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This weekend: Can you heat a village with wood?

Above: Jim Waters, the executive director of the Catskill Forest Association. Photo courtesy of the Catskill Forest Association.

Does it make sense to heat the village of Fleischmanns with wood? Hear what the experts think at a public forum this Saturday.

For two years, a consulting firm called Biomass Energy Resource Center has been studying the feasibility of creating a woodchip-fired central heating plant for the village that would pipe heat underground into 170 homes and businesses.

The proposed project is being coordinated by the Catskill Forest Association, with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Energy footing the bill. Transitions Catskills and the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry (ESF) are also pitching in.  Read more

Bad news boars: Helicopter crew fights NY feral swine

Above: A trailcam captures a nighttime view of a wild boar in Delaware County. Photo taken in August of 2013; courtesy of Justin Gansowski of the USDA.

This week, federal wildlife agents armed with cameras and sniper rifles are patrolling New York State skies by helicopter, hoping for a glimpse of wild pigs. It's the latest mission in an ongoing battle to rid the state of feral swine, before most New Yorkers even realize the state has a pig problem.

It's far too late for Texas, whose $500-million-a-year feral pig problem has been dubbed the "aporkalypse." In Florida, the pestilential pigs are found in every county, and have even destroyed a $16 million F-16 fighter plane. Pigs are a moot point in Mississippi, where experts say it's "only a matter of time" before feral swine rut and root their way from rural Clay County to the far corners of the state

But it might not be too late for New York, according to the handful of state and federal regulators whose task it is to try to keep feral swine from getting established in the Empire State.

  Read more

NYC mayor comes out swinging against fracking

New York City's newly-inaugurated mayor, Bill de Blasio, made it clear he's opposed to hydraulic fracturing in New York State in a speech to fellow mayors in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

De Blasio told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that "the one thing I am firm about is that I don't see any place for fracking," Capital New York reports. The mayor spoke in favor of a statewide moratorium: 

“The science simply isn’t reliable enough," de Blasio said on Thursday. "The technology isn’t reliable enough. And there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general. So my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it’s safe, and I don’t think that day is coming any time soon.”  Read more

SUNY Delhi's online courses get national accolades

Above: Screenshot of the U.S. News & World Report online education website, featuring SUNY Delhi as tied for First Place.

What do you do when you're the only college for miles in the middle of rural upstate New York? Invest in online-only courses. 

It's a strategy that's worked for SUNY Delhi, a rural technical college in the Catskills that just tied for first place in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 rankings for Best Online Bachelor Programs. (The other first-place winner for the category was Central Michigan University.) 

Delhi got the nod for its online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, designed to allow working nurses to earn a bachelor's degree. The college specializes in technical degrees -- programs like culinary arts, criminal justice, and turf management.  Read more

High-speed chase on Route 28 ends in arrest

A Delhi 16-year-old was arrested Wednesday after leading state police on a high-speed chase on Route 28, eventually ditching his car and fleeing into the woods.

Around 4:40 in the afternoon on Wednesday, Jan. 22, state police responded to a report of an unauthorized vehicle on Route 28 near Gladstone Hollow in Andes. When troopers attempted to stop the car, the driver fled, speeding and driving erratically to avoid being pulled over, according to a police statement

The driver sped eastward on Route 28 and fled all the way from Andes to Olive, over 40 miles away. The car was stopped on Route 28 near Mountain Road in Olive by a "stinger" tire deflation device deployed by police. 

The driver, 16-year-old Wade Armstrong of Delhi, abandoned the car and fled into the woods where he was arrested, police said.   Read more

Scenes from a Catskills cold snap

Above: Even in subzero weather, Roxbury looks picture-perfect. Photo taken Wednesday at sunset by Greg Henderson of the Roxbury Motel.

Above: It's a nippy 4.1 degrees right now on Belleayre Mountain, but the freshly-groomed corduroy looks pretty inviting. Photo posted today on Belleayre's Facebook page

  Read more

NY doubles down on high-tech weather forecasting

Meteorologist Mitch Gilt of the National Weather Service measures snowfall in Binghamton after a recent storm. Photo from NWS Binghamton's Facebook page.

After three major storms in three years, New Yorkers are investing heavily in high-tech weather forecasting. 

In his proposed budget for 2014-2015, released on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to set aside $15 million of federal aid earmarked for Hurricane Sandy to build a "state-of-the-art weather detection system" that will create scores of new weather stations throughout the state. From the governor's budget proposal:

The system will provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions, and identify threats to communities, roads, bridges and the electric system. Data will be available for use in predictive modeling and early warnings to prevent loss of life and property. The number of weather stations will be increased from the current 27 to over 100, creating a highly sophisticated real-time weather reporting network that will accelerate and improve information sharing, thereby assisting emergency responders in responding to extreme weather events. 

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the city's upstate reservoirs, has also been investing heavily in weather technology lately. The DEP needs accurate weather data -- especially streamflow data -- to manage more than a billion gallons a day flowing through the city's water system. 

  Read more

The commissioner grew carrots

Above: New York State Agricultural Society President Diane Held congratulates Schoharie County farmer Richard Ball, recently appointed as New York State's new Commissioner of Agriculture, at the group's 2014 forum on New York agriculture. Photo from the New York State Agricultural Society's Facebook page.

Look through the roster of New York State's top agricultural officials, and you might notice they've got something in common: Cows.   Read more

Return of the polar vortex

Don't go out there, kitty. Photo taken in Andes over the weekend by Mark Zilberman; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool.

It's baaa-aaaaack: The polar vortex, a whirling mass of low-pressure frigid air that usually has the decency to stay far north of us, is dipping down south again this week to pay the Northeast and Midwest another visit.   Read more

Sidney gas drilling moratorium struck down in court

Above: Inge Grafe-Kieklak, plaintiff in a recent lawsuit challenging a Sidney town moratorium on gas drilling, demonstrates at a pro-drilling rally in Albany on Oct. 15, 2012. Grafe-Kieklak's sign, written in her native German, translates: "Gov. Cuomo, you have no right to take our mineral rights!" Photo taken by pro-drilling blogger Andy Leahy of NY Shale Gas Now; reproduced by permission.

A state judge struck down the town of Sidney's recently-passed moratorium on gas drilling last week, ruling that the town failed to follow proper procedure in enacting the law. 

The decision has been hailed by pro-drilling advocates as a victory. But because of its narrow focus, the Sidney case is unlikely to have much impact on the larger legal question of whether towns have authority to regulate gas drilling within their borders -- an issue that is still yet to be heard by the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.  Read more