Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pending Adirondack Related State Budget Items

Here is an e-mail recently received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan outlining the pending Adirondacks related budget deals. According to Sheehan, this is the “Environmental Conservation budget plan agreed to by Legislative leaders, which is in the process of being passed by both houses. The Governor is expected to sign the bills.” At least some time soon, the budget is now a week late.

The big news for us is that it looks like the the money is available to finish the (Pataki initiated) Domtar land purchase, the Lake George West Brook money didn’t make it, but money to study the impacts of road salt did.

The Almanack reported in January Spitzer’s budget proposals relating to the Adirondacks.Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Not part of the EPF, which is detailed below; DEC budget allows for the hiring of four new staff, three in the invasive species unit, for a total cost of roughly $400,000. This will help the DEC establish additional control plans and assist local efforts by coordinating information on effective, non-toxic control methods.

 

APPROVED

Environmental Protection Fund
(Source: Dedicated funding from Real Estate Transfer Tax; created in 1993 as a pay-as-you-go capital projects fund for large, one-time investments in park lands and conservation agreements with landowners, for landfill closure and for municipal recycling facilities.)

The total fund will be $255 million, or about $5 million higher than the budget proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Of that, about $66.5 million is dedicated to open space/park land acquisition statewide. That will be enough to complete the Domtar Industries conservation easement deal in the northeastern Adirondacks this year.

The Domtar deal was announced by Gov. George Pataki nearly 4 years ago, but the state needed to complete its appraisals and negotiate the details of the state’s purchase of development rights and recreational rights. Most of Domtar’s 105,000 acres of forest land was in Clinton and Franklin counties. Domtar sold both the land and the conservation easement on it before retreating to Canada, where its mills are located. Domtar makes plywood and paper. Lyme Timber bought the land and timber rights, while the state agreed to buy the development rights and most of the recreational rights. A small portion of the Domtar holdings will be bought by the state for addition to the Forest Preserve. Those lands provide access to water bodies and other Forest Preserve parcels. The total cost of the deal is expected to be somewhere near $21 million.

Smart Growth
Funding for grants to communities that want to plan for sustainable, environmentally friendly economic development projects: total funding up $500,000 from last year’s total of $2 million. Last year, NYS DEC dedicated half of this fund ($1 million) exclusively to the Adirondack Park. The funds will now be administered by the Department of State. We will encourage DOS to do the same again this year.

Invasive Species Protection
The funding for invasive plant and animal control remained the same as last year, at $5 million. We and other environmental organizations want to make this a $10 million-per-year line item. Gov. Eliot Spitzer had proposed cutting the fund to $4 million.

Water Quality Programs Managed by DEC
Increased in funding from $10 million to $12 million. DEC decides what qualifies for funding.

Agricultural Recycling Program
A new line in the EPF, sets aside $350,000 to create a new recycling program that removes used plastic hayroll covers from farms for free to discourage farmers from burning them or burying them on productive agricultural lands.

REJECTED

Masten House
Gov. Spitzer had proposed spending $125,000 to convert the remote, former corporate-owned cottage on NL Industries land in Newcomb to a research station for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. This item was rejected in negotiations with the Legislature.

West Brook Protection
Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, had requested $1 million to assist the town and village of Lake George, along with three local advocacy groups, in their efforts to create an artificial wetland at the south end of lake George, where West Brook enters the lake. Stormwater runoff caused by road construction and residential and commercial development is polluting the West Brook, and which flows into the lake near Million Dollar Beach. This item was rejected in negotiations with the Legislature.

OTHER NON-EPF ITEMS

Road Salt
Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, asked for and received a $200,000 line in the Environment budget to fund a road salt study. Runoff of road salt and sand are causing water pollution near the Adirondack Northway and other major roads. Lake George is suffering from both salt contamination and the creation of deltas where streams meet the lake.

Adirondack Park Agency
Budget remains largely the same as last year; no change from the Spitzer proposal. This itself is a victory, given that most or all other state agencies are subject to an across-the-board spending cut ordered by Governor Paterson. It doesn’t apply to the APA, the state’s smallest agency.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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