Almanack Contributor Zachary Matson

Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

What comes next for ProcellaCOR?


Paradox Lake as seen from Severance Mountain.

Paradox Lake approved for herbicide in battle against invasives

As the Adirondack Park Agency board last week considered allowing the Paradox Lake Association to use a chemical herbicide to fight invasive milfoil, it started to open the door to a broader discussion.

As lake communities around the park see ProcellaCOR EC as a major improvement over other management tools, what is the best way to monitor long term impacts? And how to assist communities with more strategic lake planning?

The relatively new herbicide has been used to effectively kill Eurasian watermilfoil on scores of lakes around the Northeast, including on Minerva Lake in 2020 and Lake Luzerne this summer. APA staff reported a notable increase in permit applications with DEC and suggested a surge in requests could be headed the APA’s way. While trying not to stray too far from the permit on the table, board members raised questions about the broader landscape.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Calling all grant writers


A small island on Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain Basin Program bolsters grant opportunities

Thanks in part to a surge of federal infrastructure funding in recent years, the Lake Champlain Basin Program is soliciting proposals for a wide range of grant opportunities.

The grants aim to support scientific research, restoration and conservation projects, education and public awareness initiatives and to bolster organizations in the sprawling Lake Champlain watershed.

A round of new grants were announced earlier this month with due dates in late-December and early-January. While application requirements differ from grant to grant, the funding opportunities are largely available to nonprofits, colleges and universities, soil and water conservation districts, and local governments.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Ausable River Restoration

man in front of construction equipment

The Ausable River Association last month wrapped up the construction phase of work to restore a 3,000-foot-long stretch of the East Branch of the Ausable River in Jay, the nonprofit’s biggest project to date.

The restoration project aims to reinvigorate the river channel in an area where Route 9N follows the river along a gradual bend near the Ice Jam Inn. The river had become “overwidened,” reducing its ability to move sediment and rock through the river system and exacerbating flood and ice jam risks.

By building out a wider stream bank, narrowing the channel and constructing a series of rock structures across the river, AsRA hopes to restore the stream’s natural flow and function, improving trout habitat and easing flood risks. The project faced delays in July and August thanks to rainy weather and high water levels, requiring a one-month extension on AsRA’s work permit.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Salt study receives mixed results

low salt road sign

When it comes to reducing road salt use in the Adirondack Park, a long-awaited government report published this fall leaned heavily on the use of pilot projects to test reduction strategies.

Fortunately, the state won’t be starting from scratch when it builds those pilots. It has had pilots running for years around Lake George and in Essex and Herkimer counties.

Unfortunately, the results are in from a five-year-long independent study of the Lake George pilot, and those results are… mixed.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Late-season harmful algal blooms pop up around the Adirondacks

habs map

Pictured here: The state HABs monitoring map shows the locations and dates of confirmed harmful algal blooms across the state. Screenshot from Oct. 10.

algal blooms this fall have continued to pervade Adirondack waters, spreading to new places and recurring in some of the region’s most treasured lakes.

The Lake George Association confirmed the first bloom spotted in the lake’s narrow northern basin, and the Adirondack Watershed Institute documented numerous blooms this year in the lake belt outside the group’s backdoor.

As of this morning, a HABs tracker managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation listed harmful algal blooms on at least 19 lakes across the region, beginning as early as June in some places and lasting through early October. HABs flourish in warm and calm fall weather when sunlight and a churn of nutrients combine to spur rapid cyanobacteria growth. Last year a bloom across Mirror Lake persisted for multiple days at the end of October.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

SCALE-ing up

paddlers on a lake

Last week I joined Phil Snyder of the Ausable River Association and Leigh Walrath, a retired Adirondack Park Agency water specialist, as they navigated Moss Lake, collecting water samples, measuring temperature and oxygen levels and searching for macroinvertebrates under rocks and logs.

The water and biological samples are among the first collected for what could be the largest scientific survey of Adirondack lakes since the 1980s. A consortium of researchers across the state are working together on the Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems (SCALE). The survey aims to examine the health and state of Adirondack lakes and better understand how climate change is affecting them.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

A new weather station; the struggles around water funding

weather station

A constant stream of weather information will soon flow from a suite of sensors with a view of the Great Range to phones and computers around the world.

A statewide network of weather stations managed by scientists at the University at Albany this fall will make its first new addition to its 126 sites by opening a new station at the Uihlein Farm in Lake Placid. The site will measure temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, snow depth and soil conditions and support the work of climate and weather researchers, farmers and private businesses and recreation enthusiasts visiting the heart of the High Peaks.

Thanks to Tim Rowland for covering this newsletter over the summer while I was off on parental leave. Sorry, you’re now stuck with me and my lack of any angling skills for the foreseeable future.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Marina back before APA

Lower Saranac Lake. Explorer file photo

It didn’t take long for planned upgrades to the Saranac Lake Marina on Lower Saranac Lake to make their way back to the Adirondack Park Agency board for approval.

After the Appellate Division in March annulled an earlier wetlands permit the APA granted the marina in 2020, the marina team reworked its plan and returned to the agency.

This time, APA staff said no permit was needed and has moved forward with a variance to enable the marina to cover floating docks it installed last year at the site operated as a commercial marina since 1924. That variance to the APA’s shoreline restrictions is set to go before the agency board on Thursday (today).

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Water summit convenes students to celebrate Lake Champlain

Students at the Lake Champlain Youth Water Summit learning how to study water quality. Photo by Zachary Matson
Kids these days… are often more clear eyed about the challenges we face than adults.

As an education reporter for nearly a decade, I watched students emerge as young activists calling on adults to protect them from gun violence in schools. As an environmental reporter, students have a lot to say about the pollution, climate change and environmental conditions that will shape their lives.

So last week I headed to the waterfront park in Burlington, Vt. for the inaugural Lake Champlain Basin Youth Water Summit.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Is NY actually committed to reducing road salt?

road salt truck

A state highway truck dumps road salt in Tupper Lake. Photo by Mike Lynch

After months of work – and months of waiting – members of the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force are growing frustrated the public has not seen their recommendations.

A handful of members I interviewed last week expressed impatience with the state’s slow pace finalizing an initial report that will summarize science and best practices and suggest a path to reducing the toll of road salt use on Adirondack waters.

The long-awaited report has been years in the making and it’s still not clear how long we will be waiting to see it.

While state officials said “finalization of the report remains a priority,” task force members said the delays are raising concerns about state agencies’ commitment to tackling road salt pollution. Recommendations will include pilot projects and potential legislative and funding ideas. Members also said they were disappointed recommendations weren’t out in time to be considered during budget negotiations.

“It’s ridiculous,” Assemblymember Billy Jones said at the Adirondack Research Conference earlier this month. “We’ve got to get that report out.”

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The tension surrounding wilderness dams

duck hole

Very few structures conform to the rigorous restrictions imposed on Adirondack wilderness areas – unless you are talking about dams.

Largely a remnant of the region’s logging industry, structures that impound the headwaters of scenic and wild rivers dot the park’s most remote corners. While no new dams can be built in wilderness areas, existing ones can be maintained, one of the few structures considered conforming.

Despite management plans that suggest the state should maintain its most remote dams, some have fallen deep into disrepair, while others have succumbed to storms in recent years (see Duck Hole and Marcy dams).

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Who will pay for dam repairs?

The “Rainy-Dam Dam Failure” inundation map for Loon Lake Dam, showing the expected flood zone created if the dam failed during a massive storm.

We continued to run stories from our dam series this weekend. Join us as we shine a light on municipal dam owners. And dig into ways to improve dam safety drawn from the experiences of other states.

A handful of the Adirondack Park’s riskiest dams are owned by towns. Some of those towns have been slow to meet state requirements and  to pull together the financing needed to make (often costly) upgrades.

Town leaders say they need more financial support from the state to get the job done. The state says its the responsibility of all dam owners, including municipalities, to keep up with repair needs.

The other story outlines strategies that could be employed to improve a state dam safety program. Those strategies include raising funds through dam owner fees and strengthening risk analysis approaches.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Investigating dams of the Adirondacks

conklingville dam

Over 500 dams dot the Adirondack Park, shaping the physical and social landscape of the region more than any other infrastructure.

The dams are integral to Adirondack history and the way today’s residents and visitors experience the park. They also quietly threaten public safety.

For the past year, I compiled documents, visited dams, interviewed owners and examined the state of those hundreds of dams. This weekend we started rolling out a series of stories that explores the safety and ownership of the riskiest structures, the unique position of backcountry dams and lessons from other states about how to improve dam safety.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

It’s Water Week!

milfoil in a hand, on a boat dock

Eurasian watermilfoil, the pervasive invasive aquatic weed at the center of a debate over using herbicide in Adirondack waters. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

For four decades, New York has celebrated its abundant water resources for a week in May. This is that week!

State officials Monday announced a five-year contract with the Adirondack Watershed Institute worth $13.2 million to continue the annual boat steward program that aims to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

This is also a big week in the fight over using a chemical herbicide to combat invasive plants in Adirondack lakes. The Adirondack Park Agency on Thursday is set to consider a permit that would allow the Town of Lake Luzerne to use the herbicide ProcellaCOR on 30+ acres of the town’s namesake lake in the southeastern corner of the park.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Clean Water Due Date

man in day-glow shirt near metal footbridge

Municipalities across the state have an important June 14 deadline if they want a cut of billions in clean water infrastructure funding next year.

State agencies anticipate funding $1.97 billion in clean water projects and another $552 million in drinking water projects, according to a recent bulletin. Supported in part by the 2021 federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the funds are a mix of grants, interest-free loans and low-interest financing and are crucial to upgrading the costly systems that deliver drinking water, process our waste and protect our water. 

The June 14 deadline, along with an Aug. 25 deadline for lead line replacement money, requires local governments to submit engineering documents to get on a statewide list of proposed projects. Getting a project listed – whether millions to overhaul a wastewater treatment plant or thousands to replace water mains – is essential to getting the state funds.

» Continue Reading.

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