BY JIM AUSTIN
THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission presented an award to Dr. Willard Harman, director of the Biological Field Station on Otsego Lake during its quarterly meeting held Thursday in Hartwick Seminary.
Harman received the Goddard Award for excellence by a water management professional for his more than 40 years of work in the field and particularly Otsego Lake.
“Every lake needs a Dr. Harman,” said New York’s alternate commissioner Kenneth Lynch as he announced the award.
John Balay, the commission’s manager for planning and operations, presented thehydrological condition report for the quarter. At the end of July, he said, the river basin was experiencing a period of low rainfall with drought warnings in four counties and drought watches in 24 counties. August was a month with normal or more rainfall and on August 27, Hurricane Irene arrived.
The storm dumped five inches of rain over widespread areas of the river basin resulting in significant flooding, Balay said.
On Sept. 5, Tropical Storm Lee added what Balay described as “extreme rainfall amounts” to rivers and stream that were already at high levels.
Three to five inches of rain was widespread across the basin with the Binghamton area recording upwards of 15 inches of rain leading to major main stem flooding all along the Susquehanna. “The last thing we need is another event marching up the basin,” he said.
Lynch, who is also the region seven director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee was a repeat of the flooding in 2006.
“It was something we thought we would never see again and we had it again last week,” he said.
During the public comment period, commissioners listened to many people who opposed gas extraction and hydrofracking. The commission was taken to task by a number of speakers, who said they should be doing more to protect water quality and not grant permits to withdraw millions of gallons of water for gas well development. The opponents of hydrofracking pointed to the three-state compact that formed the commission 40 years ago and charged it with protecting the river basin’s water quality.
“You could leave a strong legacy by standing up and doing what most of us in the room want you to do,” said Joel Tyner, of Duchess County.
“You should suspend the permits; issue no more permits and stand by your mandate.”