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Yates Recommends Disapproval of Greenidge Bitcoin Expansion
Jacob Welch, President, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
In a five to three with one abstention vote, the Yates County Planning Board recommended disapproval of Greenidge's bid to expand its Bitcoin mining operation in Dresden, New York, on the basis that the expansion would not be in the best interest of Yates County.
Some 140 letters and emails in opposition were received before the meeting. “That's a record” said Daniel Long, Yates County Planner. The meeting was attended by Pure Waters President Jacob Welch, Joseph Campbell of Seneca Guardian and Mary Ann Kowalski of the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, among over 60 community members. All three environmental leaders spoke in opposition to the expansion which, even today, still lacks any environmental study to verify that the allowed 134,000,000 gallons per day of water and allowed warming of up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit does not have an adverse environmental impact. DEC regulations only allow for 70 degree Fahrenheit discharges into trout streams. Keuka outlet, which absorbs the discharge and at a place close to Seneca Lake, is so categorized.
Attorney Kevin McAuliffe, of the Barclay Damon law firm, spoke on behalf of Greenidge. He indicated that the facility, inclusive of the proposed expansion, would discharge warmed water well within "parameters established" by the DEC. Pure Waters President, Jacob Welch, retorted that the 134 MGD/108 degree allowances were established in 2017 and under a specific DEC plan that a thermal study would also have to be conducted by Greenidge. That was at a time when Greenidge was supplying power to the grid and therefore subject to lightened regulatory standards. Welch also alluded to a more recent Greenidge letter advising that its environmental study would not be finalized until the Spring or early Summer of 2022. Mr. Welch also brought to the board's attention that there was still a lack of proper fish screens on the water intake even after these many years.
The County Planning Board’s disapproval recommendation of the expansion sends the matter back to the Town of Torrey Planning Board. Pursuant to General Municipal Law 239, the five member board must renew its look into matters and, based on the County recommendation, now pass the measure by a majority plus one vote. Seneca Pure Waters will continue to oppose the expansion until such time that engineer based studies and proper measures are in place to preserve and protect our lakes environment.
Bitcoin prices have recently been priced over $34,000 a piece. Electrical generation facilities are to implement best available technology standards when affordable. Based on what appears to be astronomical profits being made daily at the plant, cooling towers as well as proper fish screens should be implemented. Greenidge is also a subsidiary of Atlas Holdings, a multi -billion dollar holding company.
Department of Environmental Conservation 2020 Seneca Lake Fish Surveys
Dan Corbett, Vice President of Water Quality
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
Members of Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association recently met with representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to review the fish survey work done during the 2020 season. Brad Hammers, the Region 8 fisheries biologist, explained the work that was conducted and his initial impressions of the work. The formal data entry and quality checks are ongoing, and information should be included in the statewide data base by the end of January. More detailed analysis and results from these surveys should be available sometime in the spring; Brad has agreed to help us to disseminate that information.
A fairly extensive set of surveys was planned for 2020 to address concerns expressed by fishermen and lake users. The Covid pandemic and work practice uncertainties resulted in a late start to the survey season, but happily most of the work was completed. DEC plans to conduct these major fish surveys every 3-4 years on key lakes.
Preliminary Summary of Findings
Shallow water surveys targeting warm water species were done for the first time on Seneca Lake. There have been many concerns from anglers about a drop off of fishing success for many of the warm water species (perch, bass, pike, and other pan fish). The pandemic resulted in a delayed start to this work (late June). This is nighttime electro shocking from boats, near shore, and the primary species targeted were bass and yellow perch populations. You may have noticed the activity of lighted boats along the shore during late evening hours. Fifteen to 18 sites were sampled, from the north, south and central lake shore regions. Roughly 60-70% of the bass found were smallmouth versus largemouth and they were generally in good condition. Bass numbers were not as high as seen in Keuka Lake, but may be about average for New York lakes. Perch numbers were quite low, which may be due to the late seasonal start and warmer water temperatures. All species found are recorded during these surveys. While minimal sunfish were found, alewives and bullheads were plentiful.
Smallmouth Bass pictured
Deep water netting surveys primarily targeting lake trout were done for two weeks in July. This type of sampling has been done since the 1970s. Thirty-two sites around the lake were sampled at a depth where 50°F temperature meets the lake bottom, and then deeper (at and below the thermocline). Good numbers of lake trout were found, and they were in good condition with minimal lamprey marks. Most were stocked fish, evidenced by a clipped fin, indicating only 20 - 25% natural reproduction. Lack of natural reproduction fits with the high numbers of alewives as a food source, and the early mortality syndrome caused by thiamine levels.
Forage netting (0-45 feet) was done for two weeks in September and showed a very high level of alewives – the highest in the cold-water western Finger Lakes. No round gobies were found in any of the surveys, and remain unconfirmed in Seneca lake.
Sampling (electro shocking) of Catharine Creek was done during the spring spawning run, as has been done in past years. Good numbers of fish were seen and were generally in good shape. However, fish were heavily marked by lamprey eels. Lamprey larvae surveys were done in Catharine Creek, the Watkins Glen canal, and the Keuka Outlet delta area near Dresden. No larvae were found at the Keuka Outlet delta, but were found up to Pine City in Catharine Creek, and in the Watkins Glen canal. Lampricide treatment is planned for 2021, which is typically done every 3 years.
Stocking of lake trout will likely be increased due to low levels of natural reproduction. Brown trout were heavily stocked in 2020 and will likely not be stocked in 2021. Atlantic salmon (pictured) will continue to be stocked at similar levels. Rainbow trout are stocked in Catharine Creek each year at a level of approximately 10,000.
Fisheries management plans are being developed for all the Finger Lakes. There will be an overall regional plan, and a plan for each lake, hopefully early in 2021. We’ll keep an eye open for that as it will contain good information on the current fishery status and future plans.
Monitoring Seneca Lake Water Quality from the William Scandling
John Halfman, Professor of Hydrogeochemistry
Dept. of Geoscience and Environment Studies Program
Hobart & William Smith Colleges
You may have wondered, what is that large, chunky vessel that routinely plies the waters of Seneca Lake? It’s the William Scandling, owned and operated by Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS). Formerly a buoy tender for the US Navy, then a lobster boat, HWS purchased the vessel in 1976 and converted it for teaching and research use on Seneca Lake and occasionally other waterways connected to Seneca Lake via the NYS Barge Canal System, e.g., Cayuga, Oneida, and the lower Great Lakes. The 65-ft long, steel-hulled, single screw vessel is operated by a licensed captain, who is assisted by a single crew member. Its hydraulic boom and winch can deploy and retrieve scientific equipment from all depths in the lake. Because the vessel is licensed through the US Coast Guard for educational and research purposes, it cannot be used as a tour or “party” vessel.
The William Scandling‘s primary function is to meet the teaching and research needs of the Colleges, an opportunity rarely found at other undergraduate institutions across the nation. Students can learn about the physical (waves, currents, etc.), chemical (dissolved ions, pH, etc.), biological (plankton, invasive mussel species, etc.), and geological (sediments, environmental history, etc.) properties of the lake. Introductory and advanced level courses use the vessel. In addition, upper-level students may conduct faculty supervised independent research projects. Those outside the Colleges, including participating Science on Seneca high schools, colleges, universities, other teaching/research groups, and selected (ex)presidents and senators, are invited to use the William Scandling for their own programs.
Educationally, I use it in many of my courses, especially a course on Limnology, the study of lakes. Besides specific research projects, I’ve also maintained, with significant student help, a long-term monitoring effort since the mid-1990’s that collects and analyzes water samples during the ice-free season at four prescribed sites in the north portion of the lake. It provides a golden opportunity for students to learn state-of-the-art techniques to assess basic water quality parameters, e.g., the plankton, water clarity, temperature, salinity, pH and dissolved oxygen, and determine how the lake has changed over time. I also allow interested folks to participate. Feel free to email me if you’d like to join me on one of these trips.
One example outcome of the monitoring effort is a multi-decade time series of surface water temperatures. See the graph below. The data clearly reveal that the lake has warmed (~0.2°C/year) since 1995, a warming induced by global warming. Also of interest, cyanobacteria (HABs) blooms have been detected since 2015, when the lake has been at its warmest. Has warmer water facilitated the onset and continuation of nearshore HABs events? Unfortunately, correlation does NOT prove causation. 2020 detected the warmest water on record yet it experienced the fewest number of detected blooms in Seneca Lake. 2020 also detected the warmest water in Owasco Lake, HOWEVER it experienced the largest number of blooms. Go Figure!
Surface water temperatures of Seneca Lake since April, 1995 through October, 2020. The dashed line reveals the best fit linear relationship of the temperature data.
Listen in to Kate Monacelli, Finger Lakes Institute's Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Project Manager as she discusses existing invasive species in Seneca Lake as well as encroaching invasive threats. Learn what techniques are being used to mitigate the spread of invasives and how you can get involved to help stop the spread!
Visit Finger Lakes PRISM website to learn more about Invasive Species and active programs in the Finger Lakes.
— Although the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association shares concerns of those who have filed a lawsuit against the town of Torrey and Greenidge Generation LLC over the expansion of the Greenidge bitcoin mining project, the association is not a plaintiff to the litigation.
SLPWA President Jacob Welch, in a letter to members, explained why SLPWA hasn’t joined The Sierra Club, Seneca Lake Guardian, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and 30 individuals.
Our Pure Waters team is very proud of our accomplishments over this past year, despite all the challenges we read about each and every day. Efforts of over 200 volunteers went above and beyond to deliver on our promise of preserving, protecting and promoting Seneca Lake water quality. Major progress was made, on both the Citizen Science side of our organization, as well as within our Operations Committees and Teams. A high-level summary of some our major achievements is summarized below:
Seneca Lake PURE WATERS Association
is here to Preserve, Protect, and Promote
Seneca Lake water quality for ALL who have
the privilege of knowing it.
Like all other volunteer organizations, we look forward to a more normal 2021. We know this will not happen early in the year, so we will utilize our “lessons learned” in 2020 to make sure we do not miss a beat again this year. Your continued financial support through donations and participation in Pure Waters events will be critical to our success. Thank you in advance for supporting our efforts to protect the lake that we all enjoy so much.
Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association engages with many partner organizations in pursuit of its mission to preserve, protect, and promote Seneca Lake water quality. This past year, Seneca Pure Waters had the opportunity to work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County to promote harmful algal bloom (HAB) education and awareness.
About the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County
Since 1913, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County (CCEYC) has responded to the needs of residents with unbiased, research-based information, tools and education that people have come to depend on and trust. Its programs are developed in direct response to community input and are based on the most current information available from Cornell and other Land Grant universities from across the nation.
The mission of Cooperative Extension is to enable people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work. Extension staff and trained volunteers deliver education programs, conduct applied research, and encourage community and university collaborations. Our educators connect people with the information they need on topics such as commercial and consumer agriculture; nutrition and health; youth and families; finances; and sustainable natural resources. Our ability to match university resources with community needs helps us play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families, businesses and communities throughout Yates County.
Friend of Extension Award
As many have seen, a lawsuit has been recently filed against the Town of Torrey in order to stop an expansion of the Greenidge bitcoin mining operation in Dresden.
Seneca Guardian, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and several residents near the plant are listed as plaintiffs in that action. Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association is not so involved, and we believe you should know why.
To first explain, our organization has been in the forefront of opposing Greenidge and its threat to our lake. For example, Pure Waters addressed both the Town of Torrey Planning Board as well as the Town Board at multiple public meetings in strong opposition of the expansion. Pure Waters also filed written opposition with the Public Service Commission (PSC) before its approval allowing Greenidge to convert from just generating power for peak grid energy demand to private bitcoin mining. I have also personally participated in numerous joint meetings with Seneca Guardian and The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes (CPFL) to gather public support to stop Greenidge and discuss how this operation (1) discharges super warm water into the Keuka Outlet and (2) lacks protective fish screens at its intake.
Finally, our organization has also personally met with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to present our concerns of the Greenidge operation and have asked that a long overdue thermal study be conducted.
Why then are we not in the lawsuit? There are multiple reasons. To begin with, while we were active in the public forums, being adversaries in litigation was a risk we wanted to avoid. To explain, we are tasked this year with helping the Seneca Watershed Intermunicipal Organization (SWIO) achieve a fair share payment for our lake steward, Ian Smith. It may not be best to be suing one of the lake townships and at the same time asking for financial help to support Ian (who is vital to completing our Nine Element Plan and a whole lot more) from the other municipalities around the lake.
Likewise, the Town of Torrey was receptive to our past plea to adopt a septic inspection law. We want that positive working relationship to grow and prosper even if we may, at times, differ on opinions.
Finally, we analyzed the purpose of the suit as far as the overall scheme of things. The complaint claims proper procedures were not followed regarding the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. In particular, the Town Planning Board should not have taken over as the SEQR lead agency and failed to take proper steps to assume that role. That is in line with what Pure Waters was claiming at the public meetings. Certainly, a lake-wide problem should have been handled by a broader agency like the DEC.
However, the planning board would not listen to our plea and would not let the DEC study the proposal and approve it before any expansion occurred. While we are 100 percent behind that position, unfortunately, lawsuits can take years to complete. As there will not be a temporary restraining order to stop building the expansion during the action’s pendency, the case may never actually achieve its objective.
Thus, we are putting our efforts toward political pressure and solutions as well as DEC interventions Whether we are in the lawsuit or not will not affect those efforts and may, in fact, enhance them.
In showing our ongoing support of the cause, you will see a link below to the letter we, and the other mentioned environmental groups, are sending to our governor asking he take action against Greenidge in the form of curtailing permits. That would leverage the company into installing water cooling facilities and fish screens. We are also working on another similar letter to state and federal representatives asking for their help in curtailing this threat to our lake.
What can you do to help? Send in the letter, simply by the press of a button, and show your concern. It will be automatically recorded for head counts much as would be a formal petition.
If you have further questions send them along by email to email@example.com. With your help, we can strategically address this project that threatens the health of our priceless Seneca Lake.
Business and Organizational leaders Sign On - Click Here
Individuals sign on - Click Here
We are suggesting that organizations (and their membership as individuals) sign on to BOTH letters in an effort to gain as many signatories as possible, and asking them to share with their mailing lists and other groups.
It is January—a quiet time of year when people often reflect on what they want to do in the new year to improve themselves, their homes, and their communities. How about something just outside your front door or backyard window that will positively impact all three?
As a watershed resident, a few simple and easy lawn care and landscaping activities can enhance your home, help protect your drinking water source, and give you a good feeling of being part of a much-needed community effort to protect and preserve our lake.
The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Lake Friendly Living program provides you with ideas to make simple changes that you can start to plan now for implementation in the Spring and Summer. These practices all help minimize pollutant carrying run-off that eventually moves into Seneca Lake. Below are just a few ideas and resources. Learn more at www.senecalake.org/lakefriendlyliving.
2. Keep leaves and lawn clippings out of ditches, storm drains, streams, and the lake
3. Arrange a septic inspection (Ont. County: https://www.ontswcd.com/septic-system-programs)
4. Plant a tree, shrub, or ground cover. Check out your county Soil and Water Conservation Districts for economical tree and shrub seedling sales and planting help. (www.ontswcd.com & www.senecacountyswcd.org) Note: After a rainstorm, walk your yard and look for areas of water pooling. These are key areas to consider for plantings to minimize run-off.
Want to act now? Remove snow and ice the lake friendly way!
Salt mines in Watkins Glen and Seneca Lake tributaries (streams) contribute to the salinity. It's important that every household plays a part in protecting water quality by minimizing or eliminating use of salt to melt snow and ice.
Alternate solutions include:
This will avoid compaction and therefore slick surfaces. Sunshine the following days will allow for snow to melt more rapidly if there are not multiple inches of snow on hard surfaces.
2. Use alternate melting/traction methods.
Materials such as cat litter, sand, sawdust, and Magic Salt are all proven methods to eliminate the use of salt to deal with snow and ice. Try one of these readily available items!
3. Limit spaces that need snow removal.
Reduce the need to use salt by minimizing extra walkways and driveway space that lead to rarely used entryways. Don't worry, they'll still be there in the Spring!
Share your project stories with us! We would like to showcase the activities of watershed residents to help others learn and take action around their homes that can positively impact Seneca Lake. Please tag us with projects you share on social media @senecalakepurewaters on Instagram and @SLPWA on Facebook, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen in to Maura Toole, Pure Waters Board Member and Lake Friendly Living as she describes looking forward to 2021 and how you can become involved.
January, 2021 Radio Recording - Maura Toole.mp3
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