April 1 is around the corner, which is when the state budget is due. One-house budget bills have been released, and it looks like both the state Assembly and Senate would like carve-outs in the Environmental Protection Fund for specific Adirondack and Catskill parks projects. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget had suggested Adirondack-specific allocations would still be in the proposed $400 million EPF, but the line items for them were deleted. Legislators want them back.
Of note, both budget proposals appropriate $10 million under the EPF’s State Land Stewardship funding for the Catskill and Adirondack forest preserves. Many groups were pleased with this, from the Adirondack Mountain Club, to the Adirondack Lakes Alliance, to local government officials.
The Assembly’s budget included a boost to the EPF, from Hochul’s proposed $400 million to $435 million. It boosted clean water infrastructure funds from $500 million to $600 million. The Assembly would like a carve-out of $25 million in water funds for addressing harmful algal blooms, something that was not in the executive budget proposal.
Both the Assembly and Senate put money back in their proposed budgets for the Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems. The Assembly proposed $4 million for that project, while the Senate has proposed $5.5 million. Hochul’s budget didn’t include any funding for the study.
The Senate also hopes to boost investment in the Adirondack Diversity Initiative from $300,000 to $400,000.
We will have to see how the final budget shakes out.
The Adirondack Park Agency had a busy meeting last week. I spoke with Executive Director Barbara Rice and APA Counsel Chris Cooper about the two court decisions the agency lost earlier this month. Both Rice and Cooper said they are still reviewing the decisions and the agency’s next steps. Zachary Matson and I wrote a round-up story about these court cases.
Commissioners had a lengthy discussion about some proposed policy changes not involving court decisions. One was on edits to a policy for making policies, and another was on changes to the public comment period. Some Adirondack Park organizations were particularly concerned about the APA’s proposed public comment changes, which would prohibit public comment at the start of the APA’s meetings and move it to the end of the meeting. It also changed the deadline for when commissioners would review public comments submitted about the agency’s upcoming meetings. Some argued the deadline was too tight. The APA hasn’t issued a public comment notice as of Monday morning about these policies, but the board voted to put them out for public comment on Thursday. The policies and their edits may be viewed here: https://apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2023/03/Administration.htm.
Property owners on Spitfire Lake in Franklin County came back to the APA for a variance to expand their boathouse. The variance request was denied in a 5-5 vote. You can read more about that here.
A new way to interpret “no material increase” on wild forest roads in the park is out for public comment through April 17. Commissioners gave some insight on how they may want to interpret this 50-year-old question before the agency, and a decision could come as early as May. You can read more on that here.
The state is gearing up for the $4.2 billion environmental bond act voters passed last year. In a news release last week, “The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (NYS EFC) has developed the following eligibility guidelines to implement funding under the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 (Bond Act).” Public comments on these guidelines will be accepted until 5 p.m., April 14. You can read more about them and how to comment here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/enb/20230315_not0.html.
Members and staff of the Adirondack Park Agency sit around a table listening to a presentation during the March 16 meeting in Ray Brook. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig
This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.