Kingston, NY - Participants in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Water Resources Protection in the U.S.” requested a meeting with Ulster County Executive Mike Hein in order to learn about his water protection initiatives and battles with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP). The group is traveling around the U.S. for three weeks, and was attracted to New York as a venue because of the efforts of County Executive Mike Hein in dealing with the NYC DEP. On March 27, the County Executive hosted 16 international water experts who were accompanied by staff from the U.S. Department of State. He clearly set forth the history of NYC DEP’s over 100 year presence in Ulster County, the dynamic that was created between NYC DEP and Ulster County’s communities and his administration’s herculean efforts to change the dynamic. In his presentation, County Executive Hein explained the “mud or flood option” currently inflicted upon the people of Ulster County by the NYC DEP: either muddy turbid releases from the Ashokan Reservoir polluting the Lower Esopus Creek or the flood risks associated with maintaining the Reservoir at irresponsibly high levels. He discussed the excessive damages to Ulster County residents and businesses from the leaking aqueduct in Warwarsing and the fact if the Ashokan Reservoir was in NYC, these problems would have been taken care of immediately. The County Executive compared NYC DEP’s actions in Ulster County to those of an occupying nation. NYC DEP has its own police force; it does not follow local laws and regulations but creates its own; it extracts Ulster County’s natural resources at below the market rate; and for more than 100 years it has taken advantage of the residents of Ulster County whom it treats as “indigenous people.” “It is crystal clear that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection continues to function without concern for the people, the environment or the economy of Ulster County and today’s event provides a cautionary tale to participating nations about what it is like to deal with such a severely broken system,” said County Executive Hein. The U.S. Department of State funds and administers the IVLP, one of its premier professional exchange programs. The IVLP is designed to build mutual understanding between the US and other countries through carefully designed visits that reflect the participants’ professional interests and support US foreign policy goals. Participants are established or potential foreign opinion makers in government, public policy, media, education, labor, the arts, and other key fields. Selected by American embassies abroad, International Visitors come to the United States to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to gain an appreciation of the ethnic, cultural, political, and socio-economic diversity of the U.S. Participants in today’s program represent Argentina, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Russia, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
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