Above: A Save Cooper Lake poster, from SaveCooperLake.org.
Niagara Bottling Company has abandoned its proposal to bottle and sell water from Cooper Lake in the Ulster County town of Woodstock.
The Daily Freeman, which along with the Woodstock Times and the Times-Herald Record has been doing a bang-up job covering the months-long protest movement that has sprouted in Ulster County in opposition to the plan, has the scoop:
The Niagara Bottling Co. has given up its controversial plan to build a plant near TechCity that would have drawn water from the city of Kingston’s reservoir.
When news about Niagara's proposal broke in August 2014, the city of Kingston, which gets its water from Cooper Lake in Woodstock, seemed receptive to the idea. The California-based bottling company would buy so-called "surplus" water from Kingston's Woodstock reservoir to bottle and sell, and the revenues generated would subsidize repairs to the Kingston water system.
But once the news got out, an explosion of outrage followed. The heart of the opposition was in Woodstock, where storefronts began sporting Woodstock Festival-style "Save Cooper Lake" posters and a group of women donned wedding dresses as a "symbolic gesture of their sacred union" with Cooper Lake.
The idea of a private company profiting by selling water from a public reservoir offended many around Ulster County and from farther afield. A petition opposing the plan on MoveOn.org has gathered thousands signatures, many of them from outside the Catskills. Mobs of people showed up at public meetings in Kingston, the town of Ulster and Woodstock to show their outrage in person.
KingstonCitizens.org, a community activist group, played a key role in organizing the opposition and tracking the many overlapping municipalities and agencies that the project involved. A dedicated opposition group, SaveCooperLake.org, formed to fight the project tooth and nail.
All the protesting seems to have worked. Niagara hasn't specifically blamed the opposition movement for its decision to back out, but it seems likely that there is a connection. From the Freeman:
Ulster County Community College Don Katt, who was involved in the effort to secure state tax breaks for Niagara, said Friday that he received a memo from the company informing him of its decision.
Katt did not specify details of the memo, but he speculated that growing local opposition to the proposal was part of the reason for the company’s withdrawal.