The governing boards of the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation and the Ausable River Association have announced plans for a merger. The merger would advance their shared goal of deploying critical field and laboratory science in the Adirondack Park to inform the protection of waterways, lands, and air for the benefit of all stakeholders.
In January of 2022, the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation (ALSC) board approved a proposed timeline for merging ALSC operations and staff with the Ausable River Association (AsRA). In February 2022, the AsRA board voted unanimously to approve and pursue that timeline with the goal of making ALSC a program of AsRA by 2023. Over the next several months, the two nonprofit organizations will work together, and in consultation with their many government, academic, community, and nonprofit partners, to reaffirm and expand their commitment to science that benefits communities in the park and beyond.
Dr. Tim Mihuc, Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation Vice-chairman said, “With climate change affecting our water resources in myriad ways throughout New York State, it is essential to informed decision-making to keep the ALSC tradition of independent field and laboratory science alive in the Adirondack Park. A partnership that places the work of ALSC into the capable hands of AsRA does just that, and more.”
Kelley Tucker, Executive Director of the Ausable River Association said, “Water is the most essential of elements and protecting it starts with science. Pairing the field and laboratory strengths of ALSC with AsRA’s science-based, solution-oriented approach ensures that accurate data consistently informs individual and public decision-making. That knowledge benefits science, ecosystems, and our communities.”
The Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation was established in 1983 as a cooperative effort between New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Empire State Electric Research Corporation (ESERCO) to assess the chemical and biological status of Adirondack Lakes. With deregulation of the electric utilities in the late 1990’s, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) joined with NYSDEC in 1998 to continue the effort, providing substantial financial and technical support for the program. ALSC’s staff were tasked with monitoring changes to natural ecosystems of the Adirondack Mountain ecological zone with a focus on water quality, atmospheric deposition, fish surveys, and other biological and chemical studies for the benefit of regulatory agencies and the public. From 1984 to 1987 their intensive field and laboratory analysis of over 1460 Adirondack lakes identified a pattern of chemical acidification that informed the federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 curbing acid rain.
Since 1992, ALSC’s staff have maintained the longest-running Adirondack scientific lake assessment, monitoring a subset of 52 lakes annually to better understand the long-term impacts of acid rain and document lake recovery. This long-term monitoring program has been supported with an array of state and federal funds, most notably with continuing support from NYSERDA, NYSDEC Division of Air and Region 5, and funds from the NYS Senate. Since 2001, ALSC has provided laboratory analyses of cloud water from Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY as part of the Mountain Cloud Acid Deposition Program, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Status and Trends Network and, since 2007, the Adirondack Long-Term Monitoring (ALTM) Program. ALSC’s staff and board work in partnership with the US Geological Survey and an array of academic partners–including Cornell University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SUNY schools, Syracuse University, and Paul Smith’s College–most recently supporting development of a Survey of Climate change and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems to protect Adirondack lakes and serve a national model for freshwater research and management.
The Ausable River Association works with communities to protect their streams and lakes. Professional science and technical staff restore stream channel and floodplain health and replace culverts to improve climate resilience, monitor water quality and identify solutions to reverse declines, assess and rebuild habitats to encourage native species, empower stewardship by providing information and tools to the public, and encourage inclusive, low-impact recreational access to Ausable waterways. They work closely with an array of government, nonprofit, academic, community, and landowner partners to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.
AsRA’s core programs will continue to focus on the Ausable River watershed, and their staff will continue to provide technical assistance to towns and nonprofits in neighboring watersheds. “We know that sharing and implementing methods developed for Ausable waterways benefits streams and lakes in other watersheds,” Tucker noted. “In the same way, by supporting ALSC’s lake health and aquatic resources monitoring throughout the Adirondack Park, we’ll ensure that valuable science in our backyard continues to inform agencies and the public statewide.”
AsRA maintains an office in Wilmington, NY and ALSC is based in Ray Brook, NY. The two organizations are exploring merging staff and reinvigorating the ALSC laboratory. If the ongoing talks and due diligence reviewing organizational responsibilities are successful, a merger will be confirmed by both boards before the end of 2022.
Pictured above: Phil Snyder of the Adirondack Lake Survey, collects a water sample on Little Clear Pond near St. Regis Falls. ALS and Ausable River Association staff have begun joint sampling efforts. Photo provided – Sue Capone.