Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Attend the bond act listening tour; plus new Adirondack Council leader

rocci AguirreA listening session on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act is coming to the Adirondacks next week. It will be from 1 to 3 p.m. on July 14 at the Sparks Athletic Complex Alumni Gymnasium at North Country Community College, 23 Santanoni Ave., Saranac Lake. If you’re interested in attending, you can register here:

Here is a refresher about how the state has divvied up the $4.2 billion:

  • “$1.5 billion for climate change mitigation;
  • $1.1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction;
  • $650 million for water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure;
  • $650 million for open space land conservation and recreation; and
  • $300 million for other projects not specifically allocated in the act.”

What would you like to see funded in the Adirondacks?

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

APA meeting, state legislature recaps

saranac lake marina

At last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting, the board approved a variance to its shoreline restrictions for a marina project on Lower Saranac Lake. My colleague Zach Matson had the story here.

The board’s agenda originally suggested it might vote on changes to the Broadalbin Boat Launch unit management plan. If you remember earlier this spring, the state Department of Environmental Conservation had proposed closing a public beach there, causing much upset among residents. We learned last week that the DEC needs more time on its response to public comments.

Executive Director Barbara Rice noted the APA has hired six new staff members in the past six months. When Rice started about a year ago, the agency had 42 employees and it now has 48. The agency is considered full staff at 54 so there are still positions to fill.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Prison property tax bill stalls

Prison closures in the Adirondacks and around the state continue to be an issue for state lawmakers.

Last week, state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, ushered legislation through the Senate that would authorize a constitutional amendment for Camp Gabriels. Camp Gabriels, a Franklin County prison closed in 2009, cannot be redeveloped by a private entity without a constitutional amendment. The property is now technically on forest preserve, lands the state cannot sell or lease. A constitutional amendment has passed the Senate multiple times, but it hasn’t passed the state Assembly. The legislation gets another chance at that second step this session.

Another prison closed in the park, Moriah Shock in Essex County, is in the same situation. State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson, R-Horicon, introduced legislation that would have provided communities tax revenue for closed prisons. The bill will likely not make a floor vote this session, however. Simpson blamed Democrats. Six Democrats voted to hold the bill in committee, while three Republicans voted against the hold.

“I am flustered by the interference of partisan politics in what is otherwise apolitical legislation that unilaterally helps residents across the state,” Simpson said in a news release. “My goal was to hold New York responsible for the dozens of closed correctional facilities throughout the state that are currently squeezing taxpayers. We have to hold the state accountable for the facilities it abruptly closes down which leaves hundreds of corrections officers and staff unemployed or forced to relocate. The closure of these facilities has had destructive consequences on surrounding communities.”

You can read the bill language and see the committee votes by clicking here.

Aerial shot of Camp Gabriels from the Almanack archive

This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Highlights from the APA’s May meeting

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

Last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting generated several news stories. The highlights include:

    • The board passed a resolution allowing for herbicide use on Lake Luzerne to combat invasive Eurasian watermilfoil. This is the same herbicide that the Lake George Association and others did not want applied in Lake George without more research.
    • The board adopted a policy capping an increase of roads in wild forest areas at 11.6%. This gives the state Department of Environmental Conservation and APA about 13 miles of roads available for the future. While this interpretation wraps up a 50-year-old question, the APA gave itself an exit plan allowing for a “contrary interpretation.” Some speculate lawsuits could come of the interpretation, too.
    • The APA also backed down on its proposals to limit public comment and shorten its review time for policies.
    • And state Sen. Dan Stec made a surprise appearance at the end of the APA’s meeting and complained about cell tower regulations.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Adirondack budget wins

state budget graphic

We have a budget!
New York finally has a state budget for 2023-2024 tapping in around $229 billion. It was over a month late, but the final budget had some notable differences from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposed earlier. For one, carve-outs for Adirondack projects were put back in the $400 million Environmental Protection Fund.

You can read our round-up of some of the funding highlights for the Adirondacks here.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

State budget takeaways for the Adirondacks

a rowboat in a lake

The state budget is one month late, but we are finally seeing some budget bills. As of 4 p.m. on Monday, lawmakers were just beginning to vote on some of them. Of particular interest for Adirondack Park projects is the capital projects budget bill. This bill includes the Environmental Protection Fund, where many Adirondack-specific projects are appropriated. The recently released bill has the EPF at $400 million.

I’m in the process of noting some proposed spending, and will have a story if and when the bill passes. But in my quick skim so far here are a few things that stood out:

» Continue Reading.

Friday, April 28, 2023

High Peaks management meeting in May; Broadalbin beach update

broadalbin beach on a cloudy day

The firm the state Department of Environmental Conservation hired to start a High Peaks visitor use management framework is hosting a public meeting. DEC announced Otak Inc. will present their project’s goals and timeline at 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at the Harrietstown Town Hall Auditorium, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake. Following the presentation, “interactive discussion groups” will meet “to gain an understanding of public interests and concerns,” DEC said.

Otak is holding a meeting in the Catskills, too, to discuss its visitor use management project in the Kaaterskill Clove Area.

“DEC’s sustainable use initiatives require public participation to be successful,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a release. “Listening to public and stakeholder perspectives about the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove project areas will provide DEC with the important data to support successful strategies for balancing conservation and public access in these popular Forest Preserve destinations.”

» Continue Reading.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Bond Act on the road

bond act boat launch

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced today a statewide listening tour on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. New York voters passed the $4.2 billion initiative in November. A public meeting will be held in the Adirondacks, though it’s not confirmed as to when or where.

Hochul said the listening tour will take place over the next few months. It “will offer an opportunity for the public, municipalities, and other potential applicants to learn how they can leverage these funds to help New York State reach our climate goals while growing our economy.”

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

APA could have new headquarters

The Adirondack Park Agency is studying the feasibility of moving its headquarters to the historic Paul Smith’s Power and Light building at 3 Main St. in Saranac Lake. Photo by Chloe Bennett

The Adirondack Park Agency could be moving four miles up the road to Saranac Lake. The APA and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said a feasibility study is underway to move the agency’s headquarters to the historic Paul Smith’s Power and Light building on Main Street.

The village police currently occupy that building, but there are discussions of creating a public safety complex on Petrova Avenue. The APA has $29 million from the state’s 2022 budget for a new headquarters, but whether it’s brand new or renovated, we’ll have to see (read more here).

For those of you on Twitter, an account called, “DoesNYHaveABudget” tweets a budget status daily, and today’s is “No.” Hochul and lawmakers authorized a second budget extender bill today, meaning negotiations could continue to next Monday.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Climate part of state budget delay

Gov Kathy Hochul, wearing red, at a podium

It looks like it could be another week or more before we have a state budget, which was due April 1. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement today said she is submitting a bill to the legislature to extend the budget deadline to April 10.

“New Yorkers are concerned about public safety, the rising cost of housing, and ensuring high-quality schools for all our kids, and any budget deal must make progress on these core issues,” Hochul said. “I have been negotiating in good faith with the legislature, but it is clear there is more work to be done before we reach an agreement.”

Hochul does not mention climate change in her statement, but that’s another issue coming up in budget negotiations. Energy Committee Chair Sen. Kevin Parker, wants to change the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Environmental groups say the changes are not for the better.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Microgrid proposed for Raquette Lake

These battery modules, supplied by the battery company BYD, show a similar-sized project to the one proposed in the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Photo courtesy of BYD

It’s the final countdown to the state budget, which was due on Saturday. We will keep you posted. It will be interesting to see if the Environmental Protection Fund gets a boost, and if Adirondack Park projects are carved out.

As that state works to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, developers are looking closely at the Adirondack Park. We’ve been writing mostly about large-scale solar projects, but we learned that a battery back-up system is also proposed in the park.

The hamlet of Raquette Lake could be the host site of 12 tractor-trailer-sized batteries that would work as a microgid. They would supply back-up energy from Raquette Lake to Old Forge, an area that experiences monthly power outages. Some residents have questions and concerns about the project. We tried answering some of those questions here.

These battery modules, supplied by the battery company BYD, show a similar-sized project to the one proposed in the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Photo courtesy of BYD

This first appeared in Gwen’s “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

One-house budget proposals fund Adks, plus APA March meeting highlights

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

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.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Why we don’t use the term “overuse”

Panelists speak about diversity, equity and inclusion at Camp Chingachgook in Fort Ann last week. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

Camp Chingachgook in Fort Ann hosted a diversity, equity and inclusion panel on Friday evening providing interesting perspectives and discussion. The evening was sponsored by the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Next Generation Committee. The panel included Raul “Rocci” Aguirre, acting executive director of the Adirondack Council; Martha Swan, executive director and founder of John Brown Lives; Tiffany Rea-Fisher, director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative; and Pete Nelson, co-founder of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.

It was one of the first public appearances for Rea-Fisher in her new role and one of the first for Aguirre since Willie Janeway announced he was stepping down.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Big solar, plus APA court decisions

Solar panels

I sifted through the new Office of Renewable Energy Siting’s regulations and talked to some state and nonprofit sources about large-scale solar projects and the permitting process. Some of you have had questions about solar capacity factors and decommissioning, among other things, in my time covering these solar facility permits. We try to answer some of them for you here.

The Adirondack Park Agency lost two separate court decisions —one involving a marina permit on Lower Saranac Lake and another involving an herbicide permit on Lake George. The Court of Appeals case involving a private marina was the first to come out, and in an unanimous opinion judges criticized how the APA has been applying its wetlands regulations. We learned Judge Robert Muller, of the state Supreme Court in Warren County, issued a decision on a Lake George herbicide permit suit that scolded APA for being “one-sided” in its application review and said the agency should have held an adjudicatory hearing. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Adirondack Council leader to step down

lobby day 2020

Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council for the last decade, is stepping down in September. The news follows leadership changes coming for other prominent Adirondack Park organizations including the Barkeater Trails Alliance and Protect the Adirondacks.

Janeway said he is not retiring, and he’s not sure what’s next. It was time for a transition, he said. You can read more here.

» Continue Reading.

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