Almanack Contributor Zachary Matson

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.


Friday, July 1, 2022

Raising big questions

narrows

A pair of proposed marina expansions are upsetting neighbors and raising the salience of a critical question for state agencies: how many boats are too many boats?

The same development team behind a proposed marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake, which has been challenged in appellate court by a former Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, is pushing forward a similar project on Fish Creek Ponds in Santa Clara.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Judge blocks Lake George herbicide plan, for now

Garnet Lake in Johnsburg and Thurman last week. Photo by Zachary Matson.

No chemical herbicide will be used in Lake George this summer, but the fate of the Lake George Park Commission’s plan to do so is still up in the air.

A Warren County judge on Monday sided with the Lake George Association and others challenging the park commission’s plan to treat invasive watermilfoil with one of the few EPA-approved aquatic herbicides on the market. The judge granted a preliminary injunction that bars the park commission from using the herbicide until a lawsuit brought by the lake association can be resolved. 

The judge agreed with the association’s lawyer who argued the herbicide plan could be delayed without impacting the current state of the lake, but if the commission was allowed to carry out its plan, any outcome of the lawsuit would be meaningless. Next step in the case: a conference later this month to come up with a briefing schedule.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 9, 2022

This week’s water news

lake champlain

Lake Champlain straddles an international border, a state border and is the focus of scores of government agencies, scientific researchers and nonprofit organizations.

It’s a big lake with a lot happening, but there’s a government plan for that. 

The Lake Champlain Basin Program – a federal program established to guide and fund research, restoration and protection of the lake – on Friday released the latest 5-year update to its guiding plan.

The plan outlined continued threats like high phosphorus levels, harmful algae blooms (HABs), toxic substances and pathogens, and aquatic invasive species. It championed the more than $20 million in grants to more than 600 groups and individuals the program has made to reduce pollution, educate the public, and research the lake and its health.

The new iteration will increase the focus on climate change impacts in the basin and seek to engage a more diverse group of stakeholders.

There’s plenty more happening on the water beat this time of year.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Sun’s out, HABs out?

HABs map

As people enjoyed a long holiday weekend on the water and trails in the Adirondacks, the unofficial start to summer, another season opened for the year: the dreaded harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The Department of Environmental Conservation last week announced the beginning of the reporting season for harmful algal blooms in waters across the state and the Adirondacks. The agency’s map keeps track of HABs reported in the past two weeks as well as the entire season and is the best real-time view of the spread of the potentially-toxic algal blooms across the state.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Lake George groups at odds over milfoil plan

lake george

The Lake George Association last week made good on its promise to explore all options for blocking the planned use of an aquatic herbicide on Lake George.

The nation’s oldest lake association – along with Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, the Town of Hague and a shoreline resident – sued Thursday to stop the herbicide plan. In its petition, the association took aim at the process that led to permit approvals by the Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, arguing the agencies failed to consider important concerns raised by the public. The suit accuses the state agencies of “behind the scenes decision-making” to rush the plan to approval.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 13, 2022

Quebec’s ‘green battery’ of hydropower

lake champlain

Just how big is Quebec’s “green battery” of hydropower? When you add up the surface area of utility giant Hydro-Quebec’s dozens of dammed reservoirs, they are bigger than the Adirondack Park’s six million acres. One impoundment is four times the size of Lake Champlain. Another is 55 times the size of Lake George.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, April 29, 2022

The last of winter?

winter weatherWhile I hope we are putting the winter weather behind us, a flash of snow last week that left thousands without power was a reminder of the damage that can be caused. It all depends on the kind of precipitation that actually hits the ground.

Enter atmospheric researchers from University at Albany and other institutions in both Canada and the U.S. The scientists recently completed a six-week field campaign where they collected an enormous amount of data on the mixed winter precipitation storms that often confound forecasters and commuters alike.

Using ground observations, soaring weather balloons, tank-like mobile radars and a specialized airplane to collect the data, the scientists hope to develop a better understanding of the fundamental dynamics of storms that sometimes end with freezing rain, sometimes with sleet and sometimes with a heavy snow in April that forces you to find a coffee shop to work from.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 11, 2022

Loons cry out

loons on a lake

When I was camping a couple of summers ago at Sampson Lake in West Canada Lake Wilderness, all was silent in the dark night but the unforgettable calls of a pair of a loons.

Even someone with a tin ear for bird calls knew what they were hearing. It felt as if it was just me and the loons on that lake – maybe in the entire world. Visitors and residents of the Adirondacks have experienced that feeling of connectedness since time immemorial.

But just like so many other things, a warming climate presents new threats to the iconic species. The Explorer’s new climate change reporter Cayte Bosler examined how climate change may threaten loons in the coming years. From “molt-migration mismatch” that makes loons vulnerable to getting iced-in to torrential rain increasing lake levels, conservationists are working to respond to a variety of risks.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 4, 2022

Following the funding

water and infrastructure

For our March/April magazine, I sifted through dozens of clean water infrastructure projects in the Adirondack Park. I found around $500 million in projects either planned or under construction, a massive need to improve the critical infrastructure underlying the region and its future.

From sewers in North Creek to drinking water supplies in Essex and St. Armand, town supervisors often fight for years to get the funding to make improvements to their systems – updates that are often required under state directive. The economics of the park make these projects all the more challenging: too few residents to fund the work solely at the local level.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Celebrating fresh water

water in the southern ADKs

Happy World Water Day (on March 22). This United Nations observance day was established in 1993 to celebrate water and raise awareness of the 2 billion people across the world living without access to safe drinking water. This year’s theme is a focus on groundwater: “Making the invisible visible.”

The world relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming and other uses, according to the UN. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report emphasized concerns about the future of drinking water as warming trends and human development accelerate threats to water supplies.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, March 14, 2022

Road salt task force meets; Pitcairn residents deal with salty well water

pitcairn road salt

Members of the state task force charged with reducing salt use in the Adirondack Park met for the first time Monday and showed that they won’t steer away from thorny topics.

From discussing tree cutting along roads (which in some places could require a constitutional amendment) to potential winter tire mandates or lower speed limits, members raised numerous complicated challenges that underscored the task ahead.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, March 7, 2022

The next major lake survey

lake ice

A group of scientists and representatives of government agencies met this summer in Saratoga Springs with an enormous mission: outline plans for a survey of hundreds of Adirondack Lakes.

The emerging plan hopes to focus on the effects of climate change on Adirondack lakes and would build on the last major survey of Adirondack lakes in the 1980s, which focused on lake acidification and served as a scientific basis for the 1990 federal Clean Air Act amendments. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

A renewed interest in wetlands

DeNeale Property wetlands & woods

Conservationists across the state cheered loudly last month when Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed strengthening protections for wetlands.

Under current state rules, wetlands are only protected if they are included on official wetland maps – even if the parcels otherwise meet protection standards – but Hochul proposes scrapping that approach and ensuring wetlands of 12.4 acres or greater are automatically protected.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Clean water budget

wetlands protection part of state budget

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal unveiled last week included some major investments in clean water and a preview of how she envisions the state spending a proposed $4 billion environmental bond act that will go up for voter approval in November.

The proposal included $500 million for clean water infrastructure spent on local projects across the state. The funds will support improvements to wastewater treatment plants and drinking water systems.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A salty solution

hague

The salt pollution challenge can be daunting: years and years of salt use have already penetrated surface and groundwater and will stick around for years to come. And salt is still the No. 1 way of keeping winter roads safe.

But the small highway crew in Hague, on the western shores of Lake George has started to show that if you use less salt on the roads, less salt will show up in the water. After the Hague crew reduced its salt use by nearly 70% over the last five years, researchers with RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute have found an average 4% annual reduction in chloride concentrations in Hague Brook. More study is needed but it’s a positive sign that Hague is reducing salt on the roads and in the waters.

Read more about what Hague has been up to and my recent visit to their garage. I also spoke with North Country Public Radio Adirondacks reporter Emily Russell this week about the latest on the state’s road salt reduction task force.

The road salt issue has also started to draw more national coverage in recent weeks after a scientific research review published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment highlighted the dire public health and environmental downsides of rampant salt use – which has tripled in the last 45 years.

Photo: Hague plow operator Tim Fiallo mixing a brine solution at the Hague garage. Photo by Zachary Matson

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.



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