CWC director makes sure folks know his organization is not NYC-run

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Alan Rosa wants you to know something.
As the executive director of the Margaretville-based Catskill Watershed Corp- oration (CWC), Rosa presides over a host of programs designed to protect the water in the Catskills in a way that benefits the people who live here. To pay for those programs the CWC was given millions of dollars by the City of New York as part of an historic agreement back in the 1990s.
But here’s what he wants you to know.
“We are not the city,” he said Monday while attending a meeting of the Coalition of Watershed Towns.
Rosa was on hand to give an informal refresher course to all. It seems 1991, the year the Coalition was formed to beat back the city’s efforts to trample over watershed dwellers in the pursuit of protecting its water supply, was so long ago that folks have forgotten the basics about the ensuing battle and ultimate upstate victory which gave rise to the CWC.
Now, Rosa said, many erroneously view the CWC and the city’s enforcement arm, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as one in the same. Programs that the Coalition demanded and fought for, programs designed for the benefit of upstaters, are now seen as programs that benefit the city.
As a result some programs are not being fully utilized even though they actually put money in local taxpayers’ pockets.
The city, especially its DEP, are not liked in the region. One can drive along any Main Street and see bold bumper stickers that read, “DEP: GET OFF OUR BACKS!.” Old timers still remember the mid point of last century when the city showed up to condemn thousands of acres of land to build the Pepacton Reservoir, displacing families that had lived and worked those lands for generations.
In 1990 they tried it again but were stopped by the Coalition. Back then the city had a basic two-part plan to protect the water. That plan consisted of taking more land to stop development forever and installing new regulations that would make the development of anything else nearly impossible.
After the Coalition filed a lawsuit the talking began and a settlement was negotiated.
Many of the programs that were born out of those talks, the septic program, wastewater infrastructure, stormwater, even a $60 million economic development fund, were the ideas that upstaters brought to the table. Even the CWC was the Coalition’s idea. They didn’t trust the city in any way and wanted to set up a local organization so all the programs could be implemented by, well, locals.
“These are programs that the Coalition of Watershed Towns wanted,” Rosa said.
Now upstaters have them, and they are under control of CWC and Rosa, who was one of the Coalition’s leaders during the talks.
To think that these programs were designed for the city is just plain wrong, he said.
“We do the programs. We pay the bills.”