Saturday, April 27, 2024

Most Adirondack Priorities Restored in Final State Budget

Adirondack Council logo

Lake Climate Studies, Clean Water Grants Secured; Timbuctoo Career Institute Funding Lower

Albany, NY – The Adirondack Council thanked Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for working with Gov. Kathy Hochul to restore key Adirondack priorities in the $237-billion state budget, including money for scientific research and municipal clean water projects.

The Council also expressed thanks for the Legislature’s efforts to restore the full $500 million in annual funding to the state’s Clean Water grants program. The $250 million boost above the Governor’s original proposal will significantly improve the opportunities for Adirondack communities to obtain funding, the organization said. Rivers that flow from Adirondack lakes bring drinking water to millions of state residents.

Lakes and Climate Study Restored

“At a time when federal funding to support environmental science and research is getting less certain and harder to secure, we are proud that the Governor and Legislative leaders have stepped up to provide the funds necessary to document the impacts of climate change on sensitive Adirondack waterbodies,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Raul J. Aguirre.  “Adirondack lakes are facing new pressures that will significantly affect their health and the larger ecosystems around them. The Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems will give New York a better understanding of how lakes respond to air pollution and global warming, and how to protect our environment from new and emerging threats. This money is well invested in a brighter future and underscores the value Adirondack data collection has for all New Yorkers.”

Timbuctoo Climate Careers Institute Trimmed

The Adirondack Council also expressed dissatisfaction that the final budget did not fully restore $2.1 million in current year funding to the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Career Training Institute. The Governor had proposed no funding for this year. After negotiations with Legislative leaders, the budget agreement provides $1.25 million.

“We are disappointed that the state could not find a way to fully fund this critical program,” Aguirre said. “It is a missed opportunity that could have provided new opportunities for urban students to learn about the Adirondacks, climate change, and environmental related careers. We need new talent and new enthusiasm in the search for solutions to the climate crisis and the work needed across the spectrum to tackle these challenges. This program represents all that is best about creating connections between our upstate and downstate communities and making the Adirondacks relevant for everyone.

“The savings won’t help the state balance a $240-billion budget, but the loss will be felt by students from communities suffering the effects of chronic pollution and climate impacts. Those students deserve a chance to explore a career in climate science or wilderness management, so they can become part of the solution.”

Clean Water Grants Help Whole State

Aguirre said the additional money negotiated by the Legislature for clean water would bring relief to Adirondack communities struggling to afford multi-million-dollar water and wastewater treatment system upgrades.  In towns with only a few hundred homeowners, greater state assistance is needed.

“There remains more than 200 million dollars-worth of much-needed wastewater treatment plant and sewer systems projects in Adirondack communities alone, documented by the Environmental Facilities Corporation,” said Adirondack Council Director of Government Relations Kevin Chlad. “Full funding for grants to communities will go a long way toward meeting our clean water goals.”

Administrative changes made by Governor Hochul in January increased the cap on state matching grants in the Adirondacks for EFC’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act program from 25% to 50% of net project costs, Chlad explained.

Environmental Protection Fund

Negotiations restored full funding of $400 million to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which funds major capital projects account for big-ticket, one-time environmental projects.

“We are pleased that this vital source of environmental capital project investments will be fully funded and will only be used for major purchases,” said Chlad. “An earlier proposal to use part of the fund for day-to-day state expenses such as salaries was wisely removed from this proposal. After all the hard work to get the EPF to $400 million, this is a great win for the environment.”

Forest Preserve Care and Protection

The state budget includes $10 million for Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve protection and wilderness visitor management, which is a welcome increase from the Governor’s plan of “up to $8 million” for those purposes.

“We were pleased to see the state’s continued commitment to making the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves ecologically healthier and recreationally safer through better care and stewardship,” said Aguirre. “Public use of the preserve is essential to the economic vitality of the Adirondack Park and its communities.  Providing world-class management of the Forest Preserve will keep these wild landscapes healthy for generations to come.”

Adirondack Diversity Initiative

The diversity initiative is part of the Governor’s economic assistance package for economic development in the Adirondacks. Restoration of this funding will allow much needed diversity and equity work to continue across one of the most hyper-rural landscapes in NY.

“The Diversity Initiative works to make the Adirondack region safer and more welcoming, inclusive, and relevant to all New Yorkers. This appropriation of $420,000 is a much-needed $120,000 increase over the current appropriation in the Aid to Localities Budget. Along with many other ongoing efforts, ADI provides critical anti-bias training to Environmental Conservation Officers, local police, retail workers and others.”

Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The 9,300-square-mile Adirondack Park is one of the largest intact temperate deciduous forest ecosystems left in the world. The Adirondacks are home to about 130,000 New York residents in 130 rural communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities.

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.




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