Thursday, April 29, 2021

A lawsuit, a lake and a marina

marinaLast 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.

You can read the full story here.

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.

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Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.

9 Responses

  1. Dan Reilly says:

    Yes, certainly study the lakes. However, for perspective, there are 3,000 Adirondack Lakes and maybe 25 marinas. Probably won’t be any more, only less. This particular lawsuit, following a previous lawsuit, has only one cynical purpose which is to delay the project and bleed it of capital. There is the veil of environmental concern, but then, Jorling had lots of opportunity to institute such research and he never did. He cares little for the local people who depend on the Saranac Lake Marina, which is not viable in its present configuration – and which has been mostly the same for 100 years.

    • Nathan says:

      local people who depend on marina?? you mean summer people coming up tossing speed boats in to roar wrecklessly all over the lake with no regard to curtesy or legality of safe distances, usually half drunk to drunk and tossingbear cans and bottles all over! buzzing peope fishing or trying to swamp canoes for kicks? honestly need to kick every 2 stroke and over 10 hp off the lake, and start arresting these DWi boaters. My family fished and canoed, boated for generations on saranac lake, we stopped going because it has become a haven for jerks. long lake is also now under attack by idiot speedboats and drunks.

      • William says:

        Yes Nathan local people work at marinas. Those dang wealthy people buy boats, have them serviced, moored, winterized and stored which costs money and provides jobs. Then, in summer those wealthy people come and spend money on rooms, gas, food and in local shops all while enjoying all the Adirondacks have to offer. It is often referred to as tourism. If you think that is bad just wait until hunting season when people come from all over to enjoy what the mountains have to offer.

  2. Nathan says:

    i see oil films on saranac, gas outboards tearing all around with bascially no restrictions. the adirondacks is supposed to be about preserving nature, and maintaining the quailty of the environment.
    IT has been a total failure, there should not be the non stop roar of speed boats, the waves and spray of soo many wreckless boaters. boats should no be blasting by at 50 mph and 550 feet away. i should not see oil films, small gasoline fumes. the lakes are over used and abused.
    Changes are needed, like 4 stroke motors ONLY, limit of 10 HP, reduce pollution, reduce wakes and noise levels. might get to hear a loon again. saranac needs at least 1-2 full time boating inforcement for drunk and wreckless boaters. lakes less than a mile should be electric trolling only or lord forbid paddle. rarely are any lakes devoid of roaring outboards, few places are truely forever wild, most smaller lakes should be paddle and electric trolling to give the the loons a chance to sound off instead.

  3. Gary Hartwick says:

    The lakes and even many rivers have basically become places for very wealthy people. It needs to stop as does building along lake shores and river banks, say within 500 feet. Gas and Diesel engines need to to be banned. In Oregon they made the ocean beach a public highway so no houses and open to all. The best idea I have seen implemented yet. We need to stop spending the taxpayers money on battles between wealthy folks.

    • Boreas says:

      Wealth = Power.

      This has been true since the dawn of man. In the last century or so, some of this power was used for altruism and the benefit of all. But these rare exceptions were an aberration, and seems to be but a distant memory.

  4. Tom Vawter says:

    As a “watershed scientist”, I’ve worked with the DEC on a number of projects, and you’ve hit.upon what I have long felt is their greatest shortcoming: they would rather regulate than study. The former is quick and easy; the latter is often expensive and time-consuming. Partly, this is due to their being underfunded and short-staffed. One result is.that they set themselves up for.lawsuits, which.most often don’t resolve the deeper issues.

  5. Smitty says:

    High h.p. motorboats and jet skis are the scourage of Adirondack Lakes. It’s not the marina thats the problem, it’s too many of these boats. The Adirondack Park Agency should consider implementing parkwide restrictions on excessive horsepower, speed, and jet skis.

    • nathan says:

      Agreed, no more dawn to dusk roar all summer. It is becoming almost impossible to canoe so many lakes with out being buzzed by speed boats and drunks. last year i saw on tupper some drunk people buzz a kayak and threw at least 3 beer bottles. luckily they missed. but it is becoming too dangerous to canoe/kayak the bigger lakes.

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