Lawmakers gather to announce water protection plan

L-R: Allan Beers, coordinator, Rockland Environmental Resources, Legislator Harriet Cornell, state Senator David Carlucci, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, Patricie Drake, Rockland Water Task Force coordinator

HILLBURN–County and state officials met in Hillburn this week to announce that Rockland has been awarded $100,000 from the state to develop a plan to protect the Ramapo Valley watershed.

The funds will be used by the Rockland County Water Task Force to assess the Ramapo watershed and make a plan to protect the Ramapo and Mahwah rivers as well as the streams that feed into the watershed.

County Executive Ed Day was joined by Legislator Harriet Cornell, chairwoman of the Rockland Water Task Force and State Senator David Carlucci, who secured the funding as part of the state budget. The plan will also address flooding that has impacted surrounding communities and low water levels that are detrimental to water quality.

“The Ramapo River wellfield produces approximately 20 percent of Rockland County’s annual water supply,” the county executive said as he stood on the banks of the Ramapo River at the Torne Valley Vineyard in Hillburn. “A deficit of just a couple of inches of rain endangered this water source and put the entire county at risk last year. This is a crucial natural resource and it is up to us to protect it.”

“Safe, clean drinking water is more precious than jewels,” Legislator Cornell said. “Thanks to the community-government Task Force partnership created in 2014, Rockland leads the way in New York State to protect and restore water sources — streams, rivers, corridors and watersheds.”

Protecting the watershed requires a regional approach, said Senator Carlucci. “Securing $100,000 to develop a plan for this watershed is the first step towards coming up with a regional solution to improve and protect our drinking water,” he said “We have to bring together experts, advocates and public officials from throughout the region to develop a plan that actually works for water consumers and has buy in from all of the stakeholders.”

The grant is in addition to $250,000 secured last year by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and awarded to the Water Task Force to develop a water conservation plan. The county executive signed a resolution accepting that funding. He also urged residents to consider a new water conservation program that includes rebates offered by Suez, which supplies water to most of the county, and Orange and Rockland Utilities, for water and energy efficient devices.

The $100,000 grant announced this week will enable the Water Task Force to hire an expert in watershed assessment to analyze and assess the Ramapo watershed and provide a management plan to protect and restore the rivers and the streams that feed into the watershed.

The information from that report will form the basis of an action plan to protect source water and the health of waterways.

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