United Water New York has filed a response to the Public Service Commission’s order for the company to provide information relating to the need for a new water supply source for Rockland County. This comes as United Water has begun preliminary work on a controversial desalination plant.
The New York State Public Service Commission announced in July it had instituted a proceeding to examine the continuing need for United Water New York’s proposed development of a more than $120 million desalination plant, known as the Haverstraw Water Supply Project. The Haverstraw Project emerged after the PSC issued an order in 2006 to United Water to develop a plan to meet Rockland County’s long-term water supply needs by 2016. Now, several public officials, residents, and environmental groups have questioned whether such a plant is needed. The PSC, as of July 18, is looking into the same question. United Water New York Spokeswoman Deb Rizzi says the need is still there.
And, says United Water’s report, the desalination plant is the best way to meet that need. Rizzi says the 53-page report contains analysis based upon the most recent population projections, water demand forecasts, weather trends, water supply information, and economic growth patterns, and confirms forecasts from 2006 and 2010. She notes the Haverstraw Project was chosen as the best in terms of cost, water quality, reliability, and environmental sustainability. Yet those with concerns about the plant are not so sure. Among them is state Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat from Rockland. He previously questioned the need for the desalination plant.
Meanwhile, the PSC announced August 16 that it had scheduled public hearings for September 9 and 10 on the matter of a new water supply source. Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, a Democrat, took issue with the dates selected and penned a letter requesting that the PSC reschedule. Cornell says PSC staff responded quickly to her request, by phone, affirming new dates would be selected soon. Cornell says the hearing dates did not allow enough time to review documents and clashed with back-to-school meetings in several school districts along with the September 10 primary elections. She also notes the announcement itself came on a summer Friday afternoon, when many were on vacation.
Since 2006, United Water has spent more than $50 million in compliance with two PSC orders to build a new long-term water supply project. United Water officials point out that further delays will increase the cost of the project, a cost that ultimately will be passed on to customers.
A separate United Water matter concerning cost has a number of municipalities banding together. United Water July 3 filed with the PSC a proposed rate increase in connection with day-to-day operations. Rockland County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, a Democrat, says the legislature will vote September 3 whether to join a municipal consortium that currently counts five towns and a village as members. The consortium is intervening in the rate case.
He says he has the support of outgoing Republican County Executive Scott Vanderhoef. United Water’s Deb Rizzi says the proposed rate hike, which amounts to a $12 per month increase for the average customer, is necessary.
If approved, customers would start seeing such an increase on their bills around July 2014.