By Chris McKenna
Posted May. 7, 2016 at 3:15 PM
Updated May 7, 2016 at 5:34 PM
WOODBURY — Kiryas Joel has resumed construction of its pipeline to the Catskill Aqueduct, a project now entering its fourth year and less than halfway to completion.
Workers are burying giant water transmission mains under Route 32 to finish the first half of the planned pipeline, which will extend from Kiryas Joel to a new well beside Route 32 in the Mountainville section of Cornwall. The village plans to connect that well to its pipe as an interim supply and a future backup for aqueduct water, although two lawsuits are pending that challenge the state permit for the well.
Kiryas Joel is also preparing to build a chlorination plant and a pump station at separate locations in Woodbury, both on properties that Kiryas Joel owns. The Woodbury Planning Board, which is reviewing plans for the treatment plant on Seven Springs Road and pump station on Ridge Road, fielded audience questions about both projects last month and held formal public hearings on them Wednesday night.
Village officials had hoped to complete the first project phase and begin drawing water from Mountainville this year. But that work, which includes a second pump station on the Mountainville property, is now expected to take until June 2017 to finish, according to a contract the Times Herald-Record obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law.
Project costs continue to rise. Documents provided on Thursday by the state Environmental Facilities Corp., which has lent Kiryas Joel the funding for the project, suggest expenses have jumped by another $5.5 million, putting the total expected cost at around $56.5 million. The estimate had ballooned to $51 million as of last August from $29 million less than three years earlier.
The $1 million chlorination plant to be built in Woodbury is strictly for the Mountainville well water and is different than the plant the village must later build to filter New York City’s aqueduct water. Don Nichol, Kiryas Joel’s attorney, said last week that village officials had not decided yet whether to build the filtration plant near the aqueduct tap in New Windsor or closer to Kiryas Joel. The village’s consultants have estimated that facility will cost roughly $6 million.
Kiryas Joel is financing the first phase with a $27.9 million loan from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. and has requested $23.7 million more for the second phase, which includes more than six additional miles of pipeline and the filtration plant. It also has applied to the EFC for a $6.5 million loan to connect wells from the Country Crossing development in Woodbury to Kiryas Joel’s water system as another source.
A consultant’s report commissioned last year by Orange County indicated that Kiryas Joel’s average daily water use will outstrip the village’s current water supply by 2020 if its population continued to grow at the same rapid rate.
The Mountainville well is near the midpoint of the 13.5-mile pipeline the village plans to build to tap New York City’s aqueduct in New Windsor. The DEC gave Kiryas Joel permission in October to pump 612,000 gallons per day from that well. Groups of municipalities and nonprofits each sued to overturn the decision, arguing the DEC and Kiryas Joel didn’t study closely enough the potential impact that volume of water would have on other wells and the Woodbury and Moodna creeks. Both lawsuits are pending in state Supreme Court in Albany.
The area of Route 32 on which the pipeline construction is occurring has been narrowed to a single lane, with temporary traffic signals on either end. A state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said last week that the lane closure began in April and is expected to continue into the summer.
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Opponents of Kiryas Joel’s planned connection to the Catskill Aqueduct have long feared that tapping New York City’s vast water supply would fuel continued growth in the densely populated village and enable it to widen its borders.
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Kiryas Joel has the necessary construction permits for the pipeline itself, but lacks the necessary permits and approvals to remove water from the aquifer. Nevertheless, Kiryas Joel is building the pipeline, apparently convinced it will eventually get those permissions, either through the normal approval process or by horse-trading for them with politicians who rely on Satmar’s bloc vote. Observers also expect Kiryas Joel and Satmar officials will continue to brand opponents of their pipeline antisemites.