Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Future for Ithaca's Water: From Six Mile Creek or Cayuga Lake?

The city of Ithaca is on the verge of an historic decision: whether to keep the Six Mile Creek reservoir system as its water source, or switch to Cayuga Lake.

To stay in service, the century-old reservoir system needs considerable modernization, including the addition of new access roads through its woodland setting. The alternative is to partner with the Town of Ithaca's exisiting water source, Bolton Point, at Cayuga Lake.

From an engineering and environmental standpoint, a switch to Bolton Point might be simpler and lower-impact, although significant expansion of the system will be necessary.

From a governance standpoint, a move to Bolton Point is potentially troublesome, as the city of Ithaca would no longer have sole autonomy over its water source.

From a political standpoint, there is likely to be strong public sentiment to retain the site at Six Mile Creek. Preliminary studies indicate little difference in water quality between the two sources. But the protected nature of the reservoir watershed creates the perception that it is a safer, purer site.

The historical nature of the Six Mile Creek site might also be a political factor that is perhaps emotional in nature, yet real. It is a municipal asset that people might resist losing - regardless of whether or not it is the best choice.

The acronym NIMBY is well known in the politics of development: "Not In My Back Yard." The idea of a shift from Six Mile Creek might lead to a new one that is less pronounceable, perhaps irrational, yet potent: IJDLI, or "I Just Don't Like the Idea."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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