Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca lawmakers will take up a plan tonight that would preemptively prevent development upstream from the city’s in-progress $37 million water plant.

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The city is currently building the water plant, likely the most expensive project in its history, with the hope of ensuring the safety of residents’ drinking water for decades.

But what if someone wanted to build a development just a little upstream from the plant? That’s the scenario local officials are hoping to nip in the bud even before it can become a problem.

“The City is currently constructing at substantial expense a new water filtration plant which is fed by a creek,”says a resolution set to be discussed at tonight’s meeting of Ithaca’s planning and economic development committee.

“The quality of the water fed by said creek is substantially dependent on the quality of water provided upstream of the plant by the creek’s watershed.”

As a result, the resolution continues, Ithaca officials will look into a conservation easement — “a set of legal restrictions that a property owner can voluntarily place on her or his own land, limiting use and development of the land forevermore” — for the land upstream from the water plant.

Seph Murtagh, the committee’s chair, says he supports the idea.

“We’re doing this because we want to restrict development upstream from the new water treatment plant to protect Ithaca’s watershed,” Murtagh said.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.