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September 20, 2013


These are some of the articles from the late 1990s and the early 2000s that appeared in the Hearst-owned Albany Times Union. Note how as time passes the articles establish Great Sacandaga Lake as a mechanism for "battling" the downstate "Salt Front" while they forget about flood control. That's how the corporate media manipulated public information before the internet:


Fred LeBrun
Section: SPORTS, Page: D1
Date: Thursday, September 14, 1995

Our deepening state drought and the consequential need to save the city of Poughkeepsie's water supply has again put an unflattering spotlight on that boil on the backside of the governmental body politic, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District. Governor after governor in the past 30 years has acknowledged the excesses of regulating district appointees, the lavish travesties unearthed by the media, an unneeded $2 million-a-year bureaucracy. Yet it persists, too delicious a patronage plum for professional pols to give up, especially since Niagara-Mohawk foots most of the bill.

Then there's the attitude, a particularly haughty, rotten arrogance that highlights just why the HR-BRRD ought to be dissolved and its limited function controlling water flow given to a couple of operating engineers and a few staffers at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

With Poughkeepsie's Hudson River water supply in jeopardy from a rising salt line, the state opted to increase the outflow from the already-low Sacandaga way upstream to push the brackish water back way downstream. Early signs indicate it's working. So it was decided Wednesday by the state's Drought Task Force Management Team to continue the increased Sacandaga release while upgrading our official drought concern from watch to warning. The next step is emergency, meaning New York City gets to drink Hudson River water.

Sacandaga Lake, formerly called a reservoir, will continue to drop, and a disastrous tourist season will get worse. Where will it all end?

My argument here is not with more water to save Poughkeepsie. By all means, save Poughkeepsie.

But after deciding to release the extra water, the HR-BRRD just went ahead without informing those around the lake whose recreations and economies depend on Sacandaga. Thomas E. Brewer, the district's enormously tactless chief engineer, responded with: ``They don't need to be told about it at all. It's for the river.''

Indeed, the Sacandaga was created not for recreation, or huge pike, but for one major purpose flood control and a minor one, ``flow augmentation.'' But in 65 years, much has changed around the Sacandaga including the comfort levels of the regulating district and its employees. A multimillion-dollar tourist industry now depends on this 42-square-mile man-made lake, the largest in the state. That's a reality that demands consideration. So is the fact that home and camp owners and marinas pay yearly fees of more than $100 to the regulating district for lake access. It is a nice bit of hypocrisy to take permit fees and then ignore the hands that feed them.

The silty bottom line in all this is that those in the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District refuse to go modern and get with good government. They don't want to make friends up in the North Country because, as a quasi-public entity, there's no pressure of accountability. They are above being cooperative.

To which I say, chuck 'em.

If the Pataki administration is serious about paring the fat, here's a prime hog, although it will take an act of the Legislature to dissolve the regulating district and reallocate the functions to DEC.

But after that latest snubbing of boat owners and local leaders, I believe Republican Senator Hugh Farley, whose district includes the Sacandaga basin, is ready to do anything short of a dance of a thousand veils to get the district disbanded. He's really steamed.

Come to think of it, make that a rain dance, will you senator? Fred LeBrun's outdoors column usually appears Tuesday and Thursday. To reach him, call 454-5453.



-- Associated Press
Section: CAPITAL REGION, Page: B2
Date: Thursday, August 19, 1999

POUGHKEEPSIE -- Ocean water creeping up the Hudson River could threaten water supplies in Dutchess and Ulster counties if drought conditions continue. Water flow into the Hudson that normally keeps the salt front at bay has decreased because of the lack of rainfall.

In some areas, salt content has reached above 20 milligrams per liter of water, and that could be harmful for people on restricted sodium diets, Doug Fairbanks, chief operator of Poughkeepsie's Water Treatment Facility said Wednesday. Water suppliers in both counties had issued consumption advisories last week.

But the water is still safe for all other customers, Fairbanks said.

The salt front was sitting still near IBM's main plant in Poughkeepsie, 75 miles north of New York City.



Associated Press
Section: CAPITAL REGION, Page: B2
Date: Thursday, August 26, 1999

MAYFIELD -- State officials hoping to keep salt from creeping higher up the Hudson River increased the flow Wednesday from a reservoir that feeds the river.

The water release increased by a third from Great Sacandaga Lake because of fears the ocean-fed ``salt front'' could reach upstream to Poughkeepsie's water treatment facility. Drought conditions have allowed the salt front to progress within about six miles of the facility this month. Advisories have already been issued for people with highly restrictive sodium diets.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Jennifer Post noted there is expected to be a higher tide with the full moon Thursday, which could push the salt front farther north.

About 1,500 cubic feet of water a second had been flowing from the reservoir to the Hudson for much of the summer, said Thomas Brewer, chief engineer for the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District. That will be increased to 2,000 cubic feet a second for the next seven days, he said.



Section: MAIN, Page: A1
Date: Monday, February 4, 2002

As Poughkeepsie's water plant administrator, Randy Alstadt constantly keeps his eye on the Hudson River's tides -- which can carry salt water from the Atlantic Ocean to the spot where he pumps millions of gallons of drinking water each day. But this year, with more than half of the state's counties in a drought, Alstadt has a bigger concern.

For the first time in a decade, the place where the fresh water of the upper river meets the salt water of the ocean -- or the salt front -- has hovered within 10 miles of his city's water intake since mid-July.

Unlike the tides, which Alstadt can pump around, the salt front doesn't move unless there is enough freshwater entering the Hudson north of Albany to push it downstream. It's likely that the salt front will continue to migrate north unless the river is recharged either by rainfall or snow melt.

But there is next to no chance it would reach Bethlehem's intake pipe, the most northern municipality taking water from the Hudson.

``It is in a situation where we have to watch it,'' said Peter DeVries, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Troy. The federal agency has three gauges on the river which can estimate the salt front within three miles. ``If we were to continue the dry weather during the spring and there was no significant snow melt, it will not take long for the salt front to be a significant problem.''

Like the five other municipalities that use the river as their drinking-water source (all but Bethlehem are in Dutchess County), Alstadt has no way to strip salt from his city's drinking water.

``If salt is in the river, it's going to be in the drinking water and it becomes a health concern,'' said Alstadt. His 70,000 customers are advised to restrict their water consumption when the river's water has 20 milligrams of salt per liter, or about half the amount of salt in a can of Diet Coke.

The salt front is five times that concentration.

The concern is for the portion of the population on salt-restricted diets because of high blood pressure, chronic kidney or cardiovascular disease. For these individuals, two liters of Hudson River water drawn south of a salt front, could translate to as much as 20 percent of their salt intake per day.

And without the warnings, they wouldn't even know it. There is not enough salt in the front to taste it or to meet the state's drinking water standard.

``It's not knowing that there is salt in their drinking water that is the larger concern,'' said Joyce Bagyi, a dietitian at Albany Medical Center. ``People assume water is free of it, and now all of a sudden it has some.''

Right now the river at the Poughkeepsie intake is at 15 milligrams of salt per liter.

But the front has already surpassed the Chelsea Pumping Station in Castle Point, the backup New York City uses to supplement its upstate drinking water reservoirs in a drought emergency. A week ago, the city issued a drought warning, but it hasn't used the station since 1985.

``We are not looking to use Chelsea for a good many months,'' said Geoff Ryan, a spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection. ``As we get closer and make plans to operate Chelsea, we will have to take a look at this.''

For industries like power plants, which draw water from the river for cooling, additional salt only requires changes in the amount of chlorine they use to sanitize it, according to Jim Steets, a spokesman for the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants in Buchanan.

The salt front is also not a big problem for river wildlife. Since the river is tidal from the Battery to Albany, most species can tolerate extra salt in their surroundings, according to Jonathan Cole, a research scientist with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook.

``It's not a real ecological disaster,'' said Cole. ``We are talking about slightly brackish water.''

Still, in the past 10 years, the salt front has only been more than 66 miles above the Battery in New York City once, and only for eight days. This year it has lingered above that mile marker for 27 out of 29 days in the first month.

The primary reason, according to scientists, is the flow of the river, which causes the front to recede and rebound depending on the seasons. In summer, the driest season, it can reach as far north as New Hamburg. In spring, it barely passes under the Tappan Zee bridge.

And with a single storm, like Hurricane Floyd in 1999, it can be forced more than 30 miles downstream in days.

But with almost half of the water that normally drifts past Green Island in December flowing by this year, the front appears stuck in place.

``There is nothing but freshwater flow to prevent seawater from moving all the way up'' said Cole.