New town law calls for moratorium on large scale extraction of water, soil, trees

On August 23, the Town of Red Hook passed a local law to place a 12-month moratorium on large scale extraction of certain natural resources in the Town of Red Hook. The purpose is to allow time to evaluate the impacts of these activities on water; gravel/ soil; and timber.

“A moratorium is hereby imposed from the effective date of this local law for a period of twelve (12) months on extractive operations involving (i) collection of spring waters for sale or for other than on premises use; or any water withdrawal operations for sale or for other than on premises use (ii) the use of any land for the excavation, extraction or removal of sand, gravel, clay, stone, loam, humus or topsoil for sale or exchange or for use other than on the property from which the material is extracted where the proposed project results in transport off site of more than 100 cubic yards in a 12 month period; and (iii) timber harvesting, commercial forestry or commercial logging.”

The law allows current levels of extraction to continue during the 12 month period and provides a waiver process for businesses that can prove undue hardship. Check the Town’s website for upcoming posting of official full text at http://www.redhook.org/ReviewDocs.html#Other.

The Saw Kill Watershed Community spoke up in support of this moratorium because of the following concerns:

  1. Our water is a shared resource. All of us benefit from an adequate supply of clean drinking water. Water sustains human and ecosystem health and enhances recreation, property value, and quality of life.
  2. Watersheds cycle, filter, and store water. Watershed health depends on the condition of its streams, springs, wetlands, lakes, groundwater, and land. The network of small streams and wetlands throughout the watershed collectively reduce flooding and improve water quality. Large scale activities that remove water, soil, gravel, or trees can disrupt or change the watershed systems (above and below ground) that replenish, store, purify and convey water.
  3. A high portion of forest within the watershed can lower drinking water treatment costs and improve groundwater recharge. Forest cover along streams improves water quality, bank stability and habitat; stabilizes floodplains (reducing the impact of flooding and erosion which in turn affects water quality); and moderates water temperature (e.g. protecting trout habitat).
  4. Water withdrawal affects the movement of groundwater and the water available for nearby streams, wells, and wetlands.
  5. Our water is not automatically protected by existing federal and state regulations in a way that most benefits our local community. As local demand for water supply increases, and sources of pollution (including erosion and stormwater runoff) increase, local protection is necessary to ensure a high quality supply of water for the community and for future generations.

Protecting our community’s natural resources is necessary for a sustainable local economy.

This “time out” is necessary to collect information and carefully evaluate the potential impacts of activities that affect our water, soil, and trees.

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