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.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

An earmark for the Ausable River

East Branch of the Ausable River.

The massive federal spending law passed by Congress last month contained a handful of earmarks directing money to North Country projects, including Ausable River restoration efforts.

The Ausable River Association garnered $2 million to continue restoration projects in Jay and to carry out a comprehensive study of the East Branch in Keene, a project the town has twice failed to get funded in state programs. The funding ball got rolling after Jay Supervisor Matt Stanley sought solutions in the wake of ice jam flooding in Ausable Forks last year.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Money for infrastructure

Improving water infrastructure across the Adirondacks is key to protecting water health. Explorer file photo

Gov. Kathy Hochul in her State of the State policies promised $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding.

A book offering more details about the proposal, which will be fleshed out even more when Hochul presents her budget in the coming weeks, said she planned to establish “community assistance teams” to work with small municipalities on advancing projects.

Those teams “will provide proactive outreach to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities, and assist with accessing financial assistance to address their clean water infrastructure needs.” That assistance could be critical to many North Country communities, which often struggle to garner funding through key state water programs.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 9, 2023

Water issues I’ll be watching in 2023

West Canada Lake Wilderness in October. Photo by Zachary Matson

With the new year upon us here are a few of the big things I’ll be keeping an eye on this year.


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Carrying capacity goes to court

Former DEC Commissioner Thomas Jorling, center in gray suit, and lawyers before a hearing at the Appelate Division of the state Supreme Courty's Third Department. Photo by Zachary Matson

I went to Albany recently for an Appellate Division hearing in the case of Thomas Jorling vs. Adirondack Park Agency.

Jorling, a former Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, is challenging the APA’s approval of a proposed marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake. The hearing was the first chance for Claudia Braymer, Jorling’s attorney, to argue before judges that the state’s failure to study the capacity of Lower Saranac should invalidate the marina’s permit.

“The argument that they can just divorce the review of a private project from the review of the water resources of the Adirondack Park is wrong,” Braymer argued.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

A dam dispute: Talks stall at Conklingville

 

conklingville dam

A dispute between the state agency that controls the Conklingville Dam and the private hydropower company that operates there is likely headed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While federal licenses assigned to both the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District and Brookfield Renewables don’t expire for another two decades, an operating agreement between the two expires Dec. 31. Talks to extend or amend the agreement, which outlines payments Brookfield makes to the district, fell apart in recent weeks.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, December 9, 2022

Lake George residents get pumped for septic inspections

lake george

new septic inspection program around Lake George could commence as early as the spring, with just over 500 properties becoming the first to submit to a new requirement that septic systems in critical areas in the lake basin get inspected every five years.

The Lake George Park Commission, which has been developing the regulatory proposal for around 18 months, cleared its latest process hurdle with a public hearing the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. 

The comments were largely supportive of new septic inspection requirements, but some raised concerns about newer, better maintained systems being treated the same as old, malfunctioning ones.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A rowdy boating season

lake george boating season

It was a busy season for law enforcement and first responders on Lake George – even as signs from boat launch stewards indicated a slight decline in boats entering the water.

The Lake George Park Commission marine patrol issued 187 tickets in 2022, up from 128 in 2021, including five boating while intoxicated tickets, two more than last year. The patrol team responded to 733 complaints, up from 635 in 2021, and issued 1,101 warnings, up from 1,009 the previous year.

The crews also responded to a wide array of incidents, including domestic disturbance calls at island campgrounds, numerous accidents of people jumping from rocks, an out-of-control mushrooms trip, reckless drone use, multiple drownings and a gun-toting man who lit a dock on fire with fireworks.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

The toxic side of HABs

HABs on mirror lake

The hazardous algal blooms (HABs) are back… and are they toxic.

State agencies (Environmental Conservation and Health) warn people to avoid all algae-like formations in lakes and ponds and caution that even cyanobacteria blooms without toxins can be harmful.

A handful of the dreaded HABs cropped up on lakes in late-October and early-November, a mark of warm, calm and sunny fall weather. Combined with a churn of nutrients within lakes, the sunny weather spurs rapid cyanobacteria growth, forming blooms on the water surface.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Water infrastructure $$$

water infrastructure

During a flurry of pre-election announcements last week, I took special note of a pair on clean water infrastructure.

The announcements mark what is shaping up to be a generational investment in wastewater treatment plants, sewer collection systems and public water supplies. In a magazine piece earlier this year, I outlined over $500 million of water infrastructure needs across the Adirondack Park.

The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, combined with pandemic response funds, promises over $400 million for New York in the first year and over a $1 billion total in the years to come. On Thursday, the governor’s office announced the first clean water grants supported by the federal money in Newburgh and Liberty. Federal officials recently released $207 million of the New York’s clean water funds.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Will climate change threaten ‘forever wild’?

Lake George in winter. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch

Covering the Adirondacks beat, you hear two words surface in a lot of conversations: climate refugees.

The idea is simple enough. As temperatures warm and the effects of climate change increase drought and water shortages, threaten deadly summer heat and render some parts of the country (let alone world) unlivable, many people may be looking at the Adirondack Park region with new interest.

Water is abundant. High temperatures will remain bearable for the foreseeable future and access to nature is plentiful. While the term typically applies to people around the world who will be forced to leave their homes, it may also apply to city-dwellers looking to escape the concrete jungle in the heat of summer.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 31, 2022

Keeping an eye on a new invasive plant

Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org. Courtesy of the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse

Hydrilla, an aquatic invasive plant linked to wildlife deaths in southern states, has been inching closer and closer to the Adirondack Park in recent years.

Boat stewards have intercepted hydrilla on boats traveling to the Adirondacks a handful of times in the past five years, including three separate instances in 2021, and the plant is present throughout parts of New York. But it has yet to establish a foothold in Adirondack lakes.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, October 21, 2022

Clean Water Act turns 50

Lake Champlain continues to be impacted by non-regulated runoff. Explorer file photo.

Fifty years ago this week, federal lawmakers overrode a presidential veto to enact the Clean Water Act, a landmark law for the nation’s water quality.

The iconic image of the Cuyahoga River on fire in Ohio spurred congressional action and ushered in a half century of major river restorations across the nation. The goals outlined in the act included restoring the country’s water to a “fishable and swimmable” state.

The law imposed new permitting requirements on polluting industries and sewage treatment plants, but it failed to address diffuse pollution from storm and agricultural runoff, the largest source of pollution in many parts of the country. The standards adopted under the law in many places are now decades old or unable to address emerging problems.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Dam repairs

indian lake dam

This fall the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District commenced construction at the Hawkinsville Dam in Boonville a few miles outside the Blue Line. The project includes upgrades, totaling about $1.7 million, to improve the dam’s safety and stability.

I haven’t written about the project because it falls outside the Adirondack Park, but it marks the start of a series of long-needed upgrades to the regulating district’s portfolio of dams, including some of the most iconic in the Adirondacks.

Conklingville Dam, which created the Great Sacandaga impoundment in the 1930s, has received around $20 million in state funding in recent years for the largest upgrade in the dam’s history. I visited the dam at the end of September for a valve test, descending into the heart of the dam where original hand-crank valves open the gates that let water through.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Trout tails: In search of native strains

Trout Power anglers searching for brook trout DNA samples near Sagamore Lake this summer.

When the volunteers of Trout Power get together for a fishing weekend, they are more interested in a small clip of fish fin than a trophy specimen. They aren’t looking for the biggest or most beautiful trout.

They are looking for genetic information, and they have found it. The nonprofit organization is working with genetics researchers to expand our understanding of native trout strains scattered throughout the park. The strains show minimal mixing with stocked trout and have survived centuries of threats like acid rain and game fishing. The genetic diversity the anglers and researchers are finding, more robust than previously understood, may be a key weapon against the growing threat of climate change, which could warm water temperatures to level uninhabitable for cold-water fish like brook trout.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 3, 2022

The end of winter?

The view from the roof of the "silo" science station on the summit of Whiteface on Sept. 21. Photo by Zachary Matson

In a new paper on how climate change is impacting the Adirondacks, Paul Smith’s College researchers waited until their last paragraph to raise a term that has stayed with me: the demise of winter.

It’s practically an aside in the paper’s concluding discussion.

“Today’s annual crossing and re-crossing of the thermal threshold between solid and liquid water has profound effects on cultures and ecosystems alike, and the eventual loss of that transition – i.e. the demise of winter – could produce the greatest climate-driven changes in the region,” they wrote.

» Continue Reading.



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