Last week the Adirondack Park Agency approved a 20-megawatt solar project on the former Benson Mines’s tailings pile in the Town of Clifton. It is the state’s first “build ready” solar project. There are still a handful of other permits the state needs to acquire before it can hold an auction and turn the project over to a solar developer. But, it looks like the Adirondacks is one step closer to hosting a large renewable energy project.
The Adirondacks’ largest solar project to date
In April of last year, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s first “build-ready” solar project to be hosted on the old tailings pile of Benson Mines in the Town of Clifton. Well, we’re seeing this 20-megawatt facility again, with plans for more than 62,000 panels, this time with confirmation that the Adirondack Park Agency must weigh in on its approval. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has applied for permits including for a large, public utility, and APA commissioners will decide whether to sign off at their board meeting on Thursday. (Editor’s note: The project was approved. See story here.)
Bond Act deep dive
November is around the corner. That means voters will be deciding on an unprecedented level of state debt–$4.2 billion–to fund water-quality projects, climate change mitigation, open space protection and more.
As I was teasing a couple of newsletters back, we dug into records from 26 years ago to see what New Yorkers got for their borrowing the last time around. It was remarkable to compare the detailed responses I got from some state agencies to how little I got from others. Some even said they’d purged records from that far back. You can read about the record hunt here.
Military ballistics testing proposed
I neglected to share this with you in my last newsletter. In case you didn’t see this story online, Adirondack Park Agency staff are in the review process of an application for a military ballistics testing range. Michael Hopmeier, owner of the former Atlas F missile silo site in Lewis, has already been conducting small firearms testing indoors. Now, he’s applying for an APA permit to test the ballistics of military cannons manufactured in Watervliet.
Neighbors are mostly against the proposal, though the town supervisor and one neighbor are supporting it. The APA said Hopmeier’s application is incomplete so we won’t see any decisions yet. You can read our story about the proposal here, as well as Adirondack Council’s reaction to it here.
Digging into the 1996 Bond Act
Our September/ October issue will be hitting mailboxes soon (click here to subscribe to our print and/or digital edition). In it is a story I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, a look-back at the last environmental bond act New Yorkers passed, the Clean Air/Clean Water 1996 Bond Act.
Close encounters of the loon kind (and some recent policy news)
I’m back from a short vacation traveling around upstate New York. One of our stops was Big Moose Lake in Eagle Bay. Dave and I went for a paddle and two loons shot up from underwater very close to our canoe. It was a moody weather day to boot, and when they dove underwater and popped up again, their howling calls made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. Here’s a snippet from our paddle after the loons swam further out. It was one of the top wildlife encounters of my life and particularly exciting for me since writing a second-grade report on the common loon (spelled “commen” in bright yellow letters on my poster board, but live and learn). In case you missed it, give Gary Lee’s piece about wrapping up loon-banding season a read.
Cold-weather thoughts to beat the heat
These 90-degree days are making me miss snow. I posted a short video you can watch here of our hike up Blue Mountain in the winter, and some on Twitter agreed with me. I know by March I will be eager for spring birdsong and blossoms. But even those things are changing. In my backyard I’m noticing the impacts of our warming temperatures. My tomatoes are not changing from green to red, which Cornell Cooperative Extension says could be because of the high heat. “When temperatures exceed 85 to 90 F, the ripening process slows significantly or even stops. At these temperatures, lycopene and carotene, pigments responsible for giving the fruit their typical orange to red appearance cannot be produced. As a result, the fruit can stay in a mature green phase for quite some time,” the article states. Is anyone else having this trouble?
A High Peaks panel discussion
Thanks very much to those who came out to our panel discussion at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s new visitor center last week. As part of our ongoing solutions reporting, the event focused on issues around High Peaks use. We had a great team of experts to talk about the importance of data collection for making management decisions and the importance of visitor centers, stewards and forest rangers for educating the public. Our audience had some wonderful insight and questions, too.
If you weren’t able to make it out, but are interested in watching, you can check out our video below.
Gun legislation: What does it mean?
Newly passed gun legislation has Democrats and Republicans at odds over what it could mean for Adirondack Park residents and visitors. I spoke with Environmental Conservation Officer Matt Krug about his key takeaways and how it may be enforced in the park. Since that story, state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury and state Assembly Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, are introducing legislation that would exempt the Adirondacks and Catskills. The Legislature’s extraordinary session is over, so we’ll have to see when and if lawmakers will take up the amendment.
» Continue Reading.
The latest state, APA policy news
I know I previewed this in my last newsletter, but in case you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is my roundup of the four Adirondack Park constitutional amendments that didn’t get first passage this legislative session. The conservation design bill, legislation intended to protect more open space and natural resources when planning for some subdivisions, passed the Assembly but not the Senate. Also of note, a bill that brings forest rangers and environmental conservation officers’ retirements up to the same standards as State Police passed both chambers. We’ll see if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs it this time.
State announces hiking season preparations
In anticipation of a busy hiking season, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos took a trip up to the Adirondacks last week to recap all the visitor management initiatives DEC and partners have implemented.
“This is paradise,” Seggos said. “This is New York’s Yellowstone, and New Yorkers have discovered that.”
APA to vote on Whiteface amendment
The Adirondack Park Agency is meeting in person this week for the first time since last summer. The two-day meeting will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the APA’s Ray Brook headquarters. It will pick back up at 9 a.m. on Friday. The meeting will be broadcast live online, but public comment will have to be made in person. Face masks are not required but encouraged, the agency wrote.
There are several projects the board is expected to vote on including an amendment to the Whiteface Ski Center Unit Management Plan. More background on that here. Staff are recommending approval for the amendment’s conformance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
Debating solar and cell tower aesthetics
Barbara Rice attended her first Adirondack Park Agency meeting last week as its new executive director just a few days after starting the job. It was a packed five-hour meeting.
“The one thing that stands out to me is how dedicated and hard working the staff here is,” Rice said, at the start of the meeting.
We published a couple of stories out of that Thursday marathon, including how the Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to widen some ski trails at Whiteface Mountain.
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Where’s the 30-by-30 bill?
Last week was Climate Week, which meant an influx of daily announcements from state government about clean energy, the environment and climate change. For instance, the village of Lake Placid earned the “Climate Smart Community” designation, as part of a joint state agency program encouraging municipalities to take climate change mitigation actions. We noticed, however, that the state Assembly has yet to deliver a climate-related bill to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.
» Continue Reading.