The Adirondacks would benefit from some of the priorities expressed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2015 State of the State address on Wednesday. The proposals are expected to help protect water quality, combat invasive species, bolster APA and DEC staffing, increase the Environmental Protection Fund, expand broadband locally, and cut the risk of explosive oil trains moving through the region. The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States and contains most of the motor-free wilderness remaining in the Northeast.
The Adirondack related proposals outlined by Governor Cuomo include:
- Environmental Protection Fund: The state’s capital projects account for major environmental priorities will increase by $10 million to $172 million. This account pays for clean water, land protection, invasive species, state land stewardship, farmland preservation and smart growth planning.
- Clean Water Infrastructure: The Governor proposed setting aside $1.5 billion from a recent $5-billion legal settlement to designate funds for priorities that could include clean water and waste-water infrastructure grants and loans.
- Invasive Species: The Governor proposed designating $1 million for an Adirondack Park-wide invasive species strategy. Last year, the Legislature made it illegal to transport invasive species from one lake or river to another. Most harmful, non-native, aquatic plants and animals hitchhike from one place to another on motorboats and trailers. However, only Lake George and Loon Lake have mandatory boat inspection programs.
- APA And DEC Staff: The Governor proposed restoring 36 staff member to the DEC, which can include (among other priorities) a ranger academy. Staffing at the state’s two top environmental protection agencies have lost upwards of 20 percent of their workforce since 2007. The Park Agency needs replacement personnel to assist local governments and project applicants. The DEC needs staff to protect and manage public lands, especially new Forest Rangers.
- Reducing Oil Train Risks: The Governor proposed more funding and attention to curbing the risks of oil transport through the Park via railroad.
- Expanding Broadband: The governor announced he would spend $500 million and seek an additional private investment of $500 million to expand high speed internet access in under-served and rural communities, including in the Adirondacks.