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Local Governments Unite to Protect Waters

SOMERS, N.Y. - Now that New York City is repairing and renovating parts of its local reservoir system, representatives of towns throughout Northern Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties have created a not-for-profit entity called the East of Hudson Watershed Corporation (EOHWC). Among other things, the organization plans to find ways of lowering phosphorus levels in the storm water that ultimately ends up in local ponds, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. 

A storm water retrofit program is planned, in compliance with the requirements of federal municipal separate storm sewer system regulations, also called MS4. It refers to ditches, curbs, gutters, storm sewers and other storm water collectors which are unconnected to waste water systems or treatment plants.

The EOHWC will seek funding through grants, loans or contributions from New York City and State, local and federal agencies and/or foundations. At its first meeting, held last week at Somers Town Hall, the EOHWC nominated and elected officers. Somers’ Mary Beth Murphy is president, Patterson’s Michael Griffin vice-president and North Salem’s Warren Lucas, treasurer.  

The members discussed some of the ethics and protocols their organization will adopt. “We’ve got to use independent judgment, acting in the best interests of the corporation, not our own towns,” said one member. Others cited the need for “transparency,” annual reports and meetings.

Four committees will be established: governance, audit, technical and executive. It was unanimously agreed that a general manager must be employed. What would his/her responsibilities be? “Complete oversight… budgeting… reporting.”

Lucas wondered, “How complex will this job be?” Someone asked, “Who will monitor this person?” Murphy replied, “It’s the responsibility of the board of directors.”

Another member noted, “If this person is going to handle funds, we ought to do a complete check on them.” Another asked, “What kind of staff will this person need?” The members agreed the staff should be kept to a minimum in the beginning.

They are also advertising for a program director. Since only a few candidates have applied, the advertising has been extended until December 1. Many questions need to be answered and other issues clarified: “How is the funding agreement with New York City structured? How do we deal with projects on city-owned property? What constitutes a single project? Can projects be grouped together to qualify for funding?”

The members of the EOHWC will reconvene in January, perhaps with some of the answers filled in.

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