July 15, 2011
From the Editor’s desk
It all seems to be happening in Dover. But all is not gold that glitters.
There are a couple of mammoth projects underway in Dover. The first is Dover Knolls (DK) and this involves the redevelopment of the now unoccupied Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center. The second involves the construction of a 1,000 megawatt power plant just south of the Dover Middle and High School campus at the Mid-Hudson Recycling Center, an old industrial site. DK is largely through the permitting process but the power plant is not.
The two developments are of fundamentally different characters but both are adjacent to Route 22 and the Swamp River, the slow-moving central artery of the northern reaches of the Great Swamp, an important wetland. They also both sit atop the single source aquifer that the communities in the Harlem Valley rely upon for their water supply. Demolition of the first buildings at DK has taken place and we await further developments. The power plant, known as Cricket Valley Energy (CVE), is still in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review) process but construction could start in 2012 assuming all the regulatory matters are put to bed in a timely way.
The CVE project first saw the light of day in or around May 2009 when a presentation was made by Advanced Power to the Town of Dover at the High School. The proposal was to option some 130 acres of land approximately 50 of which would be devoted to the development of the plant and the remainder would be placed into permanent conservation. The price tag was to be some $1 billions and several hundred jobs would be created during the 3-year construction period with some 25 to 30 permanent jobs created once the plant was operational.
The permitting process for a project of this type is complex with lots of agencies involved at Federal, state and local levels. It took CVE about a year to get to the point where a Scoping Document was finalized in June 2010 and another year to produce what is known as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The idea is that the public gets to participate in the process leading up to the Scoping Document which establishes the framework for the DEIS. And there was plenty of public participation given the nature of the project.
The DEIS, a monster document, was published in early June this year and the public hearings on it duly took place on June 28th last. Since this was a Tuesday there was a bit of an outcry from those who could not attend due to work schedules and eventually the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) yielded to public pressure for a further Saturday session. That session was held on Saturday last at a packed Dover Town Hall; our page 1 article refers. Without getting bogged down in all the detail the DEC are the Lead Agency and are responsible for orchestrating the SEQRA process.
The DEC are also one of the 13 permitting agencies who will control the grant of some 30 different permits.
There were a number of people at that meeting that said they were unaware of the project until two weeks prior to the July 9th meeting. Without doubting the veracity of their claims one wonders where there have been. Over the last two years CVE have retained communication consultants to help them reach out into the community and there have been workshops, newsletters, media coverage and goodness knows what else to help draw the public into this process. We can find no fault with their outreach. However, with the best will in the world there will be the odd few folks whose address the Post Office clearly may not have.
The long and the short of it is that there are four major areas of concern that were expressed by members of the public who attended the last meeting. First, whether there is, in fact, a need for this plant. Additionally, and in no order of importance, the environmental impacts of the plant upon air quality, water resources and noise.
The need for this plant is not something that we ordinary mortals can deliberate upon. In fact the power grid demands are something that is handled by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). Apparently, there may be some question as to whether NYISO agrees that there is a short-term need for the power to be generated by CVE. How that gets resolved we do not know. Further, given that the power to be generated will benefit the state rather than the locals there is the question of the level of benefits that should accrue to the host community for accepting this facility.
Leaving those issues on one side, and assuming the plant proceeds, we are left with the potential environmental impacts. The plant is state-of-the-art and CVE have been responsive in designing it down to mitigate its impact on the surrounding areas. Since there is no way to tell now exactly how the plant will impact us in the areas of air, water and noise extensive modeling and testing has been done. With the best will in the world these models are necessarily complex and beyond the grasp of most of us. They are also based upon certain assumptions that may or may not bear out in practice. The problem is that once one has invested $1 billions and the plant is up and running one’s options to change things are limited.
The DEIS is prepared by CVE and it contains a wealth of detail furnished by about a dozen expert consultants in each specialized field. It is, of course, CVE’s document and whilst is intended to address all matters raised in the Scoping Document one could not expect it to take the opposite side of any particular issue. This is not to infer that the document is biased but what it does call for is an independent review by experts retained by the Town of Dover on behalf of its residents. Now, the Town has retained the firm, AKRF, to advise them but it is an open question as to whether additional expert help would be useful in evaluating the impacts upon air, water and noise.
We might take the view that a plant some 4.5 miles north of us is too far away to be of interest. However, that is a flawed view; we draw water from the same aquifer and breathe the same air. Noise will probably not be an issue given that we are not within earshot of the plant.
The DEC is open to receiving written comments on the DEIS through August1st and there have been requests for additional extensions of this time limit. We should interest ourselves in what is happening north of the town line.