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The Nature of Things

A blog about nature and the environment

Archive for July, 2010

Vote for your favorite state park

July
27

The state parks department is asking residents and visitors to go online and vote for their favorite state park. The winning park that gets the most votes nationally will receive $100,000. It’s a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola.

“New Yorkers know they have the best state parks in the nation,” state parks commissioner Carol Ash said in a statement. “This is our opportunity to tell the world about it. I urge our park visitors to voice their support for their favorite parks so they get the recognition they deserve.”

The New York park in the lead as of this writing is Bear Mountain, with 357 votes. Compare that to the park in tenth place nationally — E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Kentucky with 14,558 votes. Apparently, New Yorkers need to get clicking.

Voting and more information can be found here. The contest ends Aug. 31.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

NYC is due . . .

July
21

For a hurricane, that is, according to The Weather Channel. New York City is number 2 on a list of the Top 5 Hurricane Vulnerable & Overdue Cities.

The cities have been selected based on a combination of the amount of people and property at high risk, and how long it has been since the area has been directly affected by a very strong hurricane.  It is a matter of when, not if, these areas are struck next.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

A septic-pumping co-op

July
19

Those in Putnam Valley looking to have their septic systems pumped can consider the following:

Neighbors create The “Valley Septic Association” to save money and help the environment

During these difficult economic times, neighbors are pulling together to solve common issues and save money.  Earlier this year, the Town of Putnam Valley enacted a law requiring owners of properties in the watershed of Lake Oscawana to have their septic systems periodically pumped, cleaned, and inspected.  Many neighbors were committed to maintaining a clean environment, especially around the lakes, but did not need additional expenses to add to their property costs.  And just as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”,   Valley Septic was created.  Neighbors met and talked about the new law and wanted to leverage volume, so the Valley Septic Association was formed for the purpose of negotiating competitive pricing based on volume.  Valley Septic has successfully secured guaranteed rates from an established preferred provider that is 25% below public rates.  They are focused on Putnam Valley but open to membership in all of Putnam, Dutchess and Westchester since with  more members, they can secure even  better pricing.   If you’re interested in saving money on your septic needs,  and wish to join the association,  visit the web site or email: valleyseptic@optonline.net.   There is a nominal fee of $10 to get full membership benefits.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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Local residents ured to conserve water to avoid disruptions in service

July
16

Despite recent rainfall, water supplies in the lower Hudson Valley are being taxed due to the heat, overall lack of rain and increased water use. Residents and businesses are asked to conserve water. If usage is too high, it could result in reduced water pressure, disruptions in service and possible mandatory restrictions, similar to those put in place in drought situations.
Many other communities have already implemented some mandatory and voluntary restrictions on water usage. Peak water usage each day occurs during the morning hours. Therefore all residents are encouraged to limit their water usage, particularly between 6 and 10 a.m.
to reduce water usage, residents are advised to do the following:
• Follow local lawn watering restrictions and do not water between 6 and 10 a.m.
• Take shorter showers
• Fix leaks
• Avoid unnecessary toilet flushes
• Don’t run water while shaving or brushing your teeth.

Posted by Greg Clary on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Part of North County Trailway closing for repairs

July
15

North County Trailway users are asked to be aware that the iron bridge over Croton Reservoir in Yorktown will be closed for repairs on Monday, July 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The North County Trailway is a Westchester County Park. Go to the county website or call (914) 864-PARK.

Posted by Greg Clary on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

County parks fire ban lifted

July
15

As the result of the rainfall over the past several days, County Parks Commissioner Joseph Stout Thursday lifted the ban on open fires in the county parks.

Stout noted that while the rain has eliminated the immediate dryness, the Parks Department will continue to monitor conditions in the parks.

For more information, call Westchester County Parks at (914) 864-7000.

Posted by Greg Clary on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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DEC turns 40

July
2

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is 40 years old. Check out this story from the Times Union in Albany about how its early days are linked to today.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Friday, July 2nd, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
| | 14 Comments »

Flying spiders

July
1

Last evening’s excellent weather compelled me to take a walk on the Walkway Over the Hudson. If you haven’t heard about it, the Walkway is a state park that consists of a refurbished railroad bridge in Poughkeepsie stretching 1.28 miles across and 212 feet above the Hudson River. You can walk, in-line skate and bike over it, taking in the views up and down the river. My colleague Ken Valenti wrote a story about it.

Anyway, I happened to look over the side at one point and started noticing several spider webs strung between parts of the old railroad bridge upon which the Walkway is built. That made me wonder how the spiders got all the way out there.

Turns out, maybe they flew. It seems spiders can toss out a strand of silk, grab the breeze and set sail. They don’t really have control over which way or how far they go, so I’m thinking these guys were just flying along until they ran into the Walkway.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, July 1st, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Groups sue state over runoff

July
1

The environmental groups Soundkeeper, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the state this week, arguing the state isn’t doing its job when it comes to preventing water pollution. You can read my colleague Aman Ali’s story here.

Below is an announcement from the NRDC about the suit:

New York State Fails to Clean-Up Waterways, Ignores Legal Requirements of Clean Water Act

NRDC Files Lawsuit to Curb One of State’s Leading Sources of Water Pollution

NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 29, 2010) – The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit last night against New York State for failing to take legally required steps this year to clean up one of the primary causes of pollution in its waterways – urban runoff.

“As summer starts, New Yorkers are heading to the beach, getting in kayaks and breaking out their fishing poles,” said Larry Levine, attorney at the NRDC. “But many of New York’s waterways – including Long Island Sound, our Atlantic beaches, and hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams across the state – are polluted from urban runoff and the state isn’t doing what is required to clean them up. Green roofs and other smart water practices are available today and will provide environmental and economic benefits that are simply not possible if we continue business as usual.”

Every five years, New York State must update a Clean Water Act permit for the operation of municipal storm sewer systems across the state, with the exception of New York City, which has its own permits. By law, the permit must reduce polluted urban runoff enough to achieve state water quality standards for fishing, swimming, shellfish harvesting and other uses in New York’s rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters. NRDC’s lawsuit challenges the permit, issued in April, for failing to meet this requirement because in most cases it would allow runoff pollution to continue at existing levels rather than reducing it.

Additionally, the permit fails to ensure sufficient measures are taken to meet pollution reduction targets set years ago for certain bodies of water the state has prioritized for cleanup. These troubled bodies of water include: Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and other coastal waters in Long Island, and Onondaga Lake near Syracuse.

NRDC filed the lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Westchester County yesterday, along with a coalition of environmental groups throughout the state, including: Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, Soundkeeper, Save the Sound, Peconic Baykeeper, NY/NJ Baykeeper and Hackensack Riverkeeper.

As a result of two years of advocacy from NRDC and its coalition partners, the state has made positive advances in requiring smarter water practices for new development projects, collectively called “green infrastructure.” However, troubling loopholes in the permit will undercut the effectiveness of these practices.

Cleaning up waterways in the state is not only important for the environment and New Yorkers’ quality of life, it’s critical for our economy. Degraded waterways cost the state millions every year in lost revenue to its lucrative tourism, recreation and fishing industries. For example, NRDC’s annual beachwater quality report, Testing the Waters, consistently finds urban runoff as the primary cause of beach closings and advisory days in the state – costing Long Island more than $60 million in 2007. And the Long Island Sound alone contributes roughly $8.5 billion a year to the regional economy from boating, fishing, swimming and sight-seeing activities, which are closely tied to its water quality and suffer when it’s degraded.

Green infrastructure improvements are the cheapest and most effective way to clean up waterways. Green infrastructure uses vegetation and soils as natural sponges for rainwater – storing it or allowing it filter into the ground instead of washing pollution such as disease-causing bacteria, excessive nutrients that breed algae blooms, toxic pesticides and other chemicals to nearby waterways. These methods can take several forms – from green roofs to permeable pavement, rain gardens and roadside plantings – and working together provide a smarter, sustainable alternative to the pavement and pipes of the past that are failing communities today.

Green infrastructure prevents runoff and transforms rainwater into a valuable resource that helps to literally green urban and suburban landscapes. This not only cleans up waterways, it reduces flooding, cools and cleanses the air, reduces asthma and heat-related illnesses, saves on heating and cooling energy costs, beautifies neighborhoods, creates urban oases of open space, and generates landscaping and construction jobs.

In addition to New York, NRDC has been working to boost green infrastructure investments nationwide to improve water quality. This includes efforts to incorporate these practices in stormwater permits in California, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. NRDC is also working to advance green infrastructure as a cost-effective solution to sewer overflow problems in cities such as Philadelphia, which has proposed a first-of-its-kind, 20-year plan for more than $1 billion of green infrastructure investments.  In New York City, NRDC is also working to promote a similar approach to address the City’s 27 billion gallon-per-year sewage overflow problem.

Posted by Mike Risinit on Thursday, July 1st, 2010 at 11:13 am |
| | 52 Comments »

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About this blog
The Nature of Things provides a chance to talk about the wild denizens that share the Lower Hudson Valley with us and the natural settings that make this place home for everyone. From Long Island Sound to the Hudson River to the Great Swamp and beyond, almost anything related to the environment is fair game in this blog.

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About the authors
SBenischekJournal News staff writer Greg Clary writes Earth Watch, reporting on environmental issues in the lower Hudson region. Clary has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Journal News since 1988 and has covered police and courts, transportation, municipal government, development and the environment in the Lower Hudson Valley, among other topics.
Laura IncalcaterraLaura Incalcaterra covers the environment, open space and zoning and planning issues for The Journal News. A Boston College graduate, Laura grew up in Rockland, attended East Ramapo schools and has worked for The Journal News since 1993. Laura has written features and covered North Rockland, crime, government and a host of other issues.
SBenischekMike Risinit covers Patterson and Kent in Putnam County, as well as environmental topics touching on the Hudson River and the Great Swamp. Risinit has been a reporter at The Journal News since 1998.
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