Assemblyman Marc Butler, 117-Newport, said Friday he is pleased Gov. Eliot Spitzer has named a group to examine water use on Hinckley Reservoir, but thinks someone from Herkimer County should have been among those named.

Assemblyman Marc Butler, 117-Newport, said Friday he is pleased Gov. Eliot Spitzer has named a group to examine water use on Hinckley Reservoir, but thinks someone from Herkimer County should have been among those named.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Friday announced an interagency working group to address the future water supply needs of the Hinckley Reservoir in response to the ongoing water emergency in Oneida and Herkimer counties.

The Hinckley Reservoir working group, which will be led by the State Department of Health, will examine ways to facilitate communication and water allocation among competing interests and to develop a plan to help the Hinckley Reservoir meet the future needs of the Oneida County community.

“It is critical that we have a plan that safeguards the future viability of this critical reservoir,” said Gov. Spitzer in a news release. “The working group will bring together relevant stakeholders to help ensure appropriate use and management of the reservoir to meet the needs of the community.”

Members of the interagency working group will include representatives from the Department of Environmental Conversation, State Emergency Management Office, NYS Thruway and Canal Corporation, New York Power Authority, the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and Oneida County.

Butler wrote to Spitzer saying he was pleased the governor was getting involved in this issue. “I have been calling for a study on the future of Hinckley Reservoir for months, given the fact that most of the Hinckley Reservoir lies within my Assembly district,” Butler wrote. “Others have supported an ill-advised expansion of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, so I am pleased my views have apparently been heeded. It remains a tragedy, however, that this summer's low water levels were needed to finally trigger this action.

   

“Yet I remain extremely disappointed that there apparently is no representation on this committee from Herkimer County. I must remind you that the watershed and drainage basin for the West Canada Creek, which is the primary feeder for Hinckley reservoir, lie largely within Herkimer County's borders. At least 75 percent of Hinckley Reservoir is in Herkimer County.

“I note in your release that this group will be directed to formulate a plan to ‘meet the future needs of Oneida County.' Herkimer County has a tremendous stake in the Hinckley-West Canada watershed and must be a part of any plan that is ultimately crafted. I will work closely with Herkimer County officials, and the many local municipal officials in my district who have once again been overlooked and ignored,” Butler wrote.

He added, “If Oneida and Herkimer County are to forge a workable regional solution for the future of this shared water system, then I urge you to appoint additional membership to this group that would represent the people of Herkimer County.”

   

The governor's plan calls for the working group to examine the issues surrounding the uses of the water from Hinckley Reservoir and make recommendations regarding:

• the water levels needed at Hinckley Reservoir to service drinking

• water needs, fisheries, power generation and canal operations;

   

• the capability of other canal reservoirs to help meet those needs;

• an early warning system to communicate drought situations to

• stakeholders and facilitate their communication regarding all competing needs; and

   

• a report of the water usage and meteorological data for 2006 and 2007

• to better understand the factors that contributed to the current situation.

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito said, “I have already introduced state legislation to study water usage patterns on the Hinckley Reservoir, and the West Canada Creek to determine the future needs of regional water customers, and the reasons water levels in the reservoir and creek have changed over the past 15 years. It is absolutely essential that we make sure that in the future, the adequate supply of water that we have is always available not only for our residents, but for businesses interested in growing or re-locating here in the Mohawk Valley. Without this guarantee, we are jeopardizing future economic development in our region.”

   

Hinckley Reservoir, located in Herkimer and Oneida Counties, was launched in 1914. Its surface area covers about 3,000 acres and is fed by a drainage area of 372 square miles. The West Canada Creek, a renowned trout stream, is the main outlet. The reservoir supplies drinking water to about 130,000 people. When full, it has a usable capacity of 24.8 billion gallons of water. As of early October, however, it had just 5.9 billion gallons.

Besides drinking water supply, water is drawn from the reservoir for hydroelectric power, the Erie Canal and West Canada Creek habitat.

The working group will provide an initial report to the Governor by Dec. 17th and a final report by March 2008.