Sierra Club

DEC APPROVES WILLIAMS LAKE PROJECT

williams lakeThe proposed "Williams Lake Project" consists of a gated enclave of 154 luxurious homes and an exclusive resort hotel and spa complex to be built in sensitive habitats surrounding 43-acre Williams Lake in Rosendale, NY. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was accepted by the DEC on May 15, 2013, and the DEC issued its "findings", approving the project, on July 10. The developer, Hudson River Valley Resorts (HRVR), has promised that the project will provide the local community with numerous jobs, tax benefits, and enhanced public access.

Since 2007, the Mid-Hudson Group Sierra Club has been working with the local group, Save the Lakes, to inform the public about the issues and impacts associated with this development. With help from the Atlantic Chapter Conservation Fund, we have funded scientific studies about the natural resources that will be adversely impacted by this project, including reviews of the DEIS and FEIS by hydrologist Paul Rubin and ecologist Erik Kiviat. These scientists, and others, again found serious deficiencies in the way the FEIS deals with the impacts upon the area's important biological resources, including endangered species, significant habitats, water resources, and wetlands. Furthermore, we found that the Project, contrary to HRVR's claims, fails to provide affordable public access and is in conflict with the Town of Rosendale Comprehensive Plan.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Write your county legislator, state assemblyman, state senator, and/or Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the importance of preserving Williams Lake and its environs. Let them know you don't want this extraordinary area to become an exclusive gated community, which will adversely impact significant natural resources and deprive the public of access to an area which, historically, has served as an important community resource for open space and recreation. Send a letter to the editor. If you're a Rosendale resident, contact your town board.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Click to download the Sierra Club's evaluation of the FEIS, including the full text of the analyses of ecologist Erik Kiviat and engineer John Keith.

Click to download Save the Lakes' evaluation, including analyses of hydrologist Paul Rubin and others.

Click to access a hyperlinked FEIS Table of Contents that facilitates review of the document.

Click to access Save the Lakes' website, for up-to-date status, background, and research about this project.

Click to contact Marie Caruso, Chair of the Sierra Club's Williams Lake Committee


 

 
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photoGlacially Sculpted Landscape.The 819-acre Williams Lake property lies at the northern terminus of the Shawangunk Mountains. It boasts three of the five Binnewater lakes (Williams Lake: 43 acres; Fourth Lake: 83 acres; Third Lake: 4 acres) and numerous wetlands and ponds teaming with wildlife. The lake basins were sculpted by glaciers eons ago. People are surprised in some years when the level of Fourth Lake drops precipitously, essentially becoming a meadow in a lost lake. Fourth Lake has no surface outlet. A most unique aspect of a portion of the property’s surface hydrology is that water from Williams Lake and a number of wetlands flows into Fourth Lake, only to disappear into an underlying karst or cave-bearing aquifer. No one knows where it goes, although it may pass through man-made cement mines.nBecause Williams Lake has a small watershed and Fourth Lake sometimes loses much of its volume to a vulnerable karst aquifer, it is important to protect the water quality.

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Lakes and Wetlands. Historically, fishermen b\have caught largemouth bass, chain pickerel, northern pike, and panfish in Fourth Lake. Williams Lake supports similar fish species. These lakes are ideally suited to fish survival because their pH is buffered by underlying carbonate bedrock. Wetlands on the hardwood trees and rich ecosystems. At least one surface water body supports the endangered Northern Cricket Frog, near the northern terminus of its range. Like Fourth Lake, some of the many small unmapped property wetlands drain underground into one or more karst aquifers.

Recreational Resources. Williams Lake and Fourth Lake are ideally suited for primary and secondary recreational contact and fishing. The rail bed that extends through the property was formerly part of the Wallkill Valley Railroad. It has been identified by the Ulster County Transportation Council in their Non-Motorized Transportation Plan as a priority project area of regional importance as a possible Rail Trail link between New Paltz and Kingston. In addition to the rail bed, a network of wide trails provide easy access to lake vistas, Lynn’s Point, historic cultural features, and solitary forest retreats. These trails have been used for Olympic ski training and a host of bicycle and other races.

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Historic Resources. The Williams Lake property contains superlative examples of historic room-and-pillar cement mines, as well as other important mining-related relict artifacts (e.g., kilns, chimney, building foundations). These artifacts speak of days of bygone glory when Rosendale was the cement capital of the world following the discovery of natural cement in 1825. Miners faithfully followed the Rondout dolostone along folded, faulted, and steeply inclined rock strata, sometimes to the dull roar of pumps when mining below the water table. Some of the mines on the property are among some of the safest in the region, making them well-suited for visitation by history buffs, geologists, and the public.

batBat Hibernacula. Isolated cement mines on the property have provided critical hibernacula to six bat species for decades. They rovide strongholds for one of the largest colonies of the endangered Indiana bat in NYS and the world. With the current threat to NY State’s bat population stemming from White Nose Syndrome, property mines will only be of greater importance in the future as recolonization efforts get under way. A private conservation easement on 422 acres of the property provides important protection. Geologic Paradise. Bedrock exposures and mines have been studied by acclaimed geologists and their students since the late 1830s. The property, its trails, and rail bed provide ready access to 400 million year old late
Silurian and early Devonian rock strata, much of which has been massively deformed by tectonic processes. The property provides a natural outdoor classroom where geologists and others may examine multiple thrust faults and rock layers that have been folded upward into anticlines and downward into synclines. This location has become a classic destination of geologists seeking to examine bedrock structure and shallow marine fauna in the Hudson Valley fold-thrust belt. For research and education, the structural geology exposed in the minesand throughout the property is unparalleled.

photoGroundwater. Groundwater within the Williams Lake property is contained in fractured bedrock, in solutional conduits, and in mines that have disrupted and integrated pre-mining aquifer systems. Groundwater flow in imestone and dolostone formations is particularly complex, is vulnerable to contamination, and may be linked to bat hibernacula.

 

 

 

 

 

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environmental fact sheet

Issues of Water Quality and Quantity

FACT: Water Supply • HRVR plans to use Williams Lake as its water source, based on its claim that the lake is “self-supporting in terms of its water requirements during a drought.” HRVR claims that lake outflow is continuous year round and has never fallen below 187,000 gallons per day. In reality, the lake outflow can diminish and go dry for months at a time (see photo at left). Overwithdrawal may “mine” or permanently lower the level of water in the lake if more water is used than is naturally replenished each year. This poses a long-term financial risk to both HRVR and the community.

FACT: Waste Water • The proposed development will generate enormous quantities of waste water. HRVR has informed local residents that its sewage treatment plant will be at the northern end of Binnewater Lane, near the present entry road. Effluent will be treated, then piped to the stream that flows along Binnewater Road into the Rondout Creek, starting at a point close to Sawdust Avenue. Like the Williams Lake outflow, this stream often does not have enough flowing water to dilute incompletely treated waste water. This has significant potential to damage the downstream wetland and other property.


FACT: Wetland & Fishery • Williams Lake is home to a significant Federal and State wetland with a pristine fishery and ecosystem. Lowering the lake level even one foot may result in damage to both the lake’s ecology and the adjacent wetland, which requires periodic lake outflow to maintain itself. HRVR has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to accept its assessment of lake volume based on an old bottom-topography map whose source and methodology are unknown. Rigorously exact lake depth data is needed to assess water resources. DEC now requires that a new map be made.

FACT: Karst & Watershed Hydrology • Stormwater contaminants from site development may affect the water quality of Fourth Lake and bat hibernation sites. HRVR maintains that there are no karst aquifers on their property despite the presence of natural caves, sinkholes, sinking streams, and a disappearing Fourth Lake that loses millions of gallons of water each day. The DEC scoping document requires HRVR to conduct tracer tests to determine groundwater flow routes and potential downstream impacts including where Fourth Lake water surfaces. A key HRVR hydrology map shows Fourth Lake draining west into a wetland. This is incorrect (see photo, above right); the flow is actually in the opposite direction.The hydrology must be amended.

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