Penn Yan, KWIC seek protection for Keuka watershed

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The Penn Yan Village Board took no action regarding traffic patterns on Water and Wagener Streets at its Aug. 21 meeting, but discussed potential intermunicipal action barring heavy industrial land use in the Keuka Lake watershed and regarding the sewage treatment plant.

Mayor Robert Church asked the board for authorization to sign an agreement with the other municipalities in the Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative (KWIC). He said the agreement is to send a statement to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the Keuka Lake Watershed municipalities do not want hydraulic fracturing permitted within the watershed.

On Monday, Aug. 27, the KWIC board authorized KWIC?Chairman Stephen Butchko of the?Town of Wayne to send a letter to Cuomo, the legislature and the state Department of Environmental Conservation restating the stance the Yates County Legislature has taken: That the state should give the Keuka Lake Watershed the same protection already promised to the New York City and Syracuse drinking water supply watersheds.

Pulteney Supervisor Jane Russell said the letter needs to be sent this week in advance of any permiting announcement from the state. Some who are watching state developments closely have predicted an announcement from Cuomo’s office sometime after Labor Day.

Local anti-hydraulic fracturing activists Joe Hoff and Peter Gamba attended the Penn Yan Village Board meeting and said the intent is to have a letter from a coalition of several municipalities come to the attention of the governor.

But village trustees had questions about the wording in the agreement and its potential impact on village residents.

Michael Christensen said he’s concerned about KWIC being used as a lobbying group, and asked what impact such an agreement might have on village residents who have existing gas wells on their property.

David Reeve responded, “This is the only way they (municipalities) can speak as a group — a cooperative of all the municipalities.”

Village Attorney Ed Brockman commented that some of the language in the agreement goes beyond natural gas drilling.

Yates County Legislator Mark Morris, who represents Milo, said the value of the agreement is in getting a message to neighboring Steuben County, which could be one of five counties where hydraulic fracturing is permitted.

“We are trying to urge Steuben legislators to treat some of the Keuka Lake watershed towns differently,” he said, adding, “If Keuka Lake is damaged by hydrofracking from Steuben County, it isn’t going to matter to us where that damage came from.”