Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)

Terravest Phase II and III Developments in the Town of Southeast.

Individuals

Organizations

Government Agencies

STATE OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL - ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General (518) 474-4843

DIVISION OF PUBLIC ADVOCACY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION BUREAU

October 18, 2042

Via Fax and Regular Mail

Mr. George Rohrman Chairman,
Town of Southeast Planning Board
67 Main Street
Brewster, New York 10509

Re: Terravest International Corporate Park, DEIS Review
Town of Southeast, Putnam County

Dear Mr. Rohrman:

Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to submit the enclosed comments to the Town of Southeast Planning Board with respect to the proposed development at the Terravest International Corporate Park within the Town of Southeast, Putnam County, New York (the "Project"). These comments are submitted by this office as part of the work of the New York City Watershed Inspector General. This position is a joint appointment of the Governor and the Attorney General within the Attorney General's office that was established pursuant to the 1997 New York City Memorandum of Agreement ("1997 MOA"), as well as an Executive Order of Governor Pataki to better protect and preserve the quality of the New York City drinking water supply.

The reservoirs near to the proposed Project are already classified as impaired by State DEC, and have been the subject of extraordinary efforts to reduce pollution from runoff pursuant to the Clean Water Act. In a watershed that comprises only 4.2% of the State, yet which provides drinking water to some nine million people, water quality concerns are paramount. This paramount concern should be more fully reflected in the alternatives and mitigation measures contained in the draft EIS for this proposed development.
Based on the documentation reviewed, the DEIS for the Terravest site is incomplete. Serious problems exist within the stormwater, wetlands, and alternatives sections of the DEIS. Our concerns are presented in more detail in the attached comments.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. I would be glad to discuss this matter further with you at your convenience.

Very truly yours,
James M. Tierney
NYC Watershed Inspector General
Assistant Attorney General

Charles D. Silver, Ph.D.
Watershed I.G. Scientist

Comments of the New York City Watershed Inspector General
on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
at Terravest International Corporate Park
Town of Southeast, Putnam County, New York

October 18, 2002

A draft environmental impact statement ("DEIS") for a proposed 139 acre multiuse development project at Terravest International Corporate Park (the "Project") within the Town of Southeast, Putnam County, New York has been circulated for public comment.

The position of the New York City Watershed Inspector General, a joint appointment of the Governor and the Attorney General within the Attorney General's office, was established pursuant to the 1997 New York City Memorandum of Agreement {"1997 MOA") to better protect and preserve the quality of the New York City drinking water supply. These comments are respectfully submitted to address the potential for significant adverse impacts on water quality that could arise both during and after construction of the proposed Protect.

I. ENVIRONMENTAL SETTING
The applicant proposes to construct: 1} 490,000 square feet of office/warehouse and light manufacturing space; 2} 72 units of detached single family senior housing; and 3; a 15 acre town park. All of the proposed buildings are designed to be single story structures. In addition, all of the commercial and residential buildings are proposed to be serviced by onsite wells and connected to an onsite wastewater treatment plant.

The Project site is located on 139.1 acres in Putnam County and consists of three parcels:
Terra 9 -- 5 acres -- primarily meadow
Terravest Phase 2 or T2 -- 46.6 acres -- mostly meadow with 1 wooded wetland
Terravest Phase 3 or T3 -- 87.5 acres -- mix of meadow and woods with 3 wetlands

Terra 9 is a discrete parcel whereas T2 and T3 are adjacent to one another. The terrain at the Project site is hilly with meadows and woodlands. Approximately 45% of the site has slopes greater than 15%. Three streams are present on site, as are four town regulated wetlands. There are no NYSDEC regulated wetlands onsite.

The proposed Project is located entirely within the New York City Watershed ("Watershed"), an area that comprises only 4.2% of New York's Lands yet serves as the source of drinking water for over 9 million residents. Runoff from the proposed Project ultimately drains into the Middle Branch and Diverting Reservoirs. These reservoirs are part of the Croton Watershed which presently serves as an unfiltered drinking water source for approximately 900,000 people on an average daily basis, and as the source of drinking water for upwards of 2 million people during drought conditions. The only treatment this water currently receives from reservoir to tap is disinfection through chlorination. The Middle Branch Reservoir is classified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") as an "A" surface water whereas the Diverting Reservoir is classified as "AA". Thus, by virtue of DEC classification, these water bodies are to be maintained at a very high quality  one that allows them to serve as drinking water supplies.

The Middle Branch Reservoir and the Diverting Reservoir are both classified as "phosphorus restricted" basins by City DEP. As a result, phosphorus levels in these water bodies must actually be reduced to achieve water duality goals. Both reservoirs have been listed by the NYSDEC on its 1998 list of impaired water bodies pursuant to Section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act. These water bodies have also been the subject of extraordinary and expensive efforts under the 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement to better control phosphorus and other pollutants. Moreover, the Middle Branch and the Diverting Reservoirs are the subject of heightened protection criteria for phosphorus that was developed pursuant to the Clean Water Act  known as the "total maximum daily load" ("TMDL") program. In sum, significant efforts art needed to substantially reduce pollutant loadings into the Middle Branch and Diverting Reservoirs from surface runoff if these water bodies are to achieve New York State water quality standards.

II. SPECIFIC COMMENTS

A. STORMWATER AND POLLUTED RUNOFF

According to the DEIS: "complete construction sequence plans are typically prepared and reviewed by the NYCDEP as part of their review of the project Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan" (p. 125). We disagree and consider the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan ("SPPP") to be an integral part of the DEIS. A DEIS that does not discuss stormwater issues in detail and include the SPPP will be considered deficient.

The "Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and Sanitary Sewage Disposal Report" submitted to the NYCDEP by the applicant on September 16, 2002, was reviewed by this office in addition to the DEIS, One item that was not addressed was how well the proposed stormwater mitigation measures will remove phosphorus and other pollutants. The applicant must present in detail how the proposed mitigation measures will insure that phosphorus leaving the site in stormwater will be no higher than predevelopment conditions.

The following methods and criteria should be incorporated into the stormwater controls during the construction phase and be incorporated into the mitigation measures adopted through the SEQRA. process:

(i) Design the SPPP so that violations of state water quality standards are prevented under all conditions; particular attention needs to be given to the narrative water quality standards for turbidity and suspended solids, sere b NYCRR § 703.2.

(ii) Water flowing from areas upslope of construction must be fully diverted away or around exposed construction areas to limit erosion.

(iii) Controls for stormwater should be designed, at a minimum, for the detention or retention of the 10 year 24 hour storm during construction and before full revegetation. This should be presented and supported with specific engineering calculations in the SPPP.

(iv) Construction phasing is a highly important attribute of an effective SPPP. No more than five acres of soils that are not completely stabilized (e.g., revegetated, covered with jute matting, etc.) should exist at the site at any one time. All slopes over 15%, all soil piles, and lose fill areas should be covered immediately with a jute or synthetic mat or hydro-seeded with a slurry containing a durable tacking agent. Stormwater controls and detention basins must be constructed before other construction excavations, except for those excavations necessary to construct the stormwater controls.

(v) Construction timing should be designed to avoid all excavation or clearing activities from October 1st to May 15th of the year; this avoids the most likely wet weather season and allows sufficient time for the complete revegetation of disturbed areas before cold weather.

(vi) All surface water released from the construction site or from stormwater controls must have levels of total phosphorus that do not exceed levels in runoff from existing baseline conditions at the undisturbed site. Existing baseline total phosphorus levels must be presented by the applicant in the SPPP and the EIS.

(vii) The construction site must be assessed for clay and colloidal soils; construction upon such soils should be avoided if at all feasible and special precautions should be taken to limit the erosion of these soils. Suspended clay soils can pass through many erosion controls and remain suspended in water for over 6 months   a significant issue for construction within New York City's unfiltered Watershed.

(viii) There should be no construction or construction disturbances within a wetland, stream, intermittent stream, or within 100' buffer of any such water body or waterway.

(ix) There should be no construction disturbances on any slopes over 20% in grade.

Post construction stormwater controls should employ many of the attributes of the SPPP discussed above. However, the SPPP as it relates to the postconstruction period should also contain the following and be incorporated as mitigation measures adopted through the SEQRA process:

(i) A detailed site revegetation and stabilization plan that will effectively reestablish vegetation; this includes the revegetation of all steep slopes and bare bedrock surfaces created by construction.
(ii) (ii) Post construction stormwater controls should be designed to handle the 2 year 24 hour storm. Engineering design criteria should be employed that assures the survival of stormwater management devices during major storm events.
(iii) The SPPP and EIS should identify methods that will be employed to relieve the soil compaction (with associated increased imperviousness) caused by the extensive use of heavy equipment along and upon the construction site within the Watershed. The goal should be to reestablish the soil percolation rates that existed prior to construction. Existing or baseline percolation rates must be presented by the applicant as part of the SPPP.
(iv) The EIS should identify a complete program for the maintenance of stormwater control structures and provide, through binding mitigation, for the long term maintenance of these structures.

During all constriction within the Watershed, the applicant must employ a qualified professional engineer who will be responsible for assuring full compliance with the SPPP and State water quality standards. This engineer must be provided with immediate "stop work" authority in the event of violations of the SPPP or other important deficiencies that pose a threat
to water quality. We strongly recommend that this engineer, or another onsite inspector employed by the applicant be a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control. In conformity with the State DEC General Permit for Stormwater, these individuals must monitor contractor adherence to the SPPP and provide weekly, certified, inspection reports that will identify any deficiencies, violations or stop work occurrences, and discuss corrective actions that were recommended and undertaken. Stormwater controls during construction and before complete revegetation must be thoroughly inspected each week and after each rain in excess of .5 inches.

Such limits may increase costs and extend the time necessity to complete construction. These limits are necessary, however, due to the sensitive location and steep slopes of the proposed Project. Failure to impose these controls would constitute a failure to mitigate adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent feasible.

Imperviousness

In general, impervious surface and stormwater runoff are proportional to one another so treat an increase or decrease in one results in a corresponding increase or decrease of the other. In other words, the presence of impervious surface generally causes an increase in stormwater runoff, which in turn washes off or transports more pollutants from a site. The levels of Impervious surfaces proposed for this project greatly exceeds the levels that are appropriate for this impaired portion of the New York City Watershed.

Other adverse effects of increased imperviousness are destruction of stream beds and deterioration of aquatic habitat. This project appears to create excessive impervious area by limiting building heights to one story and proposing unattached outdoor parking spaces. “Parking lots are almost completely impervious, so much of the pollutants deposited on the lot surface will be washed off by stormwater runoff . ... Bannerman (1992) documented the significance of parking lot runoff, His study showed that for commercial and particularly industrial land uses., parking tots are a critical source of stormwater pollution... In fact, packing lot runoff accounted for approximately onefourth to twothirds of the suspended solids, total phosphorus, total copper, and total zinc loads in the commercial and industrial areas studied."'

According to the DEIS:
Terra 9 1 building 49 parking spaces
Terra Phase 2 or T2 4 buildings
Lot 1 - 69 parking spaces
Lot 2 - 18 parking spaces
Lot 3 - 58 parking spaces
Lot 4 - 41 parking spaces
Total 186
Terra Phase 3 or T3 72 units >144 parking spaces
town park ?
WWTP

At (east 379 unattached outdoor parking spaces are proposed at the Project. The DEIS does not present alternatives that place these parking spaces either under or on top of the proposed structures; it should. These alternatives must be presented in detail and indepth in the DEIS. Reducing roadway width must also be addressed in the DEIS.

B. WETLANDS
There are four town regulated wetlands orssite. Due to their small size, none of these are classified as wetlands by the NYSDEC. The general location and size of these wetlands is presented below.


(This document was scanned and digitally recognized with an OCR program by and for the Concerned Residents of Southeast. Any errors in processing will be minor and were not intentional.)

(footnote: Center for Watershed Protection: Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community (1998) 8384 (Also citing in support of this point: Bannerman, R, and R. Dodds, 1992. Sources of Pollutants in Wisconsin Stormwater Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI)

T2 western boundary 7.1 acres
T3 central wetland corridor 4.6 acres
" southeast corner 1.5 acres
" southwest corner 0. 3 9 acres

According to the DEIS, only 0.04 acres of wetlands will be disturbed by the proposed development.

However, the town regulates a 100' buffer around all wetlands and 10 acres of buffer will be disturbed by this project (p. 109). Several of the existing temporary sediment basins, which were constructed as temporary basins for site grading activities, are to be enlarged and used on a permanent basis (p. 29). So in essence, sensitive ecological areas that are set aside to protect wetlands and that are not to be developed will be disturbed to treat stormwater, No development should be allowed in the wetland buffer. The applicant must redesign the project so that no development disturbs this valuable resource. In order to accomplish this, alternatives to citing stormwater treatment technologies outside of the wetland buffers must be developed and presented in the DEIS.

C. ALTERNATIVES
Given the sensitive environmental location of the proposed Project, the development of a lower build alternative that: (i) contains multistory structures to substantially reduce the impervious footprint of the development, (ii) that contains greatly reduced parking surfaces, and (iii) that completely avoids steep slopes over 20% in grade must be presented and carefully evaluated. Otherwise, the EIS will be seriously and legally deficient for failing to review a reasonable range of alternatives. We recommend that the applicant present and fully discuss a new project alternative that is pragmatic and reduces impervious surfaces by at least 50%. In addition, alternatives must be developed that relocate all development, specifically stormwater treatment technologies, outside of wetland and stream buffer zones.

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