Last week, I looked at some broader issues raised by a lawsuit over a marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake.
The dispute is often cast as one among a neighbor — Thomas Jorling, the former head of the state’s environmental conservation agency — and the marina owner and the agencies allowing the marina expansion. But the lawsuit touches on issues that have bedeviled the region for decades, including the amount of study that needs to be done before development can be allowed in the Adirondack Park.
Many environmental lawsuits, particularly those meant to stop a development, feature one of these two arguments and allegations, if not both: 1. Regulators studied environmental impacts of a project, found some harm, but improperly allowed the project to proceed anyway. 2. Regulators didn’t study the project enough to find such harm. If that sounds like a Catch-22 for developers, it can be. But there are also studies that are supposed to be done and harms that are supposed to be avoided by regulators that don’t get done and aren’t avoided.
Both sorts of arguments are used in the lawsuit, but what interested me are the broader issues.
A number of commenters since the story published yesterday are criticizing Jorling. He led the Department of Environmental Conservation during much of Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration, before leaving that post in 1994 to take a job with International Paper Co., a company he stayed with for 20 years. They argue he’s looking out only for his personal enjoyment of the lake, which he owns property on, which is something he cites as a reason he filed the lawsuit.
But his lawsuit and his attorney also say the lawsuit is about deeper issues, like research that has rarely been done into the ability of Adirondack lakes to withstand shoreline development and boat traffic.
Those broader issues were part of the reason Chad Dawson, an academic who studies how humans use and abuse nature, resigned from the Adirondack Park Agency board late last year, unconvinced that his voice mattered.
Dawson told me the state doesn’t want to deal with the broader issues of a lake’s ability to withstand human use “because they lack the political willpower to address what will be the result — the need for regulations and restrictions on the amount and type of recreational boating facilities and use.”
A hearing in the lawsuit took place on Friday. CLICK HERE TO READ
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.