THE DUTCHESS COUNTY WATER BILL.
On April 28 Gov. Odell gave a hearing on the bill passed by the last legislature prohibiting the city of New York from going into Dutchess county for a water supply. Against the bill were arrayed Corporation Counsel Delaney, present and past Water Commissioners John T. Oakley, Robert Grier Monroe and J. Hampden Dougherty, John R. Freeman, one of the engineers employed by former Mayor Low to investigate sources of water supply for the city, and others. Assemblyman Smith, the introducer of the bill, disclaimed any connection of the Ramapo company with it. John R. Freeman contended that the use of the streams of Dutchess county, from which New York would be barred, if the Smith bill became a law, was absolutely necessary to the city to prevent a water famine. It was not feasible for the city to get its water supply from the Hudson river below Poughkeepsie. Robert Grier Monroe argued for the necessity of the supply. J. Hampden Dougherty showed that, though general in form, the bill was special in intent, and directed only against New York city. Its real aim being to extort higher rates for water rights, its title should he: “An act to prevent the city of New York from condemning certain streams in Dutchess county for water supply purposes; and to require the city either to purchase or lease these rights at such prices as may be demanded or forego their use altogether.” Such a measure was not designed to protect the locality from the diversion of its waters to municipal uses; its purpose was to force the city to pay exorbitant rates, if it must use them. He pointed out that the bill followed so shortly upon the report of the BurrFreeman-Herring commission to Mayor Low, in which the commission advocated the use of the particular streams from which the bill in question will exclude them, that its purpose could not be more plainly proclaimed. ‘ The bill was nothing else than an amendment to the charter of the city of New York, which the mayor would have vetoed, if it had come before him as a city measure. It “divests the State of its power of eminent domain,” and is “against fundamental law,” as the legislature cannot take away that right. Further the bill “violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States”; “unjustly discriminates against the city of New York; and does not protect the interests which it assumes to defend. The State cannot deprive itself of the eminent domain over any property within its jurisdiction. The proposed bill, if enacted into law, would be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution, in that it would deny to some persons the equal protection of the laws. The real, although not the ostensible purpose of this measure is to bring about the condition outlined, namely, to enable private persons to obtain at moderate cost the control of water rights in Dutchess county, necessary to the city of New York, to compel the city to buy those rights at private sale, and to extort from the city an unconscionable price therefor.”