Monday, November 19, 2007

"The future of Long Island Sound is no budget annoyance"

Insiders who follow Long Island Sound issues have known for some time that Westchester's sewage treatment upgrade costs would be scarily high -- why else would the County, which has been working on the sewage issue for almost a decade and which generally moves aggressively on environmental issues, have been so quiet about it for so long? -- but it wasn't until last week that we knew the actual numbers: an estimated $355 million to $573 million (background here and here).

The Times reported the numbers last week, in a story about a dispute between the county and New York State over whether a pollution-credit trading program would work in New York.

An editorial in yesterday's Times professes not to care how Westchester goes about doing its part of the Sound cleanup, as long as it does it. Here is an excerpt:

Westchester may flinch at the threat of localized taxpayer pain, but it should not use that to shrink from addressing an urgent regional problem. The money and means for upgrades must be found, whether indirectly through nitrogen trading or straight from taxpayers’ wallets.

The price will be high but not necessarily ruinous — the early cost estimates for New York City’s sewage-plant upgrades ran to more than $1 billion, until an aggressive search for economizing and efficiency brought the number sharply down. And there should be federal money available for protecting the Sound.

The future of Long Island Sound is no budget annoyance to be haggled down or bargained to death. It took considerable pressure from the federal government to get New York City on the right path, and backsliding is a continual peril. The Sound is as threatened as it is precious — the water is warming and lobsters and salt marshes have been dying, for reasons no one has precisely figured out.

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