Trout habitat remains at risk; public invited to comment

The proposal for a golf resort on a forested mountainside in the high peaks of the Catskills has bee

The proposal for a golf resort on a forested mountainside in the high peaks of the Catskills has been scaled back, thanks to pressure from the state, New York City and environmental advocates.

But even the scaled-back version could threaten sensitive trout hab­itat, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation — not to mention its effect on the character of the region.

There is still time for the public to demand protection for the

irreplaceable resources threatened by the report. We have until a week from Monday to make our concerns known.

Originally known as Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park and now called the Wildacres Resort and Highmount Spa Resort complex, the project will include a golf course, 370 rooms in two hotels and 259 apartments and condos — all looming over the upper East Branch of the Delaware River and a number of smaller trout streams.

Furthermore, the state’s own Belleayre Mountain Ski Center next door plans to expand and offer a “ski-in, ski-out” connection to the resort.

The original, three-golf course proposal would have developed hundreds of acres in the sensitive headwaters of the historic Esopus Creek, the closest bona fide tail­water trout fishery to the Capital Region.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced a deal this fall that pushed the resort out of the Esopus watershed and even added 1,200 acres in the area to the state Forest Preserve.

That is a huge improvement. Even so, serious concerns remain.

“Several high-quality protected streams are located within or in close proximity to the project site, and are tributary to streams of

regional and statewide importance,” the DEC reports.

Construction and operation of the new resort and the ski center expansion “could contribute to degradation of these streams” unless significant protective measures are taken, the agency says.

What’s more, the resort will suck up 195,000 gallons of water a day, and the new ski trails will need water for snow-making. The potential for depletion of the

aquifers that water the region’s trout streams is troubling. And, of course, what goes in, comes out. The resort will pump another quarter-million gallons a day of sewage into the

water treatment plant in the hamlet of Pine Hill — which will then be discharged to local waterways.

Then there’s noise, light, traffic and the other symptoms of civil­ization that inevitably accompany things like this.

This resort is a bad idea, even in its modified form. It should not be built. Unfortunately, it will. But the state must force the developer to do everything possible to minimize its impact.

Public comments on the project are being accepted until

Jan. 14 by Daniel T. Whitehead,

environmental analyst for the DEC, at 625 Broadway, Fourth Floor,

Albany, N.Y.12233-1750.

Comments may also be made by e-mail to [email protected] They must include the word “scoping” in the subject line.

For more official information on the project, visit this page on the DEC Web site:

A Google search will turn up a great deal of information and opinion on the plan.

Categories: Sports

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