Wednesday, January 12, 2022

White Lake Quarry: Business as Usual for the APA?

By Louanne Cossawhite lake quarry

In announcing the appointment of John Ernst as the new chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) in late October, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul referred to the Park as “a unique asset” and a “natural gem,” while further noting that “we must preserve its natural beauty for future generations to enjoy, while also boosting tourism and small businesses across the region.”  Unfortunately, the word has yet to filter down to the APA staff, whose primary mission is “to protect the public and private resources of the Park.”
Under the previous Cuomo administration, the APA had been very pro-development in the supposedly protected Park. That mind-set regrettably continues, one case in point being the application to begin extensive mining operations in close proximity to White Lake in the Forestport/Woodgate area inside the Park. Local affected residents in this small largely tourist community have submitted hundreds of letters and a petition with over a thousand signatures requesting an adjudicatory hearing to address the many deficiencies they have documented in the Red Rock Quarry Associates application to begin extensive granite mining operations – an initial excavation area of 5.2 acres within a 26.6 acre life of mine zone involving up to 3-6,000 cubic yards of dimensional stone and 10,000 cubic yards of aggregate annually hauled out by up to 20 tractor-trailers daily during an April-October 5 1/2 days/week operation.

The quarry sits astride the community’s aquifer, within 100 feet of protected wetlands, 100 yards of a group of 27 properties (and wells) that share the same granite bank to be mined, within 900 feet of a pristine spring-fed lake, and in the middle of a community of roughly 400 homes and small businesses, all within the Adirondack Park. The scientific data and monitored testing required to demonstrate that the proposed mining operation will not adversely affect the lake and community is lacking or incomplete. Given the APA staff’s assertion that it “will no longer deem applications complete when they believe necessary factual information is missing,” the application should not have gotten this far in the first place. To let the application process proceed without a public hearing would be unconscionable.

The APA has established seven criteria for an adjudicatory hearing. If even one of these criteria is met, a hearing should be held. The Adirondack White Lake Association, joined by Protect the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Council, the Sierra Club, and a number of other local organizations, have documented that at least six of these criteria have clearly been met. Nonetheless, the APA staff is recommending to the APA Board that the application be “approved with conditions” rather than calling for an adjudicatory hearing; none of the “conditions” involves further testing or additional scientific data. This unfortunately represents business as usual for the APA, which has not held an adjudicatory hearing on any project since 2008.

It is now up to the APA Board, at their January 13 monthly Board meeting, to either accept the staff recommendation or follow their own rules and call for an adjudicatory hearing so community voices and concerns can be properly considered. Will it be business as usual or will the Board, under new leadership, listen to the new governor’s call to protect the Park’s environment and call instead for an adjudicatory hearing?
Louanne Cossa is president of the Adirondack White Lake Association. Her family has owned property on White Lake since the 1950s.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com




12 Responses

  1. Keith says:

    All the organizations calling for a public hearing, did the same for my small, log home project on Lens Lake in 2000. Total waste of taxpayer dollars so that these environmental organizations can raise money. There are laws that control development in the park. If laws are complied with, the only “questionable” justification for a public hearing is the “public’s interest” which is easily manufactured as it was in my case.
    APA should do their job and follow follow the law.

  2. Ryan says:

    Louanne’s contribution is clearly biased, evidenced by her role as the President of the Adirondack White Lake Association. She throws around a lot of numbers but leaves out some other critical context to help the public truly make an informed decision – if that is even what she really cares about. How many jobs will be brought to the area as a result of this project? What kind of tax revenues will this bring to the town of White Lake? It would be helpful if this information was presented alongside the “number of cubic yards of dimensional stone that will be hauled annually” as if any of us understand what that even means.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Please submit your own opinion to the Almanac. Include the job #s, tax benefits, lack of cumulative impacts, stormwater plan, noise mitigation methods, etc…

    • Rob Germain says:

      This project will employ 3 people but could mean a loss of countless tourism dollars. Additionally, to suitably improve access for the mine, this will cost the town of forestport and taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money (millions) and the quarry operation will only pay around $350 in taxes annually.

  3. Todd Eastman says:

    The APA will either choose to hold a hearing…

    … or start prepping for a law suit it will loose… $$$. 😎

    • Boreas says:

      Agree. A hearing will likely be cheaper to taxpayers in the long run.

    • Susan Weber says:

      Right you are. It sounds as if this is a no-brainer. Let the hearing commence. Let the facts come out. Neighbors and the neighborhood, the environment, and the protection of water and forest resources must come before private profits. That’s what the APA was supposed to be about. Tis is the kind of “bias”that far-seeing people built in to the law.

  4. JB says:

    It looks like Louanne’s neighbors are lucky to have her. I am always amazed that some of these Adirondack towns are so reluctant to enact any land-use regulations or reactionary resolutions against commercial projects, even in the face of local opposition. There are plenty of rural NY municipalities–some not far from the Town of Forestport–where planning boards would be all over this. I can only imagine how much worse the situation would be in any of the smaller Adirondack townships with fewer resources.

    I often wonder: Do we attribute this devil-may-care attitude towards economic desperation resulting from restrictive environmental regulation, or economic overstimulation resulting from the attractive environment bestowed by those very same regulations (intact resources and open spaces)? It is probably some of both, but I think that the answer lies more in the latter.

    I would like to think that having too much of a good thing is the best problem to have. But within a systemic framework where uncommercialized assets are punished, it seems to become the worst possible problem. Non-extractable resources (e.g., tourism, labor) are more valuable now than extractable resources (since we have extracted most of them); but “non-exploitable” resources are the most valuable of all (e.g., clean air and water, undeveloped land). Scarcity of unexploited resources will bring even the most robust economy into catastrophic collapse. Barring a total overhaul of American society, we need the APA to do their job, now more than ever!

  5. nathan says:

    a few jobs for a decade or so, while developer makes a fortune and disappears. the explosive residues are very toxic, leeching into water ways and aquifers. The explosions rocking homes, destroying the peace and tranquility of a forest preserve. many old quarries and mines are know to leech metals and toxins for decades and even centuries. They then become taxpayer issues to allieviate. tourists show up for nature, hikes and outdoor recreation to hear explosions, heavy equipment running all day long?? echoing for miles!!! Nope they will go else where…..
    Absolutely no quarry should be allowed!! not line the pocket of some rich guy to the detriment of an entire town and downstream.

  6. Ryan says:

    I have as little trust in the good-faith of the Adirondack White Lake Association as I do in Red Rock Quarry Associates. What we, the public, should be able to rely on and trust is the integrity of the APA and its officials, and that the institution is doing its utmost to enforce its laws and regulations equally – regardless of public opinion.

  7. Hi, thanks for your contribution. Your report has truly assisted. I value your time spent doing the research.

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