From Gil Hawkins 4/17/2012

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,
I am writing on behalf of the over four hundred members of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in opposition to United Water Company’s proposed water desalination plant on the river in Haverstraw, NY. The HRFA has a long and significant history in protecting the river and its ecosystems. In the 1960s the river was a fetid body of contaminants, oils, and human waste. When their catch was refused at the Fulton Fish Market, a group of hearty Hudson River Fishermen responded and, along with emerging grassroots groups, took on the powerful bureaucracies, utilities, and industries. Our founders reassured the public of the river’s incredible resources. A pathway was forged to restore the dignity of the river. We have learned from the past over the years and a list of the historical top ten “bad ideas” that have harmed or stood to potentially harm the Hudson is noted in our DEIS testimony below. Desalination is destined to become one of the bad ideas if you allow it to on our shores.

I am directing this letter to you because we believe that United Water’s proposal reaches further than regional Rockland County. Its significance reaches to the state, bi-state and federal level. Covered under the Public Trust Doctrine, the navigable waters and natural resources of the Hudson belong the people. Though many communities draw water from the Hudson for public use, United Water’s plan includes impingement and entrainment, concentrated discharge of salts, intake of nuclear effluent from Indian Point, and other waste, and threatens the fragile ecosystems of Haverstraw Bay and Grassy Point Marsh. History repeats itself in a new age with new technology with new threats. The river does not belong to United Water. We believe that United Water’s proposal violates the Public Trust Doctrine.

The Hudson River flows through two states, principally New York, and New Jersey shares the stretch from Alpine to Bayonne. Haverstraw Bay is an important spawning ground and nursery for countless species of river life. Striped Bass and other apex predators drawn to the abundance bring recreational fishermen from both states to marinas, bait shops, restaurants and sporting goods stores providing a well-needed boost to the local economy. Our annual HRFA Striped Bass Derby hosts several hundred anglers every spring. However, the future of the Derby and Haverstraw Bay itself may be threatened by the concentrated saline outfall of the desalination plant located next to our weigh station at the Haverstraw Marina.

United Water’s resources come from the Hudson River watershed to be sold to New Jersey customers. Mandating a Hudson River Desalination plant in New York State to serve New Jersey has some bi-state conflicts and warrants bi-state oversight. As an elected councilman in New Jersey I can testify that no elected officials have been notified and no public hearings have been held in New Jersey concerning the need, the source, the service, the cost, and the environmental impacts of the proposal.

In those early days, when all but a few had given up hope for the river, intimidation by polluters was the rule. Deep-pocketed corporations with banks of legal resources, access to the courts, and politician’s roadblocks used “the public good” as rational for destruction of our natural resources. Out of sight – out of mind was the rule and the river was viewed as an unlimited depository for waste and degradation, Now, Untied Water is using its power as a utility with no competition to do the same by fast tracking its application. They have stated that the Hudson River provides unlimited resources for their desalination operation. They see the river as a source for raw material, we see the river as a delicate balance of living organisms providing sustainable resources for all the communities it serves.

Today the Hudson River Valley, including the Rockland County and the town of Haverstraw, is recognized under the Hudson Valley National Heritage Area Act of 1996. I have listed a few quotes from that legislation.
“The Hudson River Valley between Yonkers, New York, and Troy, New York, possesses important historical, cultural, and natural resources, representing themes of settlement and migration, transportation, and commerce.” 

“To assist the State of New York and the communities of the Hudson River Valley in preserving, protecting, and interpreting these resources for the benefit of the Nation.” 

We recognize the “sustainable” decisions made by previous political leaders, like Mario Cuomo, your father, in protection of the Hudson River as a national resource. We have come a long way from the river of filth and despair. Today, a groundswell of organizations, led by the Rockland County Water Coalition and civic organizations, stand with the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in opposition to the fast tracked application by United Water. We ask that you intervene in the process, stop the desalination plant, and speak for our majestic Hudson River for its sake.

Gil Hawkins ~~~<^><...
Environmental Affairs
Hudson River Fishermen’s Association