Cuomo’s clean water proposal lacks details

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

Update 11:14 a.m Jan. 18.: The governor did release some – not all – details Tuesday night about his proposal to spend $2 billion statewide on water quality and clean drinking water projects.

First, the money is spread out over five years. So, that’s $400 million a year for five years. What remains unclear is how the money will be distributed. There are numerous programs this money could go to and the governor was short on those details Tuesday night.

According to his capital plan, “The Executive Budget includes $2 billion to finance water quality capital projects to ensure continued access to clean water. The investment will be directed to drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure, and source water protection. Funding will prioritize community based planning at the regional and watershed level, and encourage consolidation and sharing of water and waste water services.”

Again, the state will need some $60 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years. That $400 million the governor has proposed represents just over one-quarter of 1 percent of the $152 billion proposed state budget.

In addition, the governor wasn’t exactly clear on where the money would come from, mentioning that the $2 billion could be part of a bond referendum.

bond

Finally, the governor dropped an ominous quote that finding chemicals in water is a problem that is “going to get worse.” The context seemed to be related to the drinking water crisis in Hoosick Falls but it’s still unclear what intelligence the governor is working off of to feel confident enough to make such a statement.

cuomo quote

Here’s my original post from Tuesday night: The devil is in the details and Cuomo has yet to release the details of his proposal to spend $2 billion statewide on water quality and clean drinking water projects.

It is unclear if the $2 billion will be an annual investment or a one-time boost to fix problems that are estimated to cost some $60 billion statewide. It is also unclear how the $2 billion will be distributed among regions and the different state programs.

Nonetheless, Western New York has its fair share of water quality problems, including at Scajaquada Creek, Hoyt Lake and Gallagher Beach.

In addition, almost two-dozen school districts reported high levels of lead in tap water from sinks and water fountains. The cost to fix the problems in each of the schools is still unknown.

Scajaquada Creek in April 2014.

Scajaquada Creek in Delaware Park in April 2014.