Big Fracking’ Problem Awaiting New Yorkers?

Received an early Christmas gift from the Governor today–a simultaneous veto on the May 5th moratorium on “hydrofracking”, with a new moratorium that pushes it to at least July 1 in a more limited fashion. Hydrofracking or “fracking” is hydraulic fracturing done to stimulate more production from natural gas wells. Fracking injects a cocktail of chemicals deep into the ground in shale deposits, literally fracturing the rock formations, generally below 5,000 feet. Today, Gov. Paterson preserves some upstate jobs, but enables the next governor, Cuomo to do his own due diligence..

I could explain the positive effects of this natural gas drilling “innovation”, but allow me to share a demonstration of one of the side-effects instead.

This reminded me of a sad drama that took place in Cleveland more than forty years ago. When I was living in Cleveland, often when we drove past the Cuyahoga river, my father or mother would inevitably tell the story of how the river once caught fire because it was so polluted. Well, I never quite believed them, even though I knew it was truth. Fact is, the river burned not once, but on more than a dozen occasions.

The restoration of the Cuyahoga River has been a truly remarkable 40-year effort , but protecting our natural resources, before we have the opportunity to pollute is the best strategy. The “burning river” lead to the Clean Water Act and dozens of other policies, including the development of the EPA. During the 80s, my father and I fished Lake Erie but we steered well clear of Cleveland and the river. Today, the Cuyahoga has steelhead trout along with smallies and pike, I mean, steelhead? That’s nothing short of a miracle and shows you what can happen when we do right by nature. It does right by us.

Back in July, I told my fishing buddies over at Westchester Fishing and encouraged them to spread the word about the intentions of the gas and oil companies trying to hydrofrack the Marcellus Shale deposit which stretches for some 14K miles from New York to West Virginia. Should there be even a small incident, what makes us think we have the technology to protect the entire Catskills watershed AND our NY water supply? As usual, the oil and gas companies can think of a million ways to get the gas, but have none in mind to clean it up. And if the BP oilspill is any indication of what could happen, we owe it to ourselves, our enviroment, across countless counties and multiple states, to demand more time, diligence, and investigation into the effects of hydrofracking before we drill right below our very feet, possibly endangering the most populous parts of the Eastern Seaboard and its waterways.

Hydrofracking of course is just one more technology in a long list that have the potential to go awry. Not only did the Cuyahoga river fire burn in the 60s, the entire town of Centralia, PA was lost to a mine fire. Forty years on, Vice and Palladium captured just how Centralia is doing.

If you want to learn more about the Marcellus Shale and hyrdrofracking, check out the Atlantic Sierra Club’s explanation (I’m a member) and their position here. For a more official view from the oil and gas industry-sponsored lobbying organization, American Clean Skies Foundation, check out their 30-min film here. And if you’re really committed to learning more, check out the documentary by Josh Fox, Gasland. America’s Natural Gas Alliance has an interesting response to Gasland here. Gasland won the Special Jury Selection – Documentary at Sundance 2010. [Update – Gasland was nominated for an Oscar Best Documentary Feature!]

*Disclosure* I work for a PR agency, Porter Novelli, who lists American’s Natural Gas Alliance as a client. The contents of this blog DO NOT reflect the views of my employer. I was not asked to write this post on behalf of ANGA or Porter Novelli.

Kensico and a Passion Rekindled

I’ve developed a special place in my heart for Kensico Reservoir up in Westchester. Now, I live down in Brooklyn in a steel and glass box, but my closet is full of rods and tackle. After too long not fishing, I decided to start fishing again. It started two years back, with a guys-only family fishing trip to Lake Anna, down in Fredericksburg, VA where my brother is sooo lucky to live a mere 30 min. drive from. We got skunked all morning and then hooked-up with a bunch of tasty catfish. That’s pretty much all your gonna catch on a Pontoon boat. When I got back to NY, I realized I needed to bring fishing back into my life. Soon after, after I spent the night at my friends place in Long Beach, I caught my first stripers surf fishing. It was one of those “we weren’t supposed to catch anything” midday activities where you go and pull two +30″ at the wrong time of day–RIGHT in front of his apartment building. Sheer joy.

I grew-up fishing Lake Erie and waters all around the Cuyahoga, which is a spectacular fishery for smallmouth, walleye, perch. I have a fondness for a place called “Shadow Lake” outside of Cleveland, Oh. Not only did I catch my first rainbow there, I caught a dog (our family dog Duke–but that’s a story for another time). So, I’m a freshwater fisherman at heart. I was amazed to learn of all the amazing freshwater fishing within an hour’s drive of Gotham. Kensico, Croton, Armonk–all amazing, beautiful, well-kept secrets. These reservoirs are all state-owned, and incredibly well-regulated by the DEP. They are part of the Catskill Watershed that supply New York with our freshwater supply. There are no power boats allowed, no homes with big ugly docks, and these manmade lakes appear isolated and empty, blessedly devoid of human habitation…and then there are no paths and piers  either. If you want to explore the reservoirs you’ll need to buy and stow a rowboat on them. The permitting process isn’t complicated and I’m seriously considering putting a boat on Kensico. Its just a gorgeous reservoir. Actually, the reservoir was built in 1915, damming the Bronx river. In some places its over 60′ deep. And that means good habitat for Lake and Brown Trout, also, largemouth and smallies. The trout are stocked but the bass population has settled in on their own I think. The remains of the town of Kensico are somewhere at the bottom of my favorite lake.

Kensico Dam this is one of the most impressive dams I’ve ever seen. Also, there’s a lovely little park right in front. On the way up to the reservoir, you start climbing a road up the valley. You get wonderful glimpses of the lake through the woods, and if you look carefully, you’ll see “jonboats” tucked up in the coves. Here’s the dam being built 95 years ago…hmm, the centennial is coming up. Hope they celebrate this amazing work of engineering.

I’ve pulled some gorgeous smallmouth bass out of Kensico, right off the bridge on Rye Lake… the place is flush with smallies and yes, these suckers fight. I hauled in these aggressive ones going after my stickbait as a massive school of shiners was swimming up back and forth. Two of these babies leapt clear out of the water. I did make a mistake with these though–I kept them before the season was open. Some of my fishing buddies scolded me for that one–always check your season dates. I didn’t mean any harm, but there’s a reason for the season, not to mention the DEP could have busted my ass. Oh, and you’ll need a fishing license, AND DEP reservoir permit, if you intend to fish the reservoirs. The DEP really does check. They’ve got powerboats on the water.

It took me three trips to land my first “Laker” (Lake Trout). Kensico isn’t an easy lake to fish, it take patience and getting to know the other fisherman, the holes, the season.

Lately, I’ve been flying up to Boston almost every week for work. Its a 35 min. flight that takes you up the coast over Westchester into Connecticut and into the Boston-area. On a clear day, its quite lovely. I always sit on the left side of the plane so I can get a good look at the reservoirs and lakes from the air. I spot Kensico, note my favorite holes, the bridge and smile. Last week I was up in Boston again for an “offsite”. I brought the rod and my tacklebox. I figured if it sucked I could bolt and maybe throw one in the Charles River, but it was not to be. On the drive home, I realized, however, that my route would take me right by Kensico. I had about thirty minutes before the sun set. I whipped off 684 and high-tailed it down to the bridge. Nine casts later I hooked up with something big. I figured it had to be a carp but as the fish came up I realized I was on to my first Chain Pickerel. Gorgeous. Rows of sharp teeth. Catch and release. I didn’t have my camera, but I’ll never forget it. Here’s a fine example.