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No swimming in Toronto Reservior?

By Fritz Mayer
August 14, 2014

TORONTO RESERVOIR — In May, 2013, it seemed as though the question about public access to the Toronto Reservoir had been settled once and for all. Back then, the appellate court upheld the ruling of a lower court saying the members of the public have the right to use a road in the Chapin Estate to reach a recreational access area on the reservoir.

The ruling came after a 10-year, off-and-on court battle, during which access to that spot on the reservoir was blocked by a stone wall, which was ultimately removed.

Now there is a question of whether there is another attempt afoot to block members of the public from using the access by banning swimming.

Dr. Herman Goldfarb, co-chairman of the Friends of Toronto, wrote an email to Robert Gates, an executive of Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, the company that owns the reservoir and that also owns the public access spot, which is operated as a requirement of a license to operate a hydro-power plant from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The email said, “It has come to our attention that you [are] letting one private developer and one private homeowner of the Chapin Estates in Sullivan County, try to convince Eagle Creek to change the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s license as regards the Toronto Reservoir and Swinging Bridge Hydroelectric system.

“The Friends of Toronto, the residents of Sullivan County and of New York State, as well as the citizens of the United States, have fought for the last 14 years to open up both access points to the Toronto Reservoir for swimming, boating, fishing, and other recreational activities. The FERC license states that this is to be opened to the public. It was finally opened, and the general public is enjoying this natural public resource. But now you want to take it away from the public.”

Gates did not respond to an email requesting comment.

According to documents provided by FERC, there has been an ongoing dispute between Chapin Estate and a homeowner in the community, and between Eagle Creek and Friends of Toronto over whether swimming in the reservoir at the access point should be prohibited, which, according to the documents, is one of the more popular activities occurring there. Chapin was of the opinion that the site should only be used as a boat launch.

In 2013 the position of Eagle Creek was that the company would not encourage swimming at the access, but also would not prohibit it, and this was included in an order from FERC.