By Jeanne Sager
SMALLWOOD May 13, 2003 The federal government has decided that gate has to go.
Members of the Smallwood Civic Association have been fighting since last May to reopen Moscoe Road, a direct link to the Toronto Reservoir boat launch in the Town of Bethel.
First, the town allowed Woodstone Corporation, a development company building in the area, to close down the road because it has become unpassable by regular traffic.
But the Civic Association demanded it be reopened, handing in petitions to the town and crowding into public meetings to make its voice heard.
Our concern was that a public access should not be taken by private interest and have the town be complicit, said Bob Barrett, a member of the Civic Association board. Thats an outrage for a town to permit private entities to put a gate up on a public road.
The gate reopened in October.
But theres another gate still there. At the other end of the road, the spot closest to the dam, theres another barrier, this one erected by Mirant Corporation, an energy company from Suffern that uses the reservoir to produce power.
That has traditionally been opened up so folks can launch their boats to head out to a local trout stream to drop a line or just enjoy a sunny day out on the water.
It was closed last year, however, Barrett said, in conjunction with the initial gate put up at the access to Moscoe Road.
Now the federal government says it has to come down ASAP.
According to Heather Campbell, outdoor recreation planner for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Mirant has a 30-year license from the government to use the reservoir. That license was originally issued in 1992 to Orange and Rockland Utilities, which passed it along to Mirant upon the sale of the property.
That license includes a provision that the energy company provide access to the reservoir, Campbell said, because theyre using public waters.
Theyre using a public resource to their benefit, Campbell explained.
Last year the waterway was closed off because of security concerns on Mirants part, Campbell said. Those have been addressed, and the company has been instructed to open the gate as long as the Department of Homeland Security keeps the countrys terror code level at yellow or below.
FERC will allow the gates to be closed again if the level rises to orange or below, but if that becomes a problem, that will also be investigated, Campbell said.
Mirant is responsible for working things out with Woodstone to ensure that access will be available for the public, she added.
As far as FERC is concerned, that access has to be open, she noted.
Barrett checked the gate on Sunday, and it was still closed. But hes sure that with the federal governments involvement, the issue should be resolved.
Barrett is still concerned about the towns government, however.
I think they did not serve the public, he said. They basically stonewalled, a concern he will bring to the Town of Bethel Planning Board at its meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m., and to the Town of Bethel Board next Thursday.
And what does the town have to say about this?
We have no plans to close anything off, said Town Supervisor Allan Scott, nor have we closed anything off.