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Hein blasts state for leaving Lower Esopus out of watershed pact

Above: Turbid water from the Lower Esopus mixes with clearer water in the Hudson River. Photo taken by Riverkeeper in November of 2011, when turbidity in New York City's Catskill watershed and the Lower Esopus Creek was still high as a result of the Irene and Lee floods.

In a draft document issued last week, the state Department of Health proposed requiring New York City to spend almost $40 million on new stream projects and flood mitigation in its upstate watershed.

But more important, critics say, is what's not in the document: $2 million for stream restoration programs in the Lower Esopus Creek that appeared in an early unofficial draft, and was cut from the document before it was made public. The document, a midterm review and revision of the city's ten-year Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), is open to public comment until October 15.

Ulster County executive Mike Hein, who got a copy of the unofficial draft from Congressman Chris Gibson, is irate at the removal of the Lower Esopus funding. On Wednesday, Hein issued a fiery statement, pointing a finger at the DEP for the removal of the $2 million.

"After the NYC DEP apparently pressured Albany, the Lower Esopus portion of this document was removed," Hein wrote. "This is Proof Positive that the NYC DEP routinely uses its grossly disproportionate influence in an attempt to manipulate the regulatory process."

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This weekend: See the fire towers glow and earn a badge

Above: Our Catskill Fire Towers badge on a proud hiker's backpack. Photo by Lisa Lyons. 

The Catskills fire towers are already pretty neat, but they're going to be especially awesome this weekend. For half an hour after dark on Saturday, the cabs of all five historic fire towers will be aglow with light.

From the event listing in our calendar

Like huge fireflies dotting the Forest Preserve, the Catskill fire towers will be lit up at 9:00 PM on Saturday, August 31 for approximately 30 minutes (Raindate-Sunday, September 1) ... When you see a light, you are looking back in time almost 100 years – a time when large Catskill hotels known as mountain houses still existed where many famous people spent the hot summer months avoiding the heat and summer diseases of New York City.  Read more

Changes afoot for NYC watershed plan

A flowing Catskills stream, photographed by James McCracken in Hunter. A newly-revised midterm draft of a ten-year plan for the management of New York City's unfiltered watershed calls for almost $40 million in new funding to keep the Catskills' many pretty little streams from flooding towns and villages, as they did in 2011 during Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

A document recently released by the state Department of Health (DOH) is full of more alphabet soup than a Campbell's warehouse. But within the acronym-laden government jargon is some big news for the Catskills, the home of New York City's vast unfiltered west-of-Hudson watershed.  Read more

NewsShed: Obama plans an upstate tour

Above: Fresh-harvested garlic and handmade garlic roasters from Barber's Farm, a family farm in the Schoharie County town of Middleburgh. This Saturday, August 17, Barber's and over 20 other local farms are participating in Schoharie County Family Farm Day, a countywide celebration of local agriculture that will feature farm tours, tastes of local produce and more. 

Happy Monday, Catskills. Today's NewsShed covers a little extra ground: We got busy last week and missed a couple of installments. (Upon reflection, we really ought to invest in a crystal ball to let us know when widespread local flood warnings are going to turn out to be no big deal, like they did last Friday.)  Read more

Catskills cyclists share their favorite rides

Photo of Charlie Sanborn, by Nicholas Piatek Photography.

The Catskills are two-wheel paradise, especially if you're not afraid of a few hills. Some people move here just because they love the riding; others try it out on a whim and fall in love with the quiet byways, the rush of bracing air, the sudden views, the skimming along beside a rushing brook. We asked a few people in the know to tell us their favorite rides.

Charlie Sanborn, proprietor of Cinder Track Bicycles, Livingston Manor, grew up in Orange County and moved to the Sullivan Cats specifically for the riding. “I live for this. For the hills. It's like flying a few feet from the ground -- the bike becomes part of you.”

Favorite rides:  Read more

Flash flood watch in effect for the Catskills

A flash flood watch is in effect today for eastern New York and western New England, including Greene, Schoharie and Ulster counties. The flash flood watch, issued around 3am by the National Weather Service in Albany, is in effect until 6pm. 

Local flood advisories have been issued this morning for parts of all five Catskills counties: Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster. For details, see the posts in the Storify widget below.

On Thursday night, flooding struck in central New York, closing roads in Tompkins and Cortland counties and forcing the boat evacuation of dozens of people from a flooded Walmart in Cortland. The National Weather Service in Binghamton has many photos of the flooding submitted by readers on their Facebook page.

We're keeping track of fast-breaking weather news with a Storify widget embedded below. If you see flooding or road closures in your area, help us spread the word: Send pictures or eyewitness accounts to [email protected], or leave a comment below. Twitter users, if you have weather news to share, tweet it to @watershedpost and we will retweet. 

 

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NewsShed: Chesapeake bails on Southern Tier gas leases

Above: Protesters at a fundraiser for local Republican Congressman Chris Gibson on Tuesday, at which House Speaker John Boehner was the featured guest. Detail from a larger image posted on Facebook by Citizens Action of New York, whose members took part in the protest.

Happy Wednesday, Catskills. Look out for scattered showers over the next few days, as a warm front moves into the area. Nighttime temperatures are climbing back up into the balmy 60s -- which is good news for everybody's ripening tomatoes.

Reuters got a hot scoop on Tuesday: Chesapeake Energy, which had been battling landowners to extend its gas leases in Broome and Tioga counties, has agreed to drop the leases. Some landowners who had leases with Chesapeake are hoping that they can now get better deals for their land. Others are just glad to be rid of the gas company.  Read more

NewsShed: Finding Nemo

Meet Nemo, a 730-pound pig currently being treated at Cornell University for B-cell lymphoma. According to a recent television news report from CNY Central, Nemo may be the first of his species to be treated for lymphoma; Cornell vets are using a catheter behind his ear to deliver lifesaving chemotherapy drugs. CNY says Nemo's a Catskills local; if you know where he's from, let us know at [email protected]

Happy first day of August, Catskills. The month is shaping up to be an unseasonably cool one; Hudson Valley Weather says we're in for a few weeks of cooler, cloudier weather.

Fans of the late Flour Power bakery, rejoice: Sullivan County couple Denise and J.R. Rowley, who closed their popular bakery last winter, have returned to DeBruce Road in Livingston Manor to open the new Hello Bistro

New York Times columnist Joyce Wadler spends a night in a local friend's adorable vintage trailer, and discovers that cute isn't all it's cracked up to be. (Full disclosure: We've seen that trailer. We're talking weapons-grade cuteness here, people.)

Lawyers for the town of Harpersfield and the New York Safety Track, who are facing a lawsuit from a group of citizens furious about the motorcycle track's noise levels, are trying to get the case dismissed -- or at least moved from a state court in Madison County to more familiar turf in Delaware County.

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List your business in our new Catskills Food Guide

Above: Jane Axamethy of the Bake House in Kauneonga Lake gives fresh bread to Spencer Cutler of the neighboring Fat Lady Cafe. Photo by Jason Dole.

Do you run a Catskills restaurant, cafe, bakery, food truck, BBQ joint, or other place to get great local food? Then we want you in our brand-new Catskills Food Guide online database! 

We're building a searchable directory of places to eat in the Catskills. To get listed online, click here and fill out our short survey. It's free.

The directory will help us produce our next big print project: A Catskills Food Guide, which we will publish in October 2013. (The food guide will also include local farms and producers. Stay tuned for more on that.)

To learn about advertising in the print guide, email or call Julia Reischel (845-481-9155, [email protected]). 

Cuomo signs casino legislation

The fate of casinos in New York State must still be decided at the ballot box this November -- but the effort to build casinos in upstate New York took a step forward today, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a piece of legislation that will authorize four "destination gaming resorts" if a gambling referendum passes in the popular election this fall.

Dubbed the Upstate New York Gaming Development Act, the law authorizes the building of four casinos in three regions: the Hudson Valley-Catskills area, the Capital District-Saratoga area, and the Central-Southern Tier area. Two casinos may be sited in the same region. The sites will be chosen competitively based on economic impact, by members of a siting board who will be appointed by the state Gaming Commission.

The law specifies that no casinos may be located in Westchester, Rockland or Putnam counties, in New York City, or on Long Island. The law also contains a seven-year exclusivity period, during which no additional casinos beyond the four initially sited will be licensed by the state.  Read more