Tuesday, May 14, 2024

APA Should Hold Hearing on Marina Expansion; Issues Demand More Study

Boater drives by marina

Ray Brook, NY – Five organizations concerned about the size, scope, and regional impacts of the proposed USL Marina on a small pond near Fish Creek Pond Campground are calling on the New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to hold an adjudicatory public hearing on the application. The marina’s application is set to come before the APA Board at its May 16 monthly meeting in Ray Brook. The decision of whether to hold a public hearing is up to the Agency’s eleven voting decision-makers, or Board members.

The proposed commercial marina is a radical departure from the small boat livery that was formerly at the site of the proposed project.  The new proposal covers a vast area of water and shoreland devoted to commercial use by large watercraft. As proposed, the marina is likely to have significant adverse impacts on Lower Fish Creek Pond and on nearby, narrow channels connecting the Pond to Fish Creek, Upper Saranac Lake, and Follensby Clear Pond.

The proposed marina’s location on a small, 80-acre waterbody, the number of proposed boat slips (92), the number of motorboats proposed for rental, and the distance the slips, buoys, and lights would extend into the narrow channel all pose substantial adverse impacts on existing aquatic uses, public safety, wetland and wildlife resources, water quality, and neighboring private landowners and public Forest Preserve.

Design plans graphic
A screenshot of design plans from the marina application showing structures to be removed (in red), a new covered dock (in blue) and the outline of other new docks. Image provided by Adirondack Explorer reporter Zachary Matson.

Therefore, APA should hold an adjudicatory hearing on APA Project 2022-0218 because the proposed marina project meets all of APA’s regulatory criteria for a hearing, including:

  • Project size and complexity measured by cost, area, effect on localities or uniqueness of resources affected. Here, the project is sizeable due to its inclusion of four large docks that extend 160 feet, 172 feet, 188 feet and 196 feet into the water, and its proposal to allow for docking and use of 92 motorboats on this small waterbody.
  • Degree of public interest as evidenced by communication in Agency files. There is a very high degree of public interest reflected by environmental groups, a lake association and the 130 community members who since 2022 have already commented to the Town of Santa Clara Planning Board and now to APA concerning this proposal.
  • The presence of significant issues. There are many significant issues in the USL Marina application including impacts to wetlands, boating safety, shoreline conditions, and the lack of a waterbody carrying capacity study. Such a study is required by the 2019 Saranac Lake Wild Forest Unit Management Plan and should be conducted as part of an adjudicatory public hearing.
  • The possibility that approval be conditioned only upon major modifications or substantial conditions, and the possibility that information presented at a public hearing would be of assistance to the agency in its review;

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, has ruled the marina  application incomplete because it lacks documentation about pre-existing conditions and number of watercraft at the former boat livery, and it insufficiently examines boat traffic impacts. This information is needed by APA in its own review and is among the many pieces of information that should be evaluated through a public hearing.

“The proposed marina project has absurdly large piers for such a relatively small waterbody: the proposed piers will be nearly two times the maximum length of 100 feet allowed for docks on Lake George (45 square miles), a waterbody that is 374 times the size of Lower Fish Creek Pond (approx. 77 acres). The currently proposed project must be denied by APA through an adjudicatory hearing due to its adverse impacts on the Park’s natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife and recreational resources,” said Claudia Braymer, Deputy Director, Protect the Adirondacks.

“The current proposed project warrants an Adjudicatory Hearing to gain essential facts, review evidence, to allow expert testimony and to hear fact-based concerns about how this project may impact the ecosystem, water quality and public enjoyment of the area,” stated Tom Swayne, President, Upper Saranac Foundation.

“The  Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan clearly states that ‘the water resources of the Adirondacks are critical to the integrity of the Park. For the APA to continue to ignore their obligation to determine the carrying capacity of the Park’s water bodies makes a mockery of their primary duty to protect the natural resources of the Park,” stated Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.

Photo at top by Zachary Matson/Explorer file photo.

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Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest PreserveDuring Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history. Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

5 Responses

  1. Joan Grabe says:

    After months ? years? of discussion about the former Hickok property I am sick of asking the APA to do certain tests like the carrying capacity of Fish Creek Pond. I am asking them to turn it down and review other uses for the property if there are any takers. The new Marina owner should just duplicate the current structures, docks and boat livery. That would be acceptable. Open space would be even better but this is not utopia.

    • Paul says:

      Turn it down on what grounds? You don’t like the expansion?

      I thought this is already settled? The courts have ruled on this. Let’s move on.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Paul, Please re-read information regarding NYS – DEC Application as Incomplete.
    I believe this whole issue needs to be step by step in accordance with DEC. This area is so congested and this expansion is way too large. Who does it benefit? Back to step one.

    • Paul says:

      Good call, thanks. I was confusing this one with the lower saranac project.

      I would note that this article is very misleading (maybe on purpose) to make it sound like this water body is not really connected to Upper Saranac (the largest Saranac on the chain) where most of the boats docked here will probably be going. This article makes it sound like they will just be stuck cruising around Fish Creek Pond? It is mentioned in the article but barely. How large of a percentage of an expansion is this?

    • Paul says:

      Harbours off the ocean have lots of docks, that is point. I see this as more of ‘harbor’ for the 4700 acre lake.

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