| Times Herald-Record
BETHEL – For almost 20 years now, residents have been fighting an electric company to live up to its obligation to maintain an access road to a reservoir and its beach that serves as a recreation area.
Now the Bethel Town Board has agreed to add its weight to the fight.
The reservoir in question is Toronto Reservoir, one of five reservoirs in Eagle Creek Renewable Energy’s hydroelectric system on the Mongaup River.
Under its licenses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Eagle Creek is supposed to provide public access to the reservoir.
But a group called Friends of Toronto Reservoir (FTR) has been waging a battle since 2002 to get Eagle Creek and a predecessor company to get that done. They say it is a struggle to get Eagle Creek to do even the minimal maintenance.
“It’s exhausting,” said Nino Nannarone, who chairs Friends of the Toronto Reservoir.
On Wednesday night, the Town Board agreed to the friends’ request to send letters to Eagle Creek and to FERC, which will ask that the access road, Pine Grove Road, be kept in acceptable condition for vehicles to get to and from the recreation site.
“That’s good to hear,” said Nannarone.
The friends group wants maintenance to begin as soon as possible in the spring. Too often, Nannarone said, nothing is done until June or July, well into the outdoor recreation season.
“I went down there yesterday, and that road is flooded again,” Nannarone said. “It’s going to discourage people from coming. They’ll be afraid they’ll go into a hole.”
In addition to maintaining the road and having vegetation cleared at the beach, FTR has lobbied for more welcoming signs along the access road, and a concrete boat launch to replace the less stable gravel launch.
Mike Gross, Eagle Creek’s vice president of operations, who is new to the company, said he is only aware of one specific complaint, from a resident of the access road who was upset about excessive use of that road by the public.
“We are investigating that, but we are willing to work with the residents any way we can,” he said. “We are dedicated to being good stewards.”
Nannarone figures this is a good time to try to get maintenance matters settled, as the licenses for Eagle Creek’s Mongaup system are up for renewal in 2022. There are three licenses covering three different segments of the system. The current licenses were issued in 1992.
According to the company’s website, their final licensing application was submitted in March.
Those documents, all 2,245 pages, are available at eaglecreekre.com.