The Parks Department has applied for a permit from the State to install wide culverts through the berms of the basins of the Ridgewood Reservoir to allow excess stormwater to drain out in the case of a “catastrophic weather event.” This action would likely destroy much of the natural habitat that activists, Community Board 5 and elected officials have been seeking to preserve for the last 8 years.
The Parks Department initially said that they must do this work in order to abide by federal guidelines – however, the Environmental Protection Agency only regulates reservoirs that actually provide drinking water. The State Department of Environmental Conservation is actually the agency that came up with the dam classification system in play here. The DEC has classified the Ridgewood Reservoir as a “Class C – High Hazard dam.” How 3 basins that haven’t been full for decades, have had their pumping mechanisms disabled and their pipes capped could pose a high hazard to people living in the area in the case of a major storm is a question for which no one can seem to provide a plausible answer. The DEC maintains that in order to have the reservoir reclassified as a “Class D – Low Hazard dam”, the basin walls must be breached.
Current plans call for the basins to drain into each other from east to west, with the last basin draining into a small catch basin on Vermont Place. In the case of a “catastrophic weather event”, that catch basin will already be overflowing, so we fail to see the logic in inundating it with yet more water that it would not be able to handle.
Elected officials, including Assembly Members Nolan and Miller and Senators Addabbo and Gianaris, continue to work on getting the powers that be at DEC and the NYC Parks Dept to change their minds. But time is running out as we have heard that a contract for the work may be awarded in late summer.