seemed to be fine until l ast year,” she said. Away out? After the little stream leaves the Baldwins’ six a cres, it flows north through the arboretum and then onto the grounds o f Webster Golf Club, where it traditionally pro- v ided water to irrigate the 36-hole course. When the plant was und er construction, Murphy, the club owner, wrangled a connection to a disc harge pipe from the water authority plant to s erve as an an emergency source of water. With the creek running dry, the course has had tap that connection repeatedly. “If we didn’t have that, we’d be out of business,” M urphy said. “We’re paying for water that used to be free,” he said. After it leaves the golf course, the unnamed stream feeds into the considerably larger Fourmile Creek not far from Lake Road, a mile-and-a-half from the Baldwins’ pond. Trout and salmon an- g lers consider Fourmile Creek, which empties into L ake Ontario near the iconic Hedges lakefront restaurant, one of the re- g ion’s little-known gems. “ It’s almost just crazy how many fish will come i n. In terms of a fishery, i t’s magic,” Scott Feltrinelli, a fishing guide who h elped bring about the creation of the 72-acre town nature preserve that b orders Fourmile Creek south of Lake Road. F eltrinelli fears the loss of flow in the unnamed tributary could alt er the characteristics of Fourmile Creek enough that the trout and salmon w ho migrated upstream each fall to spawn might t urn away. Restoring flow is the solution, he said, and it wouldn’t be hard. The water authority collects rainwater and waste water from its t reatment process in ponds on their property. A DEC permit allows the authority to discharge up to 2.4 million gallons of waste water every day to Lake Ontario. Some of that water could be routed to the stream, they say. Metzger, the water authority operations direct or, said the water authority probably could do that i f the powers that be directed it. “We would be absolute- l y on board if DEC or the A rmy Corps of Engineers or somebody wanted to s upplement flows in c reeks. But that takes an environmental impact s tatement. There’s more to it than just, ‘Hey, put water in a creek,’” Metzg- e r said. But the DEC said it has n o legal basis to ask the water authority to do that, since it doesn’t believe the a uthority caused the flow to dry up in the first place. If the authority took t he lead, the DEC said in a statement, they’d be hap- p y to help. In other words, each said the other should act first. However it’s worked, Feltrinelli, who is passionate about Fourmile Creek, b elieves the water authority should divert some extra flow to the unnamed tributary. “We want it fixed. We don’t care how it happened or who did it. What we care about is results,” he said. “We want water to go back down the creek.” SORR@Gannett.com Water Continued from Page 1A STEVE ORR Ducks and a solitary goose remain at a half-acre pond in the Webster back yard of Sandy and John Baldwin. In early September there was no flow in the stream t hat feeds the pond, leaving it largely dry. JAMIE GERMANO/@JGERMANO1/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Asmall creek in the Webster Arboretum once flowed under this footbridge as part of a waterway in eastern Webster that is drying up. Residents blame actions by the Monroe County Water Authority's water treatment plant on Basket Road. JAMIE GERMANO/@JGERMANO1/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Asmall pond at the Webster Arboretum is part of a waterway in eastern Webster that is drying up. "I think it was a simple oversight. Anyone could have made this mistake." PAUL RICHARDS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, SUNY AT BROCKPORT

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