Almanack Contributor Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard

Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The lakes don’t look like they used to

lakes recover from acid rainOver the past year, I’ve tried to gather data on the health of Adirondack lakes, despite major gaps.

So when a researcher emailed me out of the blue to say he’d just done a study of how lakes were recovering from acid rain and changing colors, I gave him a call.

The researcher, Paul Bukaveckas, is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. But he was here a few decades ago studying the effects of acid rain on Adirondack lakes in the late 1980s.

His new research, which brought him back to 20 Adirondack lakes in recent years, helps confirm what a few people have started talking about: As lakes recover from the effects of acid rain they are turning browner. That’s a good thing, unlike the brown in other lakes that may be the result of pollution.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Lake Champlain trout rebound

spawning lake troutTypically, invasive species get cast as villains, coming into places and upending the native plants and animals.

But as I was checking in on plans to reduce the amount of trout being stocked in Lake Champlain by New York’s hatcheries, I found that sometimes invasive species might have unexpectedly positive roles.

Hatchery officials who once worried they weren’t stocking enough trout now have to worry they’ll stock too many, because the trout are beginning to breed on their own in the lake. There are now perhaps 100,000 or 200,000 trout in the lake. Too many trout in one lake could collapse the food chain, if too many eat too much.

Why? Some new theories suggest Lake Champlain trout may be rebounding in part of changes in the lake driven by invasive species giving them new food and forcing them to breed in better parts of the lake.

Those twin changes — the rebound of wild trout in the lake and the potential role of invasive species in that rebound — prompted a quick piece that’s now online from the current print issue of Adirondack Explorer, which you can read here.

Photo of lake trout courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

A lawsuit, a lake and a marina

marinaLast week, I looked at some broader issues raised by a lawsuit over a marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake.

The dispute is often cast as one among a neighbor — Thomas Jorling, the former head of the state’s environmental conservation agency — and the marina owner and the agencies allowing the marina expansion. But the lawsuit touches on issues that have bedeviled the region for decades, including the amount of study that needs to be done before development can be allowed in the Adirondack Park.

You can read the full story here.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Go Fish: Stocking Saranac River Salmon

salmonRegional fishery folks are testing new ways of getting salmon ready for the Saranac River, a river salmon once thrived in but were blocked from 200 years ago by dams.

I explored the relationship among the river, the dams and the salmon in a series of stories last year. This spring, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation plans to stock salmon in the river, which it has done for years, but this time keep some in a pen for several weeks. In the pen, the fish, who were born in a hatchery, will be fed and cared for by Trout Unlimited. The idea is these fish will have a better chance to survive and learn the river before they leave it for Lake Champlain. That learning, called imprinting, might make it more likely for the salmon to return to the river to spawn in years to come.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Regulating road salt like acid rain

Several decades ago, acid rain in the Adirondacks helped direct the nation’s attention to new kinds of air pollution.

Despite the local environmental protections here, acids were being carried from coal-fired power plants elsewhere in the country by the atmosphere and falling into Adirondack lakes and streams, killing off fish. The regulatory boundary protecting the park’s forests and wetlands from development and logging weren’t going to stop that.

A national problem needed a national solution. So, in 1990, Congress updated the Clean Air Act to crack down on polluters.

A recent paper, authored by researchers at the University of Maryland, argues that salt pollution, including pollution from road salt, may be so ubiquitous that it now needs such a national solution. “Ultimately,” the paper says, “there may be a need for regulations similar to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which were enacted to address pollution from acid rain.”

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Keeping an eye on dirt

fall salmon river anglersThere are a lot of rivers, streams and lakes to visit. For casual observers, it’s sometimes hard to tell how natural they are. Last year, I spent some time digging into all the ways that dams along the Saranac River change the flow of water and the life of fish.

But dams change something else, too: dirt.

Dams hold back and can suddenly release dirt, or they change the way water flows and those changes, in turn, change how sand and gravel build up both before and after dams’ spot in the river. Whole books, including the classic textbook Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology, have been written on these changes to dirt accumulation, usually known by the more technical word “sediment.”

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Money for Lake Champlain water quality projects

lake champlain bridgeRecently, I wrote about the Adirondack Council asking the state to fund a wide-ranging study of water quality across the Adirondacks. (Speaking of the Council, it just hired someone away from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to be its new vice president for conservation.)

I’ve been thinking about how much the public conversation is influenced by money — not just advertising and p.r., but money or lack of money for research.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

There’s something about the weather….

There’s something about the weather, particularly when it comes to hydrology, that creates an almost eye-rolling cycle of stories. If it’s not too dry, it’s too wet. With a changing climate, the normal also changes — for instance, while reporting a story on pollution running into Lake Champlain, I heard from officials on both sides of the lake that they’re seeing more rain and storms so intense they’re called “rain bombs,” a recipe for uncontrolled flashes of water that sweep pollution into the lake from fields and streets.

Some people notice all this. Others do not.

Two years ago, while I was reporter in the Southwest and had spent a few years covering a major drought, we had what seemed like an awfully rainy and cold winter for that part of the world. A few people I talked to regularly said, Oh yeah, this is strange weather for here. So, I called the National Weather Service and asked, Ain’t it awfully rainy and cold? Not really, the local meteorologist replied, it was only the 55th coldest stretch on record.

Such is the nature of human perception: We forget what happened or remember things that didn’t.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

When nature calls…Lake George defenders answer

Cotton Point postcardI dropped into the Lake George Park Commission’s Zoom meeting to check on the status of pending rules to curb runoff into the lake. Known as stormwater regulations, these rules are designed to try to reduce the amount of water that runs across roofs, roads and lots when it rains or snows. Unchecked, this water picks up pollution and sends it straight into the lake.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Let’s talk about bats, EPA and more

coffee and conversation eventThis Friday, the Explorer is hosting an online discussion with me and other Explorer reporters. Join us, if you can. Click here to sign up, and feel free to share with a friend.

There’s plenty we can talk about. For now, I wanted to share two recent stories, one on the Trump administration and the other on bats:

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Diving into 2021’s water reporting

It’s 2021, and there’s lots to do.

I’ll keep investigating waters of the Adirondacks. Stories about what’s still wild, about what has been changed, and about what is at risk of ruin.

Water? That seems niche, one might say. But water is everywhere — and where it isn’t is also a story.

All of our greatest stories involve water. The baffling story about the punishment of Moses for bringing it out of a rock. The story about the reflective trap of Narcissus. Native American stories that focus on the turtle, straddler of water and land.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Lessons learned from water

From water we can learn that:

One can never step in the same river twice. (Attributed to Heraclitus.)

Ripple in still water…when there is no pebble tossed nor wind to blow. (Grateful Dead)

What goes up must come down. (Everyone.)

As the year’s closing, I’ve been thinking about the lessons taught by the concept of retention time. That’s the average time water stays in a lake or pond. Think of it as the effect before has on after.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Activism, science and harmful algal blooms

The algal bloom last month in Lake George, the first of its kind, is one of two things: A sign of things to come. Or not.

While Lake George remains a relatively pristine lake, especially for its size, it has slowly deteriorated over time thanks to shoreline development and runoff from nearby roads. It’s still got a hot home market around it and is a draw for bustling tourists from downstate and out of state.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Passing the salt

After a $3 billion state bond to fund climate change projects fell apart because of the pandemic economy, a lot of environmental policy attention up here turned to a bill that would study the damage caused in the Adirondacks by road salt.

We’ve reported this year on that damage. Salt threatens human health and property values.

The road salt bill was introduced last winter in Saranac Lake.

Its Senate sponsor, Sen. Betty Little, a North Country Republican, made sure it moved by working with Sen. Tim Kennedy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee.  He put his name atop the bill in Little’s place and gave the bill a better chance of passing. It cleared the Senate and state Assembly this summer.

Then, crickets.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t

Let me wrap up something I’m really happy to be a part of: a series of stories looking at the Adirondacks’ rivers, its dams and efforts to return salmon to the rivers despite the dams.

Over the last month, we published a story from the series every week or so, but I want to make sure you’ve had a chance to see them all in one place:

» Continue Reading.