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UPDATE: $404 million to improve water quality in New York State

Updated August 16

In two announcements this month, Gov. Cuomo has said that $403.6 million will be invested to stop sewage overflows, improve drinking water supplies and otherwise improve water quality in the New York State – and there’s more to come.

In two grant announcements so far, $336 million – more than two-thirds of the investment – will be made in the Hudson River Watershed. More than 70% ($284.7 million) of the overall investment statewide will go to sewer improvements in the Hudson River Watershed, from Rome to Newburgh. Additional announcements are expected.

Grants created under the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015 make up $46.4 million of the investment in 20 sewer projects to improve water quality in the Hudson River Watershed, and Clean Water State Revolving Fund loans make up $238.3 million.

Riverkeeper and a broad coalition of groups representing environmental, municipal, recreational, planning, engineering and other interests lobbied for the establishment and increase in available funding for the water grants, which are so effective at leveraging loans and other sources of funding to improve water quality.

Huge investments will be made in Oneida County, its two largest cities, Rome and Utica, and the Village of Yorkville. Combined, these investments total nearly $130 million to improve water quality in the Mohawk River and its tributaries.

Other major projects on the Mohawk include a $23 million project in Schenectady and $5 million to assist in rehabilitation of aging sewers in Amsterdam following the catastrophic sewer line break that spilled 50 gallons per minute into the North Chuctanunda Creek.

Albany and Rensselaer Counties will make $11.7 million worth of progress on the Capital District Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan, which has the goal, thanks to Riverkeeper’s advocacy, of achieving water quality safe for swimming in the long-beleaguered Albany Pool.

The Catskill Creek Watershed will benefit from $9.2 million to extend sewer service to the hamlet of Leeds, a project Riverkeeper has advocated for, and to improve sewers in Greenville.

Coxsackie will invest $10.3 million to eliminate overflows from its sewer system, improving water quality in the Coxsackie Creek and Hudson River Estuary.

Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh will put a combined $26 million into projects to separate storm and sanitary sewers, upgrade pump stations and otherwise reduce combined sewer overflows into the Hudson River, Rondout Creek and Quassaick Creek.

Wappingers Falls will put $20 million toward projects to improve Wappinger Creek conditions, and Middletown will put $3.8 million toward projects to improve the Wallkill River and its tributaries.

We will advocate for the continuation of this grants program, which is currently set to expire after 2017, as well as new sources of financing for ongoing maintenance coupled with asset management. The failure to invest adequately in maintenance and upgrades of sewer pipes, pump stations and plants over decades has led to the current backlog of projects being addressed by this grant program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has pegged the current documented need for investments at $2.5 billion in the Hudson River Watershed outside of New York City. Addressing both the financing of both the backlog and ongoing maintenance into the future will prevent future backlsiding on these improvements.

The Governor and Legislature have our thanks for these significant investments to improve water quality.

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