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Greig water pipeline project heads to town after getting county sign-off

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GREIG — The pipeline portion of a controversial bulk water project is heading for a town review after clearing its first hurdle with approval from the Lewis County Planning Board.

The special-use permit application for a 7,600-foot underground pipeline in the town of Greig on April 3 will go to the town Planning Board, which has been hesitant to approve the progress of the Hidden Falls Spring Water project long proposed by John T. and Lynn L. Smoke, Bangor, Pa.

A public hearing has been set for 5:30 p.m. that day at the Greig municipal building at Greig and Sweeney roads.

County Planning Board members on March 20 voted 6-0 to approve the proposed pipeline on two conditions: that signs be erected to identify the route of the pipeline, particularly where it would cross under Greig Road; and that a revised plan including signage as well as any other needed permits be provided to the Lewis County Planning Office before construction.

“It appears that all of the criteria have been met by the applicant with regard to the application,” senior planner Frank J. Pace wrote in a summary of his review.

However, he noted that the county Planning Board’s review was solely for the pipeline installation itself, not the entire project. “Right now, it’s technically a pipeline to nowhere,” he said.

Under the proposal, water would flow from seven concrete tile infiltration collection units to a device limiting withdrawal to a maximum of 200 gallons per minute, or 288,000 gallons per day. It then would flow through the pipeline by gravity to a bulk-storage facility, from which it will be transported by truck to an unspecified facility.

For more than a decade, the Smokes have been working to develop a facility for the collection, bulk storage and shipment of spring water, but many Greig residents have opposed it. In response, the couple has proposed building a facility off Burdicks Crossing Road in the town of Turin and constructing a water line under the Black River to connect the spring on their Greig property with the proposed building under the auspices of the Hidden Falls Spring Water project.

The Smokes filed an application in August to install the pipeline in Greig, with plans for an additional 8,400 feet in the town of Turin.

However, the Greig Planning Board at its September meeting declined to consider the application, suggesting that it is an accessory to a proposed loading facility in Turin and that zoning authorization for commercial activity on the Greig property must be obtained first.

That led to the latest in a series of lawsuits filed by the Smokes against the town, and state Supreme Court Judge Hugh A. Gilbert in February ordered the town Planning Board to do a more complete review of the proposed pipeline “on its merits.”

The Smokes asked Judge Gilbert to force the town to accept their application and rule that the Planning Board has no authority to require additional approvals to use water from their property. The judge stopped short of doing that.

Mr. Pace, in his review, noted that the Army Corps of Engineers, state Department of Environmental Conservation and Lewis County Highway Department had already issued needed permits for construction of the pipeline project and its extension under both the river and a county road.

The Turin town Planning Board in late 2010 approved its portion of the project.

Only Greig residents spoke against the project during two public hearings in Turin, according to that town’s supervisor, Gerald R. Reed Jr.

“As long as everything is done according to county and town of Turin zoning law, the town of Turin doesn’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Given the amount of time that has passed since approval, Turin town Zoning Officer Timothy R. Widrick said that if the project ever does move forward, he would once again review plans and check with town planning officials before issuing a required land-use permit.

Hidden Falls project manager Arnold W. Swiernik told county Planning Board members that the project is “something that could be a great thing for Lewis County.”

Board Chairman Dennis R. Lee said he personally was not enthralled with the notion of water withdrawal, but noted that the pipeline application appeared to be in order.

In other activity, board members reappointed Mr. Lee as chairman and selected county Highway Superintendent David L. Becker as the board’s vice chairman.

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