Meeting Summary – The Power of Water in New York

MEETING SUMMARY

Transition Woodstock – The Power of Water in New York
Thursday, October 6, 2011, 7:30-9:30 PM

Introduction to the Transition Initiative and the Transition Woodstock Initiating Team, Vickie O’Dougherty

Neighbor Introduction Question:
What brought you to the Power of Water gathering tonight?, Katryna Barber, Moderator

Hurricane Irene Experiences, Susan Moran Moderator
Susan noted the dual life-giving and destructive power of water as is manifest in instances like Hurricane Irene. She talked about interconnectedness of community bonding that was fostered when neighbors came together in the Irene emergency. Susan spoke of the resiliency of people who had lost everything in the flooding and invited people in the group to tell their stories.

Jim Davis put the occurrence of storms like Irene in historical perspective by talking about memories of his school not opening due to floods when he was a boy and of emergency preparedness drills. Jim also offered a story of a friend’s house in a nearby flood devastated area which was picked up and carried by water and winds until it smashed into a neighbor’s house.

Guest Speaker Introduction – Pamela Boyce Simms, Moderator
Mary McNamara – Outreach Coordinator for the Lower Esopus Creek Watershed Partnership: is a resource person who is aware of, can map, and explain the connections among all bodies of water in New York State. She can help us understand the import of Hurricane Irene, why the storm occurred in the way it did, and what it foreshadows for the future.

Wolf Bravo – Facilitator, Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, and founder, Sustainable Urubamba Valley, Peru.
The experience of Wolf’s countrymen in the Urubamba valley in Peru as they deal with the melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains is a reminder that the water management issues Woodstock is experiencing typify accelerating global water challenges; again underscoring the need for a collective response to climate change.

Russell Urban-Mead – Senior Hydrogeologist and Water Resource Consultant, at the Chazen Companies speaks to the nuts and bolts of what can be done to manage water effectively.

10 Minute Presentation – Mary McNamara
Key points

  • Traced the Sawkill Watershed, part of the Esopus through NY towns.
  • Water connectedness mirrors community connectedness.
  • What we saw with Irene in the upper Esopus was a once in a 100 year event and once in an 80 year event in the Lower Esopus (a big deal).
  • Statistically our area was overdue for a hurricane.
  • Reservoir management mitigates flood events.

10 Minute Presentation – Wolf Bravo

Key points

  • We can no longer afford to maintain the same lifestyle patterns and need to recognize that abundance can come from interconnectedness rather than focus on scarcity.
  • Stressed the need for society’s acceptance of a new paradigm through remediation and education of children in order to shape the future.
  • Peruvian communities with which Wolf works live in extreme poverty and have tremendous strength and resilience.

10 Minute Presentation – Russell Urban-Mead
Key points

  • Russell works to remediate problematic water resource management by helping municipalities and citizenry plan. He develops and promotes solutions such as advocacy for sustainable parcel sizes, model ordinances and empowering government.
  • The statistical frequency of hurricanes may be changing. Is this part of a natural cycle or is this an anomaly?
  • Insurance companies are closely following the science of climate change study and flood patterns and accept that change is occurring.
  • Hurricanes and other extreme weather events, 1)  identify how we treat and/or ignore care of waterways and. 2) precipitate accelerated climate change.

Points that emerged in the question and answer period.

  •  Irene represented a once in a 500 year flood event for the Ashokan Reservoir which provides 45% of New York City’s water.
  • The Ashokan Reservoir is turbid water from the Catskills. In order to disinfect the water supply with chlorine for potable use, aluminum sulfates (alum) are used to clarify the water once it reaches the Kenisico Reservoir. Alum clumps and settles the sediments. The chemical-laden sediment is in the reservoir bottom and may eventually necessitate dredging.
  • The creation of New York State parks was prompted by accelerating erosion in the Catskills and Adirondaks due to deforestation, choking New York City’s harbors with sediment. Parklands were reserved to slow erosion and sedimentation.

What is possible/doable?

  • A lesson we’ve learned is that people need to move out of flood plains once and for all.
  •  Towns are beginning to listen and plan low impact development projects

Advocates can work to:

1. participate in the redo of towns’ Master Plan
2. promote local Model Watershed and Aquifer protection Ordinances
3.  improve regional watershed protection enforcement capability.
4. closely track higher-risk land uses with sampling and mitigation plans.

Promote stewardship:

1.  bring volunteers to the waterways to connect them with bodies of water at an experiential level
2. vegetation can be systematically planted as river buffers.
3. conduct macro-invertebrate assessments to determine the health of rivers by the number of creatures that live in it.

Closing Exercise. Polly Howells, Moderator

Asked group members to turn to a person with whom they had not yet spoken and respond to the question: What in what you’ve heard this evening sparked your interest for potential action?

Closing Remarks and Announcements, Kevin Kraft, Moderator

  • Explained Transition Initiative steps and spoke of working toward the Great Unleashing in July of 2012.
  • Suggested that group members save the date of Friday, November 4 for Transition Woodstock’s next public awareness raising meeting about food sustainability.
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