Binnekill Creek's seven-year dry spell to end soon?

Above: A sign posted in the window of a Margaretville business in 2011 (before the Irene floods), protesting the long absence of water in the Binnekill Creek. Photo by Lissa Harris.

For the better part of a decade, the Binnekill Creek that runs through the center of Margaretville has mostly run dry. Gravel and debris has accumulated and clogged a private bulkhead where water enters the Binnekill from the East Branch of the Delaware River, and the once-sparkling stream has long been an ugly gulch of mud and rocks.

After the Irene floods last August, some work was done on the bulkhead by the town of Middletown, and for a few months, the Binnekill flowed. But the stream soon clogged up again, and is once again dry.

For the stream to flow again, the bulkhead must be dredged. But for years, landowner Lauren Davis, a retired engineer who owns the bulkhead, has been engaged in pitched battle with the village of Margaretville over how the work should proceed.

In 2008, the village, stymied by the failure of negotiations with Davis, attempted to seize the bulkhead by eminent domain, a case they were awarded a partial victory in earlier this spring. Throughout the dispute, Davis, who in 2010 unsuccessfully sued the village for $2 million, has sought to block the village from carrying out the work, claiming that their plans for the bulkhead had serious engineering flaws.

But after many years of battle, the Catskill Mountain News reports, an agreement has been reached to begin work on the bulkhead (subscription required):

According to Davis, he agreed to “let the village go in and do what it needs to do, including debris removal,” because of the “diligence” of a number of members of the community. Under the agreement, Davis will hire an excavating company, while the village will foot the bill. Both sides say that the work should begin any day now.

According to Stanton, the business people who played key roles in the negotiations have asked to remain anonymous. However, late Monday, at Davis’ urging, retired Margaretville banker and community activist Lew Kolar acknowledged his role in the talks.

“He did most of it,” said Davis, gratefully. It was not the first time that the business community stepped into this dispute. Negotiations  over the Binnekill were given a jumpstart last year, after village shopkeepers launched a sign campaign to seek Davis’ cooperation in unclogging the bulkhead.

Can the two sides of this long, embittered battle keep the peace, going forward? Let's hope so, for the sake of Margaretville's Main Street businesses -- and its resident duck population.

Below: The Binnekill Creek from Bridge Street, Margaretville, circa 2011. Photo by Lissa Harris.