Final Working Group Report on Hinckley Reservoir Delivered to Governor Paterson

Recommends Communications Strategy, Other Measures To Help Ensure Adequate Water Supply

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 30, 2008) - The Hinckley Reservoir Working Group today provided its final report to Governor David A. Paterson with recommendations to help ensure adequate water levels needed at the reservoir.

Hinckley Reservoir supplies drinking water to the City of Utica and parts of Oneida and Herkimer Counties. The reservoir also serves fisheries, power generation, and Erie Canal operations.

The recommendations from the working group include a strategy to improve communications among agencies involved in the day-to-day operations of the reservoir, as well as longer-term planning and data assessment to improve conditions and forecasting.

"I thank the members of the Hinckley Working Group for recommendations that will help guide the management of this important water supply for many years to come," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines. "The situation is complicated by multiple users and climate conditions we can't predict. While there are no simple solutions, the Working Group recommendations provide a framework for moving forward."

The Working Group was formed in October 2007 in response to low water levels in the Hinckley Reservoir that led Oneida County to declare a water conservation emergency on September 26, 2007, that lasted through late October 2007.

The report provides 10 recommendations to facilitate communication and water allocation among competing interests and to develop a plan to help Hinckley Reservoir meet future needs.

The recommendations are:

  • Improve routine communications among agencies involved with the day-to-day operation of the Hinckley Reservoir and enhance communications when elevations and inflows are low.
  • Improve the aging drinking water intakes and raw water mains.
  • Consider the use of other available canal sources to help provide water to the eastern portion of the canal system for navigation when water levels are below normal and declining.
  • Close data gaps to help better assess reservoir conditions and improve forecasting.
  • Install a standby pump system to pull drinking water directly from the reservoir to help during low water periods.
  • Consider assessing and upgrading the canal infrastructure.
  • Consider the feasibility of creating additional storage reservoirs upstream of Hinckley Reservoir.
  • Request that the State Drought Management Task Force establish a new drought region that encompasses Oneida, Herkimer and parts of Hamilton Counties.
  • Form a planning and advisory group to study economic, recreational and development issues associated with the water resources and provide information that can be used for local planning.
  • Preserve and archive the extensive information gathered by the Working Group for use in future planning.

A 30-day public comment period follows the release of the report.

The Hinckley Reservoir Working Group was headed by the State Health Department and included representatives of Herkimer and Oneida Counties; the Mohawk Valley Water Authority; the New York Power Authority; the State Department of Environmental Conservation; the State Emergency Management Office; the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and the State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation.

The Working Group held eight meetings attended by members of the public and elected officials. Additionally, the Working Group collected extensive information to help evaluate and understand the Hinckley Reservoir, the Delta Reservoir and other canal water resources.

The report is available at http://www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/investigations/hinckley_reservoir/. To make comments or obtain a CD of the report, email: ceheduc@health.state.ny.us, or telephone: (800) 458-1158, or mail: Outreach and Education Group, Center for Environmental Health, New York State Department of Health, Flanigan Square, 547 River St., Troy, NY 12180-2216.