Water Watch NYC

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Reasons to Protest DEP Rate Hikes

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As the DEP readies to raise water and sewer rates for fiscal year 2009, the time has come again for the public to protest. In the coming weeks, the Water Board will be holding meetings to hear what the public thinks about the DEP’s 14.5% rate increase. We encourage all to attend and protest. Here are some issues worth bringing up at these hearings:

  1. Something has to be done about the reservoir rental agreements. The Water Board has been renting its reservoirs from New York City. The rental payments, which are supposed to cover the city’s costs of building and maintaining the reservoirs, are not fixed but rather dependent on the Water Board’s capital spending. The rent that the Water Board has paid the city to date has already far exceeded the city’s building and maintenance costs. This is an unfair agreement and is just one more example of backdoor financing to NYC. The Water Board was created to protect rate payers and bond holders from the city. It would appear that they are failing in their core mission. The rental agreement will generate a $200 million surplus to NYC in 2012. Instead of the city taking all this money for rent, they should take a fixed fee that’s closer to their actual costs and allow the Water Board to keep the rest of the money for their own needs so that they don’t have to keep raising water and sewer rates.
  2. Last year, the Water Board’s treasurer, William Kusterbeck, projected that an 11.5% rate increase over the next three years would be sufficient. Mere months later, they claimed they needed an additional 18% rate increase and now a 14.5% rate increase. They seem to be making these numbers up. Until the DEP provides detailed calculations for their projections, we should not be forced to accept them.
  3. The DEP and the Water Board consistently claim that New Yorkers are willing to pay for quality water. Well, we have been paying for it but as the price of water climbs toward $6 per hcf, most of us are not happy about it. It is our duty to inform the Water Board that they are mistaken about our beliefs.
  4. The DEP’s spending is spiraling out of control. As long as they think that they can continue to raise rates without any oversight, they have no incentive to start limiting their costs.
  5. The DEP consistently claims that its rates are reasonable because, statistically, New York City’s water rates are pretty average compared to other big cities. While this is true, 15 years ago New York City had one of the lowest water rates. Meanwhile, if rates continue to climb at the rate they’re climbing now, pretty soon we’ll have one of the most expensive rates.

We encourage all to voice their opinion. If you cannot make it to one of the Water Board’s borough hearings, we encourage you to contact your city council representative or to email Kevin Kunkle at the Water Board.

Author: Hershel

Hershel is a Water Management Engineer with Ashokan Water Services, where he's actively involved with conservation and building design issues. Prior to his Ashokan, he was with the City of New York. He is a former President of the New York chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) and is a member of AWWA, NYARM and BOMA. Hershel is an avid kayaker.

7 thoughts on “Reasons to Protest DEP Rate Hikes

  1. Please look at the Queens Civic Congress testimony delivered May 6. 2008. It makes clear no need exists this year for any rate hike:
    http://www.QueensCivicCongress.org

  2. Monday, May 12, 2008, 7:30 p.m.
    Getting Soaked by Your Water Bill? Town Hall Meeting
    Sponsored by Council Members James F. Gennaro and John C. Liu
    at P.S. 21, The Edward Hart School, 147-36 26th Avenue, Flushing

    and

    Wednesday, May 14,, 7:30 p.m.
    Getting Soaked by Your Water Bill? Town Hall Meeting
    Sponsored by Council Members James F. Gennaro and David Weprin
    at PS 186, The Castlewood School, 252-12 72nd Avenue, off Little Neck Parkway, Bellerose

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