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July 21, 2000

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

New York City Watershed Land Acquisition Program Goes Over 25,000-Acre Mark

Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that DEP's Watershed Land Acquisition Program has secured over 25,000 acres, since 1997. DEP has completed purchases of 11,363 acres and has executed purchase contracts on an additional 13,700 acres in the watersheds of the Catskill/Delaware Systems, both east and west of the Hudson River. Another 529 acres are under purchase contract in the East-of-Hudson Croton System, 215 acres of which are being purchased by New York State for eventual transfer to the City.

"With the addition of these acres, the City has increased by more than 50% the acreage dedicated to water quality protection in the watersheds of our upstate reservoirs," said Commissioner Miele. "I am pleased to report that 16,745 of these new acres are in high priority areas around the Ashokan, Rondout and West Branch Reservoirs, including 6,140 acres in Putnam County. During the next few years, the City will acquire many thousands more acres under the program established by the historic Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) of January 1997.

"These projects involve about 350 landowners who have taken advantage of the City's offer to purchase properties or conservation easements at fair market value," said Commissioner Miele. "Our most recent acquisitions include almost 400 acres of high priority land in the Rondout Reservoir basin in the Ulster County towns of Wawarsing and Denning."

Although the City has been concentrating initially on high priority areas in the basins of the Ashokan, Rondout and West Branch Reservoirs, the land acquisition program has been securing significant properties in other Catskill/Delaware reservoir basins during the past year — 4,300 acres in the Pepacton basin, 2,500 acres in the Schoharie basin, and 950 in the Cannonsville basin.

Prior to 1997, the City owned approximately 85,000 acres, or about 7% of the land, in the upstate watersheds. The City's 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes account for about 40,000 of those acres, which means that approximately 45,000 acres served as protective buffers at the reservoirs in the past.

"I want to report that the City has taken seriously its commitment under the MOA to open lands for recreational use," said Commissioner Miele. "In addition to the 33,750 acres of reservoir property that have been available traditionally to anglers with fishing permits, DEP has opened 4,300 acres -- roughly one half of lands acquired as of the beginning of the year -- to fishing and hiking. Since the signing of the MOA, DEP also has opened 1,100 newly acquired acres and 2,200 previously owned acres for deer hunting, in addition to the 10,300 acres that have been available to deer hunters at the Cannonsville Reservoir for over 20 years. Of the new properties in the Rondout basin, we are proposing to open a 282-acre parcel to fishing, and are considering opening 103 acres along with an adjoining, previously acquired 93-acre parcel to uses such as hunting, hiking and fishing. We will open additional properties for various recreational uses next year."

DEP's Land Acquisition Program involves willing seller/willing buyer agreements. The lands acquired must meet various criteria established by the MOA for water quality protection purposes. DEP offers to purchase lands and conservation easements at fair market value, as determined by independent, professional appraisers. The City will pay assessed property taxes on fee acquisitions and on conservation easements; the latter will be in proportion to the value of the easement with respect to the overall vacant property.

For more information about the DEP's Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program, or its recreational use permits, landowners and others may phone 1-800-575-LAND (1-800-575-5236).


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600