Author Topic: A disturbing post on Nextdoor.  (Read 34 times)

Michael Caswell

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A disturbing post on Nextdoor.
« on: April 24, 2019, 07:22:53 am »
Some time ago, a rather long letter was posted on South West Fairport by a Jamie Meuwissen, one of the leaders of the STCC group. It was a collection of questions and statements sent to Jacquie Schillinger of the New York Power Authority.  I was disturbed by this letter because it had numerous inaccuracies in the statements made and the questions were very pointed, and obviously angled to put the NYPA in a bad light.

The post has been left up for several months for all to see, and I was surprised that there was no response from the NYPA.

Then I noticed a letter on the STCC webpage which seemed to answer all the points raised in this post, so I asked Jacquie Schillenger if Meuwissen's letter had actually been answered. I mentioned the Miller letter here and Ms Schillenger confirmed that this was the same letter send out to several other people at the same time. It seems the STCC members all asked the same thing. This appears to be a common ploy by these folks.

Here's the letter Ms Meuwissen sent out.
Jamie Meuwissen
, Southwest Fairport·13 Dec 17
For what it's worth, I just sent the following e-mail to Ms. Schillinger at the Canal Corporation. I am skeptical that sufficient due diligence has been executed here to balance the many competing interests at stake. While public safety is and should be the highest priority, I am not yet convinced that the measures selected under the Vegetation Management Project are the only options. I have read the studies and PowerPoint presentations that have been posted, and the Army Corps guidelines cited in the Canal Corporation's presentation (that can be found on the Army Corps' website). None of the evidence the Canal Corporation has cited is conclusive. Some of the other material posted to this thread concerns western water management and reclamation, which is an entirely different ballgame. Further, I am skeptical of the rigor of any "hazard assessment" that may have been conducted since it does not seem to be publicly available and am deeply troubled by the lack of any documentation suggesting that this project went through a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) or some other type of alternatives assessment.

Ms. Schillinger,

As a homeowner along one section of the Erie Canal that will be most heavily impacted by the Vegetation Management Project, I am writing to express my deep concerns about this project and the public communication and transparency around it. I also intend to obtain additional information about the rationale for the project that I have been unable to find publicly through the following organizations’ websites: NYS Canal Corporation, NYS Power Authority, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As a natural resources management policy professional, I have several concerns about the Vegetation Management Project and the process used to develop it.

·         Public communication efforts. A December 9, 2017 Canal Corporation slide presentation located online states: “The Canal Corporation has implemented a comprehensive Education and Community Outreach program to inform and educate the local communities in advance of the Vegetation Management Program,” including directly reaching out to all local and state elected officials and stakeholders in the impacted areas; collaborating with a variety of media outlets to help spread the word about the work; establishing a webpage devoted to the project; and utilizing social media to keep residents and other members of the public informed. In response to these efforts, I offer the following concerns:

1.       I would consider all homeowners in the affected areas to be stakeholders, and no one has made direct contact with me or other homeowners in my neighborhood. As a result, the Canal Corporation’s statement about reaching out to all stakeholders in the impacted areas is misleading.

2.       Establishing a webpage alone does not constitute adequate, let alone exemplary, transparency or public communication. While some relevant documents are publicly available about the plan being undertaken, there is no information supporting why this particular alternative was selected or what, if any, other alternatives were considered. Furthermore, there is little scientific support for the chosen method of clear cutting hundreds of acres of trees.

3.       The only communication about this project on social media I have seen is in local groups who have organized in response to the project and share many of my concerns.

4.       The presentation cites a 1974 canal embankment failure as the sole supporting example for the potential consequences of such a breach. However, this failure was the result of human error rather than embedded tree roots. This is disingenuous and fear inducing, neither of which constitute responsible and transparent public communication. 

5.       The public information meetings started being held AFTER the project was already underway. This is not an effective approach to build trust, be transparent, or carry out the public good.

·         Transparency. In the December 9, 2017 slide presentation, there are numerous statements made without references to supporting technical information. For example:

1.       NYPA and the Canal Corporation are taking “proactive, appropriate measures to…”
§  Using what criteria and processes were the measures determined to be appropriate?

2.       “Vegetation Management work is taking place at 56 locations covering 145 acres…”
§  How were these locations and this acreage selected?

3.       The presentation states that a hazard classification was completed to evaluate the potential consequences of a failure of the canal embankment.
§  Who conducted this hazard classification?
§  When was the classification conducted?
§  Did the hazard classification follow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ risk assessment guidelines? If so, please cite the guidance title and number. If not, what guidelines governed the hazard classification?
§  Where can the results of that hazard classification be found? Please provide a copy or a link to the documentation.

4.       “The consensus among dam safety engineers, including the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency, is that the presence of trees and woody plants on earthen dams…”
§  Can you provide copies of or links to the documentation that supports the positions of these entities?
§  If the Army Corps of Engineers position in this statement is derived from the agency’s 2011 report, how, if at all, was the agency’s 2014 position reversal taken into account when developing this Vegetation Management Project?

·         Additional questions:
1.       The NYS DEC website has the following language regarding when a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) applies: “SEQR also applies if an agency funds or directly undertakes a project, or adopts a resource management plan, rule or policy that affects the environment.” Unarguably, the Vegetation Management Project is agency funded and affects the environment. Did it go through the SEQR or NEPA processes?

§  If so, where can the relevant SEQR/NEPA documents be found?
§  If not, why not? Who made and approved that determination?

2.       What, if any, public input and transparency efforts were undertaken as the plan was in the early stages of development and prior to finalization?

3.       How, if at all, has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers been involved in the design and implementation of the project?

4.       Who are the points of contact at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York Power Authority, and the Canal Corporation with the engineering and natural resource management subject-matter expertise that supported the development of this project, including conducting the hazard assessment and selecting the sites for tree removal? Please provide a list of names, titles, phone numbers, and e-mails where these points of contact can be reached for further information.

I look forward to your prompt responses to my questions and document requests.


Jamie Meuwissen

Why was this reply never posted to Nextdoor?  Perhaps they didn't like the reply?

« Last Edit: January 27, 2020, 02:07:18 pm by Michael Caswell »

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Doug K

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Re: A disturbing post on Nextdoor.
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2019, 02:34:37 pm »
Status Quo for this group's leadership team, who appears to have been caught yet again, not being "transparent" with the facts or the truth. Hard to pin down these folks on what they would like, but we sure all hear what they don't.

And it seems like they just don't like being told the same person... 4 times.

Is this that "Do as I say, not as I Do" thing? Because another leader of the STCC just posted on Facebook about "illegible" information being normal standard for Canal Communication with the public. If this isn't a bit of poetic justice... a group who seems to not post information they receive that matters to their followers, is complaining about the Canal Corporation's "messy" map submission... at least the Canal folks tried.. right?

So it's a good mix... No communication is OK if it's from the STCC it appears, but have a hand sketch shows up on Twitter and all Canal Hell, breaks loose.

There is a day coming soon, when all this confusion gets cleared away, along with trees on embankment dams in Fairport, Perinton, Brighton & Pittsford. It's a day when green grass & wildflowers are covering safe Erie Canal Embankments, and the STCC is just something people just snicker about, and shake their heads.

Tick Tock