Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tri-Lakes Power Line Close, More Lines Proposed

We’ve moved one step closer to having a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November that affects a corner of the Adirondack Park in Colton in St. Lawrence County. Monday the NYS Senate passed (62-0) a bill that would allow the construction of a power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The supplemental line would pass through a section of Route 56 roadside within the Adirondack Forest Preserve between Seveys Corners (near the Carry and Starks Falls reservoirs) and the hamlet of South Colton. The line is part of a project to improve power reliability for the Tri-Lakes communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.The Constitutional Amendment is necessary to provide an exception to the Forever Wild clause of the Constitution (Article 14, Section 1). The Forever Wild clause forbids logging or development on the Adirondack Forest Preserve and that includes power lines. The Amendment requires passage by two separately elected legislatures and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot. It passed both houses in 2005, but had to be retracted due to errors in the first version and passed again in 2006. If the 2006 bill passes the Assembly this session, which is expected, it will be on the ballot in November.

According to John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council “environmental organizations support this amendment as a means to provide a steady supply of electric power to a remote village that has suffered several dangerous, multi-day, mid-winter power failures when its primary supply line was damaged by storms.” Sheehan says that allowing National Grid to build the line “will actually help the environment.” “The only viable alternative is a five-mile detour through a pristine white pine forest, plus a section of boreal forest considered the state’s best habitat for the endangered spruce grouse, crossing 95 separate streams and wetlands,” according to Sheehan who added that “no streams, wetlands or sensitive habitat would be disturbed by using the roadside lands for new power lines.”

In 2006 the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) issued a permit for the more damaging route, drawing the ire of local conservation groups. The APA is also reviewing an application for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would effectively clear-cut 7.4 miles of Route 28 from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River. the project would cut a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for high voltage power lines.

In April the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) called on the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the APA “to adopt the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.” The DOT announced similar standards in 2008 when it issued its Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, also known as the Green Book. Those changes came after unconstitutional and disastrous cuttings of several thousands of trees on Forest Preserve lands along Route 3 from Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in 2005.

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.

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