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Senate by MR. MURTAUGH (No. 635, 1216, Int. 593) on February 5, 1913, entitled :
“An Act to Amend the Conservation Law by repealing Article 6 thereof and enacting a new article, in relation to hydroelectric plants and districts and making an appropriation therefore."
This bill was passed by the Senate on Thursday, March 27, 1913, by a vote of 35 to 8, and is now under consideration by the Assembly of the Legislature of the State of New York. The measure is advocated by the Conservation Commission. It is modeled on the Hydroelectric Power Commission of Ontario, under:
“An Act to provide for the transmission of electric power to municipalities, approved May 14, 1906,”
a measure which is claimed by its friends to be a great success, and by its enemies to be a financial and scientific failure.
The MURTAUGH Bill provides for the utilization of surplus canal waters for hydraulic power, both the canals and canalized streams of the state, and the development by the state of the hydraulic power therein for the use and benefit of the people of the state.
Under the provisions of this bill the Conservation Commission is authorized and directed to:
“ Construct and operate, at such points as the Legislature shall from time to time direct, hydro-electric plants and other necessary work.”
It provides for :
“transmission lines for supplying electricity to municipalities and persons within the state, and the Commission may from time to time extend or unite one or more such districts, subject to the regulation and use of such canal waters and canal lands, according to law, for the navigation and the safety of canals and for canal purposes.”
No plant for the utilization of such water shall be located on a place on said canal lands without the approval of the Superintendent of Public Works.
There is created in the Conservation Department a Division of Hydro-electric Power in charge of a deputy commissioner, who shall be appointed by the Commission and shall receive an annual salary of $7,000, with engineers, clerks, assistants, etc.
For the purpose of transmitting electricity at points to be determined by the Commission in any hydro-electric district, and delivering the same, the Commission may construct transmission lines from any plant where electricity is generated through private and public lands, except in the forest preserve, subject to the approval of the Superintendent of Public Works, if such lands be used for canal purposes.
This Commission shall have general powers, as follows:
(1.) To acquire in the name of the people of the state the right to all property required by it in the exercise of its powers.
(2.) To construct and maintain structures, ways, means and works upon public highways and property owned by the state, with the exception of the forest preserve.
(3.) To make plans and specifications and estimates for its undertakings.
(4.) To cause examinations and surveys to be made of all property required, and for such purpose to enter upon public or private lands or waters.
Persons damaged thereby may agree with the Commission or file claims for such damages with the Board of Claims.
(5.) To contract, as provided in this article, with municipal public service and other corporations, public boards and persons to supply power, energy or electricity for municipal, commercial or other purposes.
Then follow general provisions for putting into effect in detail the work of this Commission.
Section 415 of the Act provides for commencing work upon application, and if in its judgment warranted, construction of dams for the state at Crescent and Vischer's Ferry on the Mohawk River a hydroelectric plant; to facilitate the utilization of such surplus canal waters as may be stored by dams at Crescent and Vischer's Ferry; and the State Engineer is directed to expedite the completion of such dams as soon as practicable after this article takes effect.
There are a number of other bills of the same general tenor of proposed legislation.
Your committee in its report of March 7, 1912, called attention to a bill known as the “Burd Amendment"--Section 7, Article 7 of the Constitution.
This amendment provides for the use of 3 per centum of the forest preserve by the state for the construction and maintenance of reservoirs for municipal water supply, for the canals of the state, and to regulate the flow of streams. Such reservoirs to be constructed, owned, controlled and always operated by the state.
Should it be adopted by the present legislature and approved by the people, the state will then be in a position to handle this question as a broad proposition.
Also in that same report your committee called attention to the danger of the invasion of vested rights, and advised that until the two sides have fought their battle and reached a final decision, it behooves the State of New York to let the dangerous proposition alone, and content itself with the development of those streams that are well within its jurisdiction, and regarding which there can be no question as to riparian rights and ownership of stream flow, and the profits resulting from the building of storage reservoirs and development of same by the state.
That recommendation contemplated the lease by the state of water power under revocable or indeterminate permits, after the right to use 3 per centum of the forest preserve had been obtained by the amendment to the Constitution.
This MURTAUGH Bill introduces a new element, in that it provides that the state may enter into the market for the sale of water to the consumer, in competition with corporate or private business ; and this is a significant point of variance.
The Bill puts in the hands of the Conservation Commission broad powers and rights free from the control of the Public Service Commission, and permits it to sell electric light and power at prices not subject to review by the Public Service Commission, which has the right to so regulate prices to all corporations now engaged selling electric light and power.
This is a radical departure from the now well established policy of the state.
There are other questions which have been raised, such as the constitutionality of the use of the surplus waters of the canals; the necessity for furnishing steam relays to supplement the water power ; the risk of embarking upon a construction enterprise of unknown cost; whether the power will be supplied more cheaply by the Commission than it is at present; the question whether certain districts of manufacturers will receive more benefits than others, etc., etc. These are matters of dispute, and do not affect the underlying principle involved in this whole question.
For the state to embark upon a detail of work until the general policy is determined is a mistake. The danger is the entering of the wedge of precedent, which may so control future action as to handicap the application of the broad principle of control and utilization of water storage which should eventually govern the state in its action.
The question of the utilization of the forest preserves, storage reservoir and steam control, with power development, is one that cannot in the application and details be properly worked out until a public policy is determined upon after the Constitution has been amended and the state put in position to act.
Whether the state shall eventually decide to construct storage reservoirs, develop water power within the forest preserve for the marketing of power in the open market, with revocable or indeterminate permits, or to transfer its right of eminent domain to quasi-public service corporations, it certainly should not at this time handicap itself in the attempt to construct and operate hydro-electric plants and transmission lines for supplying electricity to municipalities and persons within the state as a competitor in commercial enterprises.
Your committee, therefore, recommends that this measure be opposed, and that the Secretary of the Chamber communicate with the Legislature to that effect.
CHARLES N. CHADWICK,
of the Special Committee
NEW YORK, March 31, 1913.
Isaac N. SELIGMAN.—Do I understand that under this bill, the state is merely to sell electric power to an already existing corporation, or does the state propose to go into the business itself?
MR. CHADWICK.—This act gives the state the right to go into the business itself and to sell to municipalities and to individuals before the policy of the state has been determined, and that we are opposed to.
The report was unanimously adopted.
PROTECTION OF CATSKILL WATERSHED.
Mr. CHADWICK for the same committee also offered the following report and moved that it be adopted :
To the Chamber of Commerce :
Assembly Bill No. 2122, Int. 1857, introduced by Mr. LEWIS, March 19, 1913; referred to the Committee of Affairs of Cities, amends Chapter 724 of the Laws of 1905 of the Board of Water Supply Act.
This bill, if passed, will give to the Board of Water Supply the power to protect the Catskill watershed against pollution. It amends Section 2 of that Act by adding to the power to secure an additional supply of pure and wholesome water, the power to prevent actual or probable contamination or pollution of same.
The said Act is further amended by adding thereto three new sec. tions : 46A, 46B and 46C.
Section 46A provides for rules and regulations, subject to the State Department of Health, as may be necessary for the protec
tion from contamination of any or all public supplies of potable waters and their sources within the state where the same has been or may be determined upon.
Section 46B provides for the construction, operation and maintenance of a system of sewerage, when the same shall have been approved by the Conservation Commission.
Section 46C provides for the use of such sewerage system by individuals, corporations, municipalities, factories, mills and industrial establishments, and when said sewerage system is completed written notification is to be served on such persons.
Corporations, municipalities or manufacturers shall have a reasonable time within which to avail themselves of this sewerage system, subject to a penalty of $250 for failure to comply with the act.
Your committee recommends the passage of this measure, and that the Secretary of the Chamber communicate with the Legislature to that effect.
CHARLES N. CHADWICK,
Of the Special Committee
New York, March 31, 1913.
MR. CHADWICK.-I might say that under the act, under which the Board of Water Supply is now proceeding, we made all provisions possible for taking care of and maintaining the purity of the water supply so far as it flows out of the reservoirs and into the aqueduct, but the water which comes into the reservoirs through the streams is not within the control of the Board of Water Supply, and it is the purpose of this act to enable the Board to build a system of sewerage in order that that water may be kept as far as possible pure and wholesome.
THE PRESIDENT.—I think there can be no difference of opinion in regard to the necessity for the action that the committee suggests.
The report was unanimously adopted.