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The new Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Franklin show the reach of the Special Flood Hazard Zone (a.k.a flood plain) according to the Flood Damage Prevention Law, passed at the April Town Board meeting as Local Law 2012-1. Our one flood plain extends from the East Sidney Reservoir up the Ouleout Creek to just above Chamberlin Hill Road, up Treadwell Creek as far as Jackson Hill Road, and up Handsome Brook as far as the fork of East Branch and West Branch.
This plain is defined as having a one percent chance each year of being flooded to deeper than one foot, and it marks what is commonly known as a hundred-year flood plain. (The span between the last two hundred-year floods in this plain was 51 years – August 1955 to June 2006.) This 2012 flood plain covers more land than the older version and allows more landowners to get subsidized flood insurance. At its widest, above the reservoir, our flood plain is over 3,000 feet across.
These maps mark the boundaries in greater detail than the old maps, which date from 1987, 25 years ago. Because of this detail, ten maps are needed to cover the flood plain in Franklin at a scale of 1”=500’ or 1”=1000’. The more detailed maps are for the area around the Village.
These federal maps (Exhibit 2) are available for viewing at the Town Hall, as is the accompanying report: Flood Insurance Study, Delaware County, New York, All Jurisdictions, Volumes 1 to 3. The report runs only 76 pages, but the accompanying flood profiles (Exhibit 1) run 163 pages. None of these profiles are for flooding in Franklin.
Construction within the flood plain must follow specific codes, and the plans require a Flood Plain Development Permit. Our code enforcement officer has been appointed the Local Flood Plain Administrator. Our new law adds a fee of $5 for this review, whereas Walton set their fee at $150.
The ordinance was written by the Delaware County Planning Department. Franklin passed the minimal version of the law (as recommended by Planning), unlike towns such as Hancock. Therefore our code enforcement officer will not be required to inventory all existing buildings in the flood plain. At the April meeting, Duncan Martin of the Delaware County Planning Department answered questions.
Unless the minimum was adopted, Franklin would not have been eligible for FEMA reimbursement and landowners would not have been eligible for the National Flood Insurance program. All of the flood plain in Franklin is zone A. New maps and fee went into effect June 19th.
In the last few months, everything has changed – but in reality, nothing has changed.
What has changed?
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company seems to have dropped its Northeast Extension Project, after the partnership of Williams and Cabot announced their Constitution Pipeline.
Instead of moving the gas from the Tennessee #300 pipeline, the gas will come from the Williams Transco Pipeline further to the south.
The Northeast Extension would have been a 36” pipeline, whereas Constitution will be 30” – one third smaller. To move the same amount of gas through a smaller pipe, the pressure will be higher: 1480 psi.
What has not changed?
A major pipeline will still run through Franklin (see map at right). The gas will still come from the Marcellus gas fields of Pennsylvania. This gas will be delivered to the intersection of the Tennessee #200 and the Iroquois pipelines in the Town of Wright, Schoharie County, and from there moved on to New England or the New York Metro area. Construction is still scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014 and finish in less than a year (see Timeline: Constitution Pipeline).
How did this happen?
It seems that Williams and Cabot have managed to hijack the pipeline route from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company. Williams says: “The two projects are competing proposals. No one bought anyone out.” El Paso Corp (parent of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company) would only say: “We are continuing to assess the needs for the project with potential customers.”
No other details were provided by Richard Wheatly, Manager of Media Relations. All this is despite El Paso having presented the Northeast Extension at least since September 2009, whereas Williams first presented the Constitution in February 2012.
A primer for getting the most you can from eminent domain
The Constitution Pipeline repeats the Marcy South power line experience in that hundreds of land owners in Delaware County will lose control of parts of their property for inadequate compensation — even though the project is of little benefit to residents. Unwilling owners will be compelled through eminent domain.
The pipeline would be almost 121 miles long, with the right-of-way cutting through an estimated 1,400 properties. Of those, 1,100 are in New York State, 500 of which are in Delaware County, and 120 are in the Town of Franklin.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County hosted two meetings on the pipelines on the17th of May. At the meeting in the Franklin Central School, representatives from Williams did not answer why the Constitution Pipeline could not be routed along the I-88 right of way (ROW) for over half its length, thereby sparing hundreds of local landowners.
A few days afterward, Williams responded to our e-mail from a week before the meeting with three reasons: to avoid developed areas, to avoid wet lands, and the lack of flat land between river and hills
In April, Williams began sending letters to landowners along their preliminary route, requesting permission to trespass for survey work. Separately or together, land, engineering, environmental, and possibly cultural surveys will take a day or two each and leave stakes and a cleared line-of-sight along the route. If this permission is not granted, then Williams could obtain a court order to force the issue. However, the permission granted by the landowner need not follow the Williams document exactly. Other such documents give more protection to the landowner and fewer rights to Williams.
By fall, Williams will have firmed-up the route of the pipeline, and then it will be seeking easement agreements from landowners. Owners should be compensated for: permanent loss of the use of the ROW, inconvenience during construction, complications from dividing a property in two, loss of the value of the whole property, rental of the land to ship gas, and future rights to the easement. Other costs should be assumed by Williams in the easement agreement, such as contingent liability and the cost of removing the abandoned pipeline.
Along pipeline routes in northern PA and the Millennium in NY, the landowners have been paid $5 to $25 a running foot. Use of the surface ROW alone is valued at a fraction of the fee simple (purchase price) of vacant land. In Franklin, for a corridor 50 feet wide, that works out to about $1 per running foot of easement. Although a corridor up to 125 feet wide will be cleared, Williams’ control of the wider strip ends with the completion.
In addition, landowners should be paid for “damages” such as structures knocked down, timber cut, and crops that could not be grown during construction.
In the ROW, no permanent structures can ever be built: no house, garage, deck, patio, or septic system. Nor can the landowner plant trees or even tall shrubs. Nothing can be built that interferes with Williams’ ability to monitor the pipeline and dig-up the pipe if necessary. However, the owner must still pay taxes on the acreage in the corridor.
Other than walking, mowing, and watering, anything that you want to do on Williams’ easement requires their written permission. The landowner must submit plans to their engineering department. After a few weeks a letter will be sent prescribing what Williams will allow. You may only begin work once this letter has been signed and returned.
The boiler plate contract from most companies would allow more than just the pipe under their easement. While the pipeline is mostly buried, there are small surface facilities such as valves, metering and regulating stations, and equipment launch and retrieval ports. These fit entirely within their easement and are surrounded by a chain link fence.
A pipeline ROW also enters the land owner in the lottery to have a compressor station for a neighbor. The plan that Williams has submitted includes only one compressor station at the northeast end. However, even at 32,000 hp, this is not enough to move gas through the pipeline at full capacity. Additional compressor stations can (and likely will) be built along the line.
In recent years, pipeline companies have left these booster stations out of the pipeline project, possibly to reduce local opposition. For example, the Millennium Pipeline is only a few years old, but already a compressor station is being separately certified for town of Minisink, Orange County, and the company has selected the site for a second in town of Hancock, Delaware County — only 60 miles away. Williams will not deny that compressor stations may be built but only repeats that none are in their current plans and additional FERC permission will be required.
In the boiler plate agreement, there is no clause for rental payment. The Constitution Pipeline is designed to carry 630,000,000 cubic feet each day beneath your feet. Williams will charge companies of Cabot Oil & Gas and Southwest Energy a fee for every cubic foot, but the land owner receives nothing.
Again, the land owner has no choice but to reach some sort of agreement with Williams. Once FERC awards a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (targeted for November 2013), Williams gains the power of eminent domain to seize any easement.
However, the agreement does not have to be the boiler plate version that the landman will first offer. These versions give every advantage to the company. For example, they typically give a company all rights to future use of the easement for additional utilities such as communications, power, and even additional pipelines – all without additional payment to the landowner.
The landowner comes to the negotiating table with a weak hand. The owner is a novice while the pipeline company has been doing this for decades. Most likely, this will be the first time an owner has seen an easement agreement for a pipeline, whereas the company knows not only what every word means but understands how the court would interpret anything not specified.
On top of this, the company will have the power of eminent domain and can ask a court to impose terms on anyone who will not agree to their offer. According to Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution, no citizen shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” Unfortunately, over time, the courts have broadened the meaning of “public use” and narrowed the meaning of “just compensation.”
Utility projects are inherently unfair in compensating a landowner, but they can be made less unfair. By banding together to form a coalition, landowners can pool information and resources, and negotiate the best possible deal for themselves.
The proposed Constitution Pipeline would carry gas from the Marcellus gas fields of Pennsylvania to the intersection of the Tennessee #200 and the Iroquois pipelines in the Town of Wright, Schoharie County, NY.
|X||February||Open season, solicit customers|
|X||March||Contact state government officials|
|X||April||Pre-file with FERC|
|X||April||Capacity of pipeline fully subscribed|
|X||April||Begin obtaining survey permissions|
|X||April/May||Contact local government officials|
|X||May||Notify all property owners affected|
|X||June||Begin ground surveys|
|X||June||First issue of newsletter Update|
|July||Open houses (5), informational|
|August||FERC Scoping meetings|
|Fall||Begin negotiating easement agreements|
|October||Draft environmental report|
|2013||January||File 7(c) application with FERC|
|January||Second issue of newsletter Update|
|June||Draft Environmental Impact Statement|
|September||Final Environmental Impact Statement|
|November||FERC order of certification|
|2014||January||Begin clearing ROW|
|2015||March||Begin shipping natural gas|
For more information in this issue of The New Franklin Register, see:
Residents of the hamlet of Treadwell have reached agreement with the Delhi Board of Education to transfer to the Town of Franklin the fields, playground, and tennis courts on the flood plain behind the new school building. These fifteen-plus acres would come with $920,000 to be put in trust for related expenses. The school property has been surveyed for subdivision, splitting off five acres including the building. Delhi will retain this smaller piece and attempt to sell it.
The Franklin Town Board held a public meeting on this transfer and its terms on January 10th at the Town Garage. A dozen or so residents attended and raised questions about the details of the transfer. If the trust becomes exhausted, can the Town sell the property? The northwestern boundary is along the creek, but will it be the ever shifting creek itself or some fixed line? The access road will be shared with the owner of the school building, so how will that work? With these and other issues unresolved, the Board has yet to vote on accepting accept this gift. Assuming the Board agrees, then the residents of the Delhi school district will vote on the transfer.
The Northeast Exchange Project (almost half again the size of the Millennium Pipeline) would run through Franklin itself and neighboring towns — if Route B is approved.
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company wants to build this line between two of its existing west-to-east natural gas pipelines: the Tennessee Pipeline #300 in Pennsylvania south of the Millennium Pipeline, and the Tennessee Pipeline #200 in New York along Route 20. Gas would then travel northeast from near South Montrose, Town of Clifford, Susquehanna County to near Central Bridge, Town of Wright, Schoharie County. The final destination for the natural gas is New England.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of El Paso Corp. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, LP plans to buy El Paso this spring, forming the largest domestic natural gas pipeline company. All three companies have their headquarters in Houston, Texas.
The Northeast Exchange would be a 36 inch pipeline with a carrying capacity of 650 million cubic feet per day and with a compression of 14,000 horsepower. Initially, new compressor stations would be built only at each end. As throughput increases, booster compressor stations could be built along the length — possibly one in Franklin. This project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Currently the company is fine-tuning possible routes. Once this is finished, Tennessee Gas Pipeline would begin the approval process by pre-filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, possibly in May. The schedule is for all permits to be obtained by late 2013. If so, ground breaking will begin in the first quarter of 2014 – only two years from now. Construction is scheduled to take less than a year, with the pipeline beginning to carrying gas by the end of 2014. However, deadlines could slip.
In selecting routes, the company examines topographic maps and air photos, and takes helicopter surveys of the landscape. Franklin residents have reported numerous overflights. Also, Tennessee Gas Pipeline is consulting with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
To date, there are two possible routes (see map). The initial route (Alternative A) is122 miles long (92 in NY) in a crooked line to the northeast. North of the Pennsylvania border, it would cross the towns of Hancock, Colchester, Hamden, Delhi, Bovina, and Stamford. Once in Schoharie County, it would turn north northeast across Gilboa, Fulton, Middleburg, Schoharie, and Wright.
That route would have to pass though the watershed of the NYC Cannonsville Reservoir, cross over a NYC aqueduct, and under the Delaware River. After consulting with the DEC in early February, Tennessee Gas Pipeline proposed a second route (Alternative B) to the north of the first. This route would run 115 miles (87 in NY) north northeast across the towns of Sanford, Deposit, Masonville, and Sidney. To avoid the developed lands around Sidney and Oneonta, it would turn northeast and run below the East Sidney Dam and along the northwest slopes of the Ouleout Valley through Franklin and Meredith before jumping the ridge into Charlotte Valley, crossing Davenport and Harpersfield. The pipeline would enter the Susquehanna Valley at Richmondville and continue northeast across Summit, Richmondville, Cobleskill, Schoharie, and Wright.
Nothing is set in stone. These routes could be modified by the company, FERC, or local activism, as we saw with the Marcy South power line. Yet a third route could be proposed for the Northeast Exchange.
Nevertheless, surveyors are already asking permission from landowners for ground surveys. Once the route is certain, landmen will begin obtaining easements along the route. Easements for pipelines are nowhere as profitable as leases for gas wells. In Pennsylvania, landmen are paying a one-time fee of $5 to $25 per foot, the lower amounts being for rural land. There is little room to negotiate: when it cannot reach agreement with a land owner, Tennessee Gas Pipeline can use eminent domain to seize the easement.
Some Town Supervisors in Delaware County have been briefed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline, including those whose towns could be crossed by the pipeline. Franklin Town Supervisor Don Smith was present, as was Franklin Mayor John Campbell. The company is handing out a color brochure to announce the project to landowners.
The value of the pipeline infrastructure would increase property tax revenues. For the Town of Franklin, this might be a few tens of thousands of dollars annually. This might be partially offset by decreases in property values along pipeline. Staff at DEC have proposed to Tennessee Gas Pipeline that “host communities” receive some benefits in return, such as gas distribution lines, but this is unlikely.
The preferred route, which goes through Franklin, avoids the watersheds of New York City reservoirs, thereby giving NYC water special protection once again.
While the primary purpose of Northeast Exchange is to transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England, it could be used to collect gas from local wells. Should drilling for natural gas come to our neighborhood, typically the first wells would be sited along pipelines. Then a network of gathering lines will be laid to bring gas from wells to the pipeline, and more compressor stations must be built in Franklin, wherever gathering lines feed into the pipeline.
If built, the Northeast Exchange could have a huge effect on the Town of Franklin for decades to come, and be far more consequential than the Marcy South power line.
In late February, Cabot and Williams announced a second pipeline that would follow a similar route to Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s pipeline from Susquehanna County PA to Schoharie County NY. Running a bit west and north of the Northeast Exchange, this Constitution Pipeline would skirt most of Delaware County, crossing eastern Broome, southeastern corner of Chenango, western corner of Delaware, and southern Otsego Counties.
To date, this Constitution Pipeline exists only as a press release and a request for “shippers, potential shippers, and interested parties.” This proposal decreases the certainty about where a pipeline would be built, but increases the odds that one will be built somewhere.
El Paso has reacted by shifting resources from ground work to commercial development.
Once upon a time in the far kingdom of Albany, the Division of Mineral Resources was required to write a guidance document on how to drill safely: the GEIS of 1992. (From its beginning, DMN had been charged with only maximizing production, minimizing waste, and protecting the rights of lease holders and land owners.) However, they were not required to write regulations based on this guidance document, and none made it into the code books: the New York Code, Rules, and Regulations.
Research by this newspaper found in the response by DMN to a questionnaire of 2009, a mention that these regulations were in fact written but never finalized. Further, DMN stated that these proposed regulations were the basis of public hearings — actually informal workshops in October 1997. Therefore, they are part of the public record and should be available.
Unfortunately bureaucracies do not readily give up information, and you are rarely successful simply asking for their files. Requests from this newspaper to DMN have never been successful. Fortunately in New York State, there is a formal procedure under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). So The New Franklin Register submitted a request to the Record Access Officer. Under the law, response is required in ten business days. The DMN, claiming that it was busy writing the SGEIS, delayed their response for two months.
Then with only two days before their belated deadline, they denied the request, saying only that it was not public record but “intra-agency materials.” Fortunately FOIL provides for an appeal. The Appeals Officer was able to compel from DMN an explanation for their denial. According to them, they searched high and low, but not one copy could be found. All that remained was a copy of revisions of these proposed regulations from 2000, possibly a draft – hence “intra-agency materials.”
Here the tale gets hard to believe. Granted that the DMN moved its offices in 2001, when much was discarded. And yes, staff have retired since 1997. Nevertheless, these proposed regulations were no minor memo. The purpose of the GEIS, which took several years to complete, was to establish safe drilling practices. Public workshops based on these proposed regulations were held in three cities, requiring stacks of copies. And the permit condition, that were substituted for formal regulations, must have been based on them.
On the 25th of October, after almost four months of delay, we received a copy of the 2000
revision of the proposed regulations based on the 1992 GEIS. Parts of the 140 page document, which is merely a listing of regulations, has been blacked out or redacted.
Perhaps the DMN withheld these proposed regulations because they did not want evidence of their past failure to regulate based on the GEIS to show up while they are trying to sell regulations based on the SGEIS.
Last year, the New York State Department of Transportation studied traffic running through the intersection of Routes 357 and 28 at the bottom of Franklin Mountain. In the last decade, there were 35 accidents (excluding collisions with deer) — ten times the accident rate at similar intersections. Contributing to these accidents is the limited visibility toward the intersection from the tight curves of Route 28 heading north, and Route 28/357 heading west.
The DOT has proposed two safer reconstructions: a T-intersection, with Route 28 coming down the mountain to end at Route 357, which would curve into Route 28 going toward Delhi. Or a one lane roundabout – see the diagrams at right.
Roundabouts are smaller than traffic circles, and vehicles circulate at the slower speed of 15 to 25 mph. Vehicles entering must yield to those already in the roundabout. There would be an inner truck apron for oversized loads. Examples of local roundabouts can be found on Riverside Drive in Broome County and Elmira Road in Tompkins.
Cost is estimated to be $800,000, with 80% coming from federal funds and 20% from the state. The T-intersection would be slightly less expensive and slightly less safe than the roundabout. Flashing warning lights were considered, but while considerably less expensive ($150,000), they have proven less effective.
Either option should fit in the existing right-of-way.
Planning for the North Franklin intersection began in 2009. A meeting to inform the public and solicit comments was held this summer at the town garage. Additional comments are welcomed and suggestions will be incorporated into tentative designs, to be presented at a second public meeting next year. The design is to be finalized in 2013, followed by bidding and a contract. Construction is to begin and be completed in 2014. Work is expected to be done without closing either route.
A group of Franklin residents feel this money could be better spent, and have started a petition objecting to the reconstruction and requesting further study. They have collected a few hundred signatures.