NYC and watershed towns (finally) agree on Land Aquisition Program

Wonder of wonders, there is some long-awaited news in the Daily Freeman this afternoon. Correspondent Jay Braman reports that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the upstate Coalition of Watershed Towns, which have been sparring in court and at the negotiating table for years over the city's controversial Land Acquisition Program (LAP), have finally put down their swords.

Not only that, but lawyers for the upstate communities and their city counterparts will present their newly-hashed-out agreement at a public meeting in Margaretville this Saturday.

The LAP is the city's program of buying upstate land and using it as a protective buffer zone around its reservoirs. The idea is to keep the city's vast open-air water system clean without having to build an expensive water filtration plant.

But many local people have many reasons to dislike the LAP.  At one of several public meetings about it earlier this year in Delhi, farmers, landowners, and local officials accused the program of shortchanging agriculture, driving up land prices, and depressing the regional economy by squelching growth.

The DEP's need to renew its permit for the LAP this year has been an opportunity for upstate residents to demand changes to the program. Braman reports that the Coalition has angled for taxes on city-owned land and city contributions to local wastewater treatment plants. Whether the Coalition got what it wanted is unclear, however:

Coalition attorney Jeffrey Baker said the information to be presented Saturday will be fresh, with some details only being ironed out this week ... Baker said coalition members are “pleased” with the agreement, but one pending sticking point is a way to “reduce the subjectivity” of determining the value of city-owned land beneath the surface of the water in area reservoirs.

This weekend's meeting is scheduled for 10am at the Margaretville Central School.