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Lead Agency Dispute: Village of Goshen v. Town of Goshen

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law

PROJECT: Construction of a well and attendant water transmission line by the Village of Goshen in the Town of Goshen, Orange County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Village of Goshen Village Board, Town of Goshen Town Board

This decision to designate the Village of Goshen Village Board (Village) for the conduct of an environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR 617.1. I find that, between the two disputing local agencies, the Village as the project sponsor and prospective owner of the well site has the broadest governmental jurisdiction over the action.

The water supply project that is the subject of this lead agency dispute involves the Village's acquisition of a 25-acre parcel in the Town of Goshen (Town) for construction of a new well and the attendant installation of a 22,000 linear foot water transmission line along town road rights-of-way to connect with the Village's water treatment plant. The primary purpose of this project is to provide the Village with water from the Wallkill Aquifer to alleviate its continual drinking water shortages. The well site is considered prime agricultural land and is currently actively farmed.

The Department of Health (DOH) must review and approve plans and specifications for construction of water supply systems, regulate the systems and determine eligibility for funding. The Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) jurisdiction involves water supply issues including the adequacy of the aquifer, public need, whether there are reasonable alternative supplies and the potential impacts on current water supply uses. Neither DOH nor DEC's Region 3 office has requested lead agency status in this dispute and both indicate that the Village is the appropriate local lead agency under SEQR. However, the Town, DOH and the Region 3 office of DEC recommended DEC Region 3 as an alternative choice for lead agency designation.

In resolving this dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 6 NYCRR 617.6(b)(5). These criteria are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of local, regional or statewide significance (i.e., if the impacts are of primarily local significance, all other considerations being equal, the local agency involved will be the lead agency); (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of potential impacts; and (3) which agency has the greatest ability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.

In consideration of the first criterion, the potential impacts related to acquisition of the well site, development of the well and attendant water transmission line and competing uses of the water supply are all local in nature. However, the well site is located in Orange County Agricultural District #2 over the Wallkill Aquifer in an area that requires a cultural resources survey to identify potential artifacts. Consequently, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation must be consulted with on this project. The presence of potential regional and statewide concerns which counterbalance local impacts has been an important consideration in awarding lead agency status to a disputing state agency in previous decisions. However, here, neither DEC nor DOH is vying for lead agency status and neither local government is favored by the potential local, regional and statewide impacts from this project.

Regarding the second criterion, the breadth of jurisdiction to investigate environmental impacts, the Village as the project sponsor and potential owner of the well site is favored. It is responsible for funding, designing and maintaining the water supply system and obtaining all required local and state approvals. It is the agency principally responsible for carrying out this action under Section 8-0111(6) of the Environmental Conservation Law and 6 NYCRR 617.2(u). In addition, the Village has been evaluating alternatives to alleviate its water deficit. In contrast, the Town's authority to issue a permit for installation of the water transmission line in the town road rights-of-way lacks the breadth of the Village's authority.

Under the third and last criterion, both local agencies possess the ability to review or contract with consultants to assist them in reviewing the potential environmental impacts from this project.

I conclude after considering the relevant regulatory criteria and the facts presented that the Village must be designated the lead agency. Of the two disputing local agencies, the Village is the local agency with broader jurisdiction, and it has primary responsibility for implementing this water supply project.

This decision does not change or limit the jurisdiction of the involved agencies or minimize their responsibilities to review the analysis of potential impacts and actively assist the Village in completing its environmental review. In making its determination of significance the Village must take a hard look and carefully consider all of the issues brought to my attention including the potential environmental impacts to the Wallkill Aquifer and agricultural resources.

John P. Cahill, Commissioner
Dated: August 14, 1997
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • Involved and Interested Agencies:
    George Lyon, Mayor, Village of Goshen
    Steven Hopkins, Supervisor, Town of Goshen
    Laurence R. Keefe, P.E., New York State Department of Health
    John Rusnica, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
    New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Commissioner Cahill
    M. Moran, Regional Director
    M. Duke
    K. Martens
    M. Merriman
    L. Kuwik

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