Building Ban on Track in Beacon

Engineers will search for more water

By Jeff Simms

Engineers hired by Beacon officials will soon begin looking for new sources of water after concerns that the rate of construction in the city will deplete its current capacity.

Meanwhile, the City Council is expected to vote in September on a six-month moratorium on residential development while the issue is addressed.

Thomas Cusack, the senior vice president of Leggette, Brashears & Graham, an environmental engineering firm, told the City Council at its July 31 meeting that his firm could start immediately on a search for more water sources.

Last year, LBG and the city contracted with Turnbull Drilling to search bedrock sites at the Liberty Street water filtration plant. While Cusack called the sites “on paper, hydro-geologically favorable,” the exploration was unsuccessful, leading him on July 31 to recommended testing up to six sand and gravel aquifers at Beacon’s well site, outside of city limits.

Beacon Water Usage

The system capacity is 4 million gallons per day. In 2016, Beacon residents and business owners used 356 million gallons, the Town of Fishkill used 96 million and the state Department of Corrections (Downstate Correctional and Fishkill Correctional) used 218 million. Another 309 million were “unaccounted for,” which the water department attributed to system leaks, use in municipal buildings and operations, system flushing, fire department use, meter error and theft of service.

2016  average 2.679 million per day; highest 3.37 million
2015  average 2.523 million per day, highest 3.1 million
2014  average 2.398 million per day, highest 2.93 million
2013  average 2.223 million per day, highest 2.823 million

There are a number of sand and gravel well fields in the area that produce more than 3 million gallons of water a day, Cusack said, and the Beacon well site has the potential to produce a “substantial” supply. If it doesn’t, he said, a third but much more complex alternative would be to drill on undeveloped or open space along the Fishkill Creek corridor and elsewhere in Beacon.

In addition to drilling for more water, the city is planning to evaluate its three reservoirs to better gauge the capacity of its current supply.

The most talked-about figure over the last few weeks has been 17,800 — the population ceiling that Beacon’s 2007 comprehensive plan suggests current water supplies can support. A revision to the comprehensive plan adopted this spring doesn’t mention any population limit. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Beacon’s population in July 2016 was estimated to be 14,271.)

On July 31, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Ed Balicki said the 2007 calculation was likely based on now-outdated water usage statistics and did not anticipate Beacon’s quick bounce-back from the recession that began around the same time.

A new evaluation would include taking sonar measurements of the reservoirs. The 2007 calculations are based on the reservoirs’ acreage.

“This will look at our raw water supply and will give us a good idea of what buildout will be required for our system,” Balicki said.

At the same meeting, the council discussed the possible moratorium on residential construction, which, if passed, is slated to be backdated to July 3. The council could vote to extend the ban if the city has not made sufficient progress finding more water, said City Attorney Ed Phillips.

On July 31, the council appeared to lean toward exempting single-family construction but seemed undecided about including commercial building. It is expected to review a third draft of the moratorium at its Aug. 14 workshop. A public hearing would follow.

City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero laid out what the next several months could look like if the ban is enacted.

“In the six months we’ll look at a review of the data of our safe-yield study, our current analysis and our future buildout and population,” he said. “Then we’ll know where we’re at and where we’re going, and then we’ll make the determination to what we have to do as far as water resources and/or a zoning analysis — whether we downzone or do some other type of rezoning.”

Council members and Mayor Randy Casale encouraged Beacon residents to attend upcoming meetings or to email comments on the proposed development moratorium. See cityofbeacon.org/Government/citycouncil.htm.

4 Responses to "Building Ban on Track in Beacon"

  1. Lisa Alvarez   August 5, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I would like the moratorium to be for one year. It will take that amount of time for us all to see the real picture. From this I expect conservation and installation of new water saving technologies to be enhanced and incorporated into law. How many people are trying to slip things in at the last minute? The Aug. 8 planning board agenda has 18 items on it — isn’t that rather telling! Additionally, the idea raised by the City Council to move the proposed “moratorium” up a week is suspicious timing. It would allow possibly seven projects to be exempted from the proposed moratorium.

  2. Paul Ellis   August 5, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Why is the city of Beacon searching for more fresh water before we find out where 309 million gallons (more than 30 percent of the city’s delivery capacity) never reaches city resident and business end-users due to leakage, theft and improper system usage measurement? Technologies exist to explore and repair this problem at lower cost to taxpayers than drilling more dry or wet wells, which will continue to disappear over 30 percent of any new water supply before it ever gets to the city resident and business end-users. Is Beacon growing forward into the 21st century or stagnating in the 20th century?

    • Jeff Simms   August 5, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Paul, the city is looking at doing a leak assessment for its water system, as well. Sometimes space is an issue when trying to get as many details into a story as possible, but that was discussed at Monday’s meeting. Apparently it’s something that hasn’t been done for several years.

  3. Joe Green   August 6, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I would like to know how much all this is costing us? It would seem fair that the developers pay for all this and not the residents. I would also like to see more sidewalks as it will become dangerous the more people move to town and drive like they own it, which is already starting to happen.