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Hydrofracking on hold?

Residents will have a chance to comment on hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as hydrofracking, at a public hearing set for Monday March 8 at DeWitt Town Hall. The town board will then vote on a six-month moratorium on the highly controversial drilling process.

Municipalities can not restrict oil and gas exploration, said Supervisor Ed Michalenko, however, they can control and regulate areas that have to do with water consumption and road use. A moratorium would allow the board time to study its options as well as set up informational sessions.

Hydrofracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure down and across into horizontally drilled wells as far as 10,000 feet below the earth's surface. The pressurized mixture causes the rock layer to crack, releasing natural gas from the shale, which is then drawn up to the surface through the gas well. Concerns include potential water contamination and consequential health risks associated with the process.

Environmentalists warn the public that allowing such techniques could leave residents with toxic drinking water and millions of gallons of untreatable wastewater.

There has been a heightened awareness on the pros and cons of hydrofracking since oil companies have taken an interest in the Utica Shale play, which reaches all corners of Upstate New York. Drilling could potentially affect Skaneateles Lake, a pure drinking water source for Central New York.

Public hearings

The DeWitt Town Board set a public hearing for 7:45 p.m. Monday Feb. 22 to discuss residents' views regarding proposed projects being considered for community development applications. Another public hearing scheduled for 8 p.m. the same night, the board will consider the abandonment of approximately 75 feet of a "paper street" known as LaPage Place. A paper street is defined as a legally mapped but not built street. The street will never be constructed, Michalenko said, and ownership will go to property owners that the lots are bordering.

Name change

The board approved to change all references of Paula Drive to Whirlybird Lane after closing the Feb. 8 public hearing on the matter. Both streets are located off Tow Path Road with Paula Drive perpendicular to Whirlybird Lane. Michalenko said 911 requested the code amendment based on response for emergency services.

Zoning board member resigns

The board unanimously appointed Kennth Alweis to the Zoning Board of Appeals to fill the unexpired term of John Fennessey, who recently resigned. The term ends in 2013.

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