December 3, 2009

Hard financial times coming to Dryden schools

This doesn't sound good:

The district will likely owe $1.2 million in additional retirement costs, will have $1.3 million less in state aid because federal stimulus aid will have run out, and won't be getting any funding increases from cash-poor New York state.

The county is also gearing up in case funds from New York State are disrupted.

Meanwhile, in the Ithaca schools, long-time superintendent Judith Pastel is retiring.

Posted by simon at 5:46 PM Comment

December 8, 2009

Eight Square Schoolhouse: Then and Now

The History Center in Tompkins County just sent out a message about their annual meeting this Thursday the 10th. They'll be serving refreshments at 5:00pm, having a business meeting from 5:30 to 5:45, and then spending 5:45 to 6:30pm on a "Special Presentation: Carole West and Rhonda Gilmore on The Eight Square Schoolhouse: Then and Now"

It'll be in downtown Ithaca, at 401 E. State/MLK Street, Suite 100. (The Eight Square Schoolhouse itself is on Hanshaw Road in Dryden. I've posted earlier festival pictures.)

Posted by simon at 9:18 AM Comment

December 9, 2009

Holly Tour this Sunday

Two years ago, freezing rain kept me from seeing the Dryden Town Historical Society's Holly Tour of local houses, and I've been grumbling about it ever since. They're doing it again this year, though, with five houses open this Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm:

8 Library StreetElora at Golden Gables
30 E. Main StreetWendy Martin and Bob Ellis
122 Lake RoadRay and Rita Harris
12 E. Main StreetThe Dwight House
24 Lewis StreetThe Torellos

There will be a reception afterwards at the Dryden Presbyterian Church from 4:00pm to 5:00pm.

The tour costs $10, and because of its nature, they ask that only adults attend. Tickets are available this Saturday at the History House, 36 West Main Street, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, or from Gina Prentiss (844-4691), Betsy Cleveland (844-4289), and Wendy Martin (279-6596).

Posted by simon at 12:00 PM Comment

Gas drilling coming to Dryden, soon?

It's not drilling into the Marcellus Shale, which has been the subject of lots of recent controversy as the state has published a draft Supplemental Generic Impact Statement.

This is apparently drilling into the Trenton-Black River formation, which is much deeper than the Marcellus but which has been in production - mostly to the south and west of here - for a while. Trenton-Black River drilling sounds like it's usually - but not necessarily - less complicated than Marcellus drilling.

The information I have on the drilling site is pretty basic:

The permitted site is "1900 feet south of Ferguson Road and 250 feet west of Irish Settlement Road ."

It would impact a max of 3.4 acres, dropping down to 0.9 over time. The well would be 19,000 feet deep.

Update: Apparently it's 9000 feet of drilling - 7000 vertical, 2000 horizontal.

The state, in what I fear is a sign of things to come, notified the Town after issuing a negative SEQR declaration, which allows drilling to proceed. Town Board member Jason Leifer has written the DEC to ask for a lot more details about the status, the process, and the plans for drilling.

I'll post more as I learn what's up.

Posted by simon at 12:38 PM Comment

December 14, 2009

Gas drilling permit, letter

I wrote last week about a propspective gas well drilling into the Trenton-Black River formation in Dryden. As I'd noted then, Town Board member Jason Leifer wrote the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and here's the letter he got back:

From: "Linda Collart"
Date: December 11, 2009 4:13:57 PM EST
To: "Jason Leifer"
Cc: "Town of Dryden Supervisor", "Jack Dahl", "Jodi Rospendowski"
Subject: Re: Notice of SEQR Negative Declaration, Proposed Gas Well Drilling, Town of Dryden, Tompkins County

Mr. Leifer, we received your December 7, 2009 letter requesting additional information regarding the negative declaration issued for disturbance of more than 2.5 acres of land in Tompkins County Agricultural District #01 associated with the proposed Anschutz Exploration Corporation Cook #1 gas well. Please be advised that the disturbance of greater than 2.5 acres in an agricultural district is the only issue that this negative declaration applies to since SEQRA review for individual gas wells has been completed through the "Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program" (GEIS) finalized in 1992. The following is a link on our website where a copy of this document may be accessed: In accordance with the GEIS, DEC has determined that drilling oil and gas wells will have no significant impact on the environment if operations conducted are consistent with Department regulations and the recommendations in the GEIS. Consistent with the GEIS, conditions will be added to our permit to address disturbance in an agricultural district. The reasons supporting the Department's determination of significance are provided in detail within the negative declaration itself under the heading "Reasons Supporting This Determination".

The Department has no regulatory requirement to contact local governments when a permit application has been received. The only noticing requirement to local governments regarding the drilling of a gas well would be in accordance with ECL Article 23, Title 3 (Section 23-0305.13) that requires the operator to notify the local government by certified mail prior to the commencement of drilling operations. When we receive an application for a permit to drill a gas well, within a day or two it is posted in the online Oil & Gas Searchable Database at: . Local governments may track applications that we have received through this database and request information regarding the application from my office.

There are no regulatory requirements for a gas well operator to conduct water well sampling on adjacent properties. Wter well testing would be up to the operator and what has been negotiated in lease agreements with individual mineral rights owners. The Department has no regulatory jurisdiction regarding the terms and conditions of private lease agreements.

Mineral Resources will request a letter from Anschutz confirming that they will not be conducting hydrofracturing operations on this well. If they do propose a hydrofrac, information regarding the frac will be required to be submitted so it can be determined if the completion work proposed is consistent with the GEIS. Typically, companies do not hydrofracture a Trenton/Black River well.

Permit application documents are attached for your information. The permit for this well has not been issued. You may keep track of the permit status on our Mineral Resources online Searchable Database using the link mentioned above. There will be no hearings associated with this permit application and/or issuance. A compulsory integration hearing will be scheduled after permit issuance and uncontrolled (not leased) mineral owners within the spacing unit established for this well will be notified to make an election regarding how they want to participate in the well 30 days prior to the hearing. The compulsory integration hearing date will be provided in the Searchable Database. There are no other DEC scheduled hearings associated with this permit application and/or issuance.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss at (585) 226-5376.

Linda Collart
Regional Mineral Resources Supervisor

It's a polite letter, but it also highlights just how weirdly distant the state is from local government on these issues, and how little care they take in evaluating applications. The only issue they evaluated was the disturbance of more than 2.5 acres in an agricultural district. The rest they automatically assume will be fine, per their 1992 Generic Environmental Impact Statement. They're also not very interested in communication with towns until the operator gets around to letting towns know that drilling is about to start.

I'm also worried that DEC thinks their Searchable Database is a solution, when I don't see any reference to this application in their 90-day permit look-back. It jumps from Tioga County to Wayne County. That could be the wrong place to look - but it's not at all clear what would be the right place to look.

I'm glad that DEC replied promptly, but I don't think this letter will exactly set anyone concerned about the longer-term potential impact of gas drilling on our area at ease.

They also sent the application (4.7MB PDF) and some supporting maps (111KB PDF).

Posted by simon at 12:27 PM Comment

December 17, 2009

Slow down in Varna

I've not yet seen signs go up, but I've heard that the New York State Department of Transportation is giving the residents of Varna a brake - lowering the speed limit from 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour between Game Farm Road and the railroad bridge.

I think that's a distance of about two miles, which means it will cost motorists an extra minute while driving through a densely populated area with lots of driveways which currently has a steady stream of accidents. Seems like a good idea to me!

Posted by simon at 8:25 AM Comment

December 18, 2009


(An annual story...)

People often seem to make their donations at the end of the year, both for holiday and tax reasons. This is a list of organizations in Dryden that could take donations. I believe, though I'm not entirely certain, that these are non-profit organizations, and therefore tax-exempt, but I could be wrong. Check with the organization if you have a question about that.

I've posted a list of churches earlier, and I'm sure they'd all happily accept donations, with the exception of Ellis Hollow Community Church, which has closed.

Other possible Dryden organizations for donations include:

  • Bethel Grove Community Center
    1825 Slaterville Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Dryden Community Center Cafe
    P.O. 801
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Go-Green Team
    c/o Dryden Elementary School (checks payable to Dryden Elementary School)
    P.O. Box 88
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Kitchen Cupboard
    Tompkins County Food Pantry
    800 Enfield Falls Road
    Newfield, NY 14867

  • Dryden Music Boosters c/o Allison Pelletier
    155 Creamery Road
    Richford, NY 13835

  • Dryden Town Historical Society
    36 West Main Street
    P.O. Box 69
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Veterans Memorial Home
    2272 Dryden Road
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund
    Make checks out to Community Foundation of Tompkins County/DYOF
    P.O Box 1076
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Ellis Hollow Community Center
    111 Genung Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Etna Community Center
    P.O. Box 425
    Etna, NY 13062

  • Freeville Food Pantry
    Freeville United Methodist Church
    PO Box 229
    Freeville, NY 13068

  • Neptune Hose Company & Dryden Ambulance
    26 North Street
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts
    P.O. Box 6607
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Southworth Library Association
    P.O. Box 45
    Dryden, NY 13053

  • Tompkins County SPCA
    1640 Hanshaw Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • Varna Community Association
    PO Box 4771
    Ithaca, NY 14852-4771

  • Varna Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
    14 Turkey Hill Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850

  • W.B. Strong Fire Company
    21 Union Street
    PO Box 129
    Freeville, NY 13068

  • Willow Glen Cemetery Association
    P.O. Box 299
    Dryden, NY 13053-0299

If you have additions or corrections, please let me know in the comments. I'm guessing I missed a few.(And thanks to Kathy Zahler for helping me add to the list!)

Posted by simon at 2:35 PM Comment

December 21, 2009

Driving violation leads to arrest

I didn't entirely understand how things were supposed to work in 2001 when I got a speeding ticket in Horseheads, but at least mailing in the fine listed on the ticket seemed to work. Losing a ticket and then trying to figure out what to do doesn't seem to have worked out so well for my county legislator, however:

Officers charged Robertson with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle on Tuesday evening, Ithaca Police Department officials said. Officers stopped her on Maple Avenue around 10:20 p.m. because she had a tail light out, discovered her license was suspended for failure to answer a summons in Duanesburg and took her into custody.

I guess we'll find out January 6th, when Martha Robertson appears in Ithaca City Court, how this turns out, but in the meantime her critics are having a field day on the Journal's comment section.

There was also a nice piece on winter shares from Community-Supported Agriculture. We pick up our share at Ludgate Farms, but I wish more of this activity was in the Town of Dryden. It seems mostly to be to our west, on the other side of Cayuga Lake.

Posted by simon at 12:14 PM Comment

December 24, 2009

Broadband coming to area slowly

The Ithaca Journal has an article on hopes for a major step up in broadband delivery to the area. It notes that (Dryden resident) Chuck Bartosch, of Clarity Connect, has requested a stimulus grant for much larger-scale work than the work in the earlier grant he got for Dryden, on which I understand work is continuing, though also slowly.

There's also political news on the Marcellus shale front: New York City isn't very impressed with having it in their watershed.

Posted by simon at 9:56 AM Comment

December 31, 2009

My comment on the gas drilling dSGEIS

It's the last minute, yes, but you can still submit comments today on the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement On The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program, also known as the Hydrofracking dSGEIS.

Here's what I sent.

Reading the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement On The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program has been a disappointing experience. While I recognize that New York State is taking a more active regulatory role than many states, the proposals in the dSGEIS suggest that the state isn't especially worried about hydrofracking.

After 809 pages, I still don't see a clear explanation of how wastewater from the process will be regulated. I don't see strong mechanisms for compensating property owners whose homes, farms, and businesses may be damaged by a process they didn't agree to.

The clearest indication of this document's failure to appropriately address risks is its handling of the New York City watershed. New York City and New York State have invested decades of effort to prevent even minor threats to that watershed, as the rules for steam cleaning boats in the reservoirs make perhaps absurdly clear. The writers of the dSGEIS, however, seem to think the risk to billions of dollars in infrastructure not to mention the drinking water of millions of people is too small to worry about. While I live Upstate, the risk calculations here make me wonder whether any part of this document is to be trusted.

I also find it strange that after massive effort over the past few years to make local municipalities regulate stormwater, the dSGEIS reserves jurisdiction over the stormwater impact of drilling sites to the state. I've not been impressed by the DEC's general lack of interest in local input regarding activities permitted under the 1992 GEIS - see This document seems intent on perpetuating the strange system in which muncipalities can regulate garden sheds but not natural gas drilling pads.

There are many more things wrong with this document, but given that thousands of people, governments, and organizations, are already commenting, I suspect that keeping it brief will improve my chances of being heard.

Thank you very much,
Simon St.Laurent
Town of Dryden

Posted by simon at 4:07 PM Comment