Wednesday, November 26, 2008

News That Matters - November 26, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 16

Only 4 Days Left!

Don't worry, you can still donate after those 4 days are up.
It's just that I'll stop annoying you... maybe or maybe not!
It all depends on you.

Good Wednesday Morning,

A bit of Putnam County's history has been slowly uncovering itself over the past few weeks as the Boyd's Reservoir in Kent Cliffs is drawn down. I don't know if it's been an intentional act or if the lack of rain over time has caused water levels to decrease, but the cause does not come into play in this article. What does, are the remnants of a life drowned under the waters since 1873.
Back at a time when the Horsepound Road was known as Telegraph Road and Route 52 was known as Mud Road. At a time when Boyd's Corners was important enough to have its own Post Office and Lake Carmel was naught but a swamp and nearby Milltown (now Farmer's Mills) was the largest place around.

Back in the day when the landscape was pastoral and lightly settled, a village existed at the intersection of what is now Route 301 and Peekskill Hollow Roads through which the New York Central Railroad was proposed to run... That village was Boyd's Corners, named for Ebenezer Boyd who bought the land, the best farmland in this part of the county, from the Commissioners of Forfeiture in 1780 and passed it on to three generations of his sons.

In March of 1866 NYC decided that the valley in which Boyd's Corners sat would be an ideal location for the second reservoir in the Croton system and work commenced on a dam there in September of that year, not to be completed until 1872. The NY Times reported at the time:
"It was decided that the site near Boyd's Corners, in Putnam County, was the most advantageous and economical. The cost of land, damages and construction, capacity and formation of basin, quantity and quality of water and freedom from liability to contamination, being considered in combination."
At the northern end of the valley was a mill which drew its power from the west branch of the Croton River as it flowed from its various headwaters a few miles away.

The river rises between two hills and settles in a large wetland which drains over rocky ridges, cataracts and waterfalls, before settling itself into a valley where it met with several other streams, a valley that once dammed we know as Lake Sagamore. After gaining strength and flow, the river fell swiftly over ridges and, quickly loosing elevation, gained head enough to power that mill.

An old road turned southwest from the mill-site before straightening and passing the Light residence, then coming to the location of the First Baptist Church of Kent and its cemetery where the Boyd family lay buried and whose graves were to be moved from their penultimate resting places and resettled on higher ground to the west. The new resting ground is now hidden from view and long forgotten.

If you visit valley today you can see the lay of that old road bordered by stone walls and the foundations of homes and forgotten barns whose owners have long since passed on. Several other roads cross the valley at odd angles, some with bridge abutments where they would cross the river before emerging from the valley on its eastern side.

Wide swaths of stone-free landscape mark the fields along the northern portion of the valley but the land becomes steeper and rockier as you head south and boulders crowd the shallow hills where forests and a small lake once stood. One large boulder stands on end upon a knoll looking for all the world as if it had been placed there to guard the valley over which it rises.

Looking over the valley today it is not difficult to envision a scene of verdant rolling hills dotted with sheep and cattle while the Croton meanders at their base before plunging into a rocky, forested ravine. The river flowed through a deep gap in the mountains before passing agricultural fields on its way towards it's junction with the 'Horse Pond' Brook at Travis Corners in the town of Carmel, lands that are now under the waters of the West Branch reservoir which was flooded in 1895, burying other healthy fields under billions of gallons of the freshet water in the Croton watershed.

Now that the waters of the Boyd's are low, rising from the valley floor are remnant trees which were never cut, frozen in time, and preserved in the icy waters for more than 125 years.

In 1872, Boyd's Dam was completed creating the second reservoir in the Croton system and the most northerly. The dam is 78 feet high, 670 feet across and creates a lake of about 300 acres containing 1.3 billion gallons of water, just about a single day's supply for the 9 million Americans who drink from the watershed.

By the time William Pelletreau wrote his History of Putnam County in 1886, Ebenezer Boyd's corners, and the area around it, was more commonly known, as it is today, as Kent Cliffs.

Hannity and Colmes have split up. Just in time for the Clinton Obama Administration, the daring duo of right-wing radio and TV have called it quits. Bye guys! Don't let the FM repeaters hit you in the butt on your way out.

This just in from Arts on the Lake:

Puppet Revival Workshop
Saturday, November 29, 1 – 3 p.m.
Open boxes, discover the puppet within and become part of the production team of:

“The Young Wizard and the Sugar Plum.”

No charge.  Ongoing fun.
Open to Young People (12+) and Adults.
Email for info or to say: sign me up, I’ll be there.

Rehearsal schedule for the December 13 & 14 performances will be set at workshop.

Many of you are used to posting items to the PlanPutnam Google Groups list and for a while that was fine. But in an effort to lighten your email box, to better focus on News That Matters and to respond to requests for something more interactive, I've set up a blog for all that.
How to Join the News That Matters Blog:
    1. Point your browser here: and enter a username and a password.
    2. Once submitted, you'll be sent an email with a temporary password.
    3. Log in using that password. This will bring you to your "Dashboard"
    4. On the left - hand side of the Dashboard there's a link for your profile. Click on that, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter a new password, one you will remember (and any other information you want to the world to know) then click UPDATE PROFILE at the very bottom of the page.
And that's it! Once you're in you can comment and post pretty much anything (nice) you like. Whenever there's something new there I'll let you all know and I will say that there's more there than here.

So, what's there that's not here? In just the past couple of days there's our annual, "How to Choose an ESCO" column, The Goldman Sackers, a poem by Mahopac's Pat Byron and an opinion piece on the Oscawana Lake Plan over there in Putnam Valley. Check it out.

And finally this morning, while the Town of Carmel is spending untold millions of dollars on leveling hills and clear-cutting a forest to make room for baseball fields on Seminary Hill Road, they don't have any funds to rehabilitate the park at Tea Kettle Spout Lake and its buildings will be torn down by the county for about $11,000. I'm willing to bet that if there was a plan to drain the lake, level it, and build soccer fields the money would be there.

A Reminder:
For those of you not visiting with family on Thanksgiving Day, won't visit them, can't, or don't have any, I'm holding an open house and bonfire here at the Asylum that afternoon.
  1. No Turkeys will be harmed!
  2. Rumor has it that a Lasagna will be prepared instead.
  3. There may be a live human sacrifice or two!*
Bring along some snacks and drink and warm clothes. We'll start about 4PM and run until the fire goes out and weather looks good. Crisp, cool.

For those of you who will be visiting with family and long-standing friends, be safe, resist that yearly argument with your uncle Charlie, and we'll see you on Friday!

And now, the News:
  1. Bald Eagles in Catskills Show Increasing Mercury
  2. Down, Down, Fixing New York’s Drinking Straw
  3. Turbulent Time for Wind Development in Across NY
  4. Segway inventor touts island as an energy model
  5. Small U.S. stores adopt personal touch to survive
  6. Five Myths About Our Ailing Health Care System
  7. In Praise of the US Auto Industry

Bald Eagles in Catskills Show Increasing Mercury


Less than two years after the bald eagle was removed from the federal government’s endangered species list, an environmental organization in Maine has found an alarming accumulation of mercury in the blood and feathers of bald eagle chicks in the Catskill Park region of New York.

The levels are close to those associated with reproductive problems in common loons and bald eagles elsewhere in the Northeast, although the New York and national populations of bald eagles have been growing strongly in recent years.

The study is being released Tuesday by the BioDiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit ecological organization in Gorham, Me. The average mercury blood level in chicks within the parks’ boundaries was 0.64 parts per million.

The same study showed that about one-quarter of the feathers of adult birds also had elevated levels of mercury, suggesting that the toxin builds up in the raptors faster than they can get rid of it.

Read More

Down, Down, Fixing New York’s Drinking Straw


All tunnels leak, but this one is a sieve. For most of the last two decades, the Rondout-West Branch tunnel — 45 miles long, 13.5 feet wide, up to 1,200 feet below ground and responsible for ferrying half of New York City’s water supply from reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains — has been leaking some 20 million gallons a day. Except recently, when on some days it has lost up to 36 million gallons.

After tiptoeing around the problem for many years, and amid mounting complaints of flooded homes in the Ulster County hamlet of Wawarsing, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection has embarked on a five-year, $240 million project to prepare to fix the tunnel — which includes figuring out how to keep water flowing through New Yorkers’ faucets during the repairs. The most immediate tasks are to fix a valve at the bottom of a 700-foot shaft in Dutchess County so pumps will eventually be able to drain the tunnel, and to ensure that the tunnel does not crack or collapse while it is empty.

For this, the city has enlisted six deep-sea divers who are living for more than a month in a sealed 24-foot tubular pressurized tank complete with showers, a television and a Nerf basketball hoop, breathing air that is 97.5 percent helium and 2.5 percent oxygen, so their high-pitched squeals are all but unintelligible to visitors. They leave the tank only to transfer to a diving bell that is lowered 70 stories into the earth, where they work 12-hour shifts, with each man taking a four-hour turn hacking away at concrete to expose the valve.

Read More

Turbulent Time for Wind Development in Across NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)  -- The nation's economic woes are taking a toll on wind energy development in New York state.
The financial crisis has put the brakes on a wind farm under construction in northern New York and another developer has aborted possible projects in eastern and central New York after trouble securing land.
And wind energy companies are under scrutiny by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as he looks into allegations of corrupt practices by developers.

Read More

Segway inventor touts island as an energy model

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and numerous medical devices, jokingly refers to his North Dumpling Island as an independent nation and himself as Lord Dumpling. Kamen claims to have his own currency and offers visas to visitors to the tiny island a few miles from Mystic, where he is the only resident.

"The rest of the world will eventually catch up if the Dumplonians can get their message out," Kamen said.

"That can typically ruin your day," said Kamen.

Kamen, a prolific inventor who has hundreds of patents, already had been working on energy conservation projects that he has introduced in poor countries.

Kamen granted "visas" to representatives of a select group of corporate sponsors such as Wal-Mart and other companies, inviting them to North Dumpling Island to brainstorm about his plans for the island and how it could be used to raise awareness and money for his robotics competition.

Kamen has been installing LED lights all over the island.

Read More

Small U.S. stores adopt personal touch to survive

By Nick Carey

LIBERTYVILLE, Illinois (Reuters) - Many U.S. retailers, large and small, have good reason to envy Sue Opeka -- sales at her store have been up 15 percent for the past four months and she's up 5 percent for the year so far.

Opeka's store, The Present Moment, sells "affirmational and motivational" gifts such as placards lauding family and friends. The shop sits on the picturesque main street of the wealthy northern Chicago suburb Libertyville.

Opeka opened her store after a corporate career that included a long stint at auto parts maker Tenneco Inc. She attributes part of her success while retailers around the country suffer from a slowing economy to being "non-cyclical."

Read More

Five Myths About Our Ailing Health Care System

Sunday 23 November 2008
by: Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel, The Washington Post

With Congress ready to spend $700 billion to prop up the U.S. economy, enacting health-care reform may seem about as likely as the Dow hitting 10,000 again before the end of the year. But it may be more doable than you think, provided we dispel a few myths about how health care works and how much reform Americans are willing to stomach.

    1. America has the best health care in the world.

    Let's bury this one once and for all. The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care.

Read More

In Praise of the US Auto Industry

21 November 2008

| Peter Klein |

The proposed bailout of GM, Ford, and Chrysler overlooks an important fact. The US has one of the most vibrant, dynamic, and efficient automobile industries in the world. It produces several million cars, trucks, and SUVs per year, employing (in 2006) 402,800 Americans at an average salary of $63,358. That’s vehicle assembly alone; the rest of the supply chain employs even more people and generates more income. It’s an industry to be proud of. Its products are among the best in the world. Their names are Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Subaru.

Oh, yes, there’s also a legacy industry, based in Detroit, but it’s rapidly, and thankfully, going the way of the horse-and-buggy business.

Read More

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 16

Only 4 Days Left!

Don't worry, you can still donate after those 4 days are up.
It's just that I'll stop annoying you... maybe or maybe not!
It all depends on you.

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