Monday, April 13, 2009

Route 28 Project Includes Large Clear-Cuttings

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling upon the heads of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt “the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.”

Through a freedom of information request, the group received documents about an incomplete application now being reviewed at the APA for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would in their words “effectively clear-cut forests along 7.4 miles of scenic State Route 28 in the southwestern Adirondacks.” The route extends from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River in the Adirondack Park. Sections of this route involve the “forever wild” public Forest Preserve.

The application calls for a new “tree management area” that would mean the removal of all trees for 37.5 feet on either side of new utility poles, throughout the length of the highway project. The poles, which are now along the road, would be moved 16 feet from the highway edge, this area declared a “clear zone,” and the poles themselves increased in height from 40 feet to 57 feet.

David Gibson, Association Executive Director said that he was “astonished to find that the Route 28 project as currently proposed calls for clear cutting a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for placement of super-sized power poles and electric lines,” adding that “clear-cutting trees in such a manner would drastically impact the Park’s scenic character, and violate numerous laws, policies and plans. The public will not stand for this kind of bad stewardship by our State agencies.”

“We contend that the Park’s history, State law, our State Constitution and, frankly, common sense, require all State agencies to take every precaution in design standards for Route 28 and for other combined highway-power line realignments throughout the Park. Our highways are the public’s window on the Adirondack Park and vital to positive public perceptions of the Park. The wild forest and rural character of the Park’s highways must be conserved,” Gibson said, calling the move an effort to “water-down” environmental guidelines by eliminating NYSERDA funding to establish a standard for the Adirondack Park for projects like the one proposed along Route 28.

Since the 1924 passage of the Adirondack Sign Law, the state has attempted to secure the scenic character of views along roadways inside the Blue Line. Scenic and historic highways programs have been developed over the years by state and local governments to exploit roadside opportunities, sometimes through significant investment.

According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, state agencies are required to plan for these Travel Corridors to “achieve and maintain a park-like atmosphere… that complements the total Adirondack environment. Attention to the Park’s unique atmosphere is essential.” The DOT’s Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, which were approved in 2008 after disastrous roadside cutting along Routes 3 and 56, states: “The Adirondack Park is a special state treasure and our work with in its boundaries must be conducted with great care.”

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling for meetings to review standards for power line and road reconstruction that preserve the scenic character of the Park’s highways as potential “greenway” corridors.

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