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.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

A look back at state water spending

Wastewater treatment plant worker

A look back at key water spending

New York has invested $5 billion over the last seven years into a clean water grant program bolstering drinking water, wastewater and other projects across the state.

But the governor’s administration has failed to keep pace with the investment, leaving around $1.6 billion unspent despite a growing list of shovel-ready projects across the state, a new analysis from Environmental Advocates of New York found.

The report examined spending under the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act first approved in 2017. It found that the bulk of the spending in that time has been used to support improvements to municipal wastewater and drinking water systems, supporting 2,100 projects in total.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Feds cut lake monitoring money

small boat on a big lake as part of a lake monitoring program

About a year ago, researchers at the Adirondack Watershed Institute started work on the region’s longest-running lake monitoring project, the Adirondack Long Term Monitoring program.

Since the 1980s, scientists have collected water chemistry data from 58 lakes throughout the Adirondacks — initially on a monthly basis and now slightly less frequently.

The program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, was set up to monitor the impacts and regional recovery from acid rain.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Salt solutions from outside New York

A highway truck heads along Route 9N in Upper Jay near the East Branch of the Ausable River.

Seeking solutions:

New York uses more road salt than any state in the country. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only state grappling with the perennial challenge of keeping roads safe while minimizing damage to critical water resources.

For our current issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine, I scoured midwestern states for lessons that could inform debates in the Adirondack Park about how best to control road salt pollution.

Here’s an overview of what I found:

  • Regulate: Despite a longstanding federal recommendation, New York has never adopted a chloride standard for aquatic environments. While many of the standards I found in other state were well above levels considered healthy for lake systems, those rules were driving more formalized adoption of best practices than we have seen in New York. State officials have suggested a chloride standards is in the works in New York.

» Continue Reading.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Let’s talk salt

State plow truck

Join Us!

The Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force in September released its long-awaited recommendations to rein in the region’s road salt use, but a central question remains. What next?

The Adirondack Explorer will be hosting a discussion on Feb. 15 at the Wild Center beginning at 10 a.m. to dive into that question and many others with a panel of government leaders, task force members and independent experts.

We hope you will join us to learn more about the report and the path forward. The Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation have scheduled officials to join and talk about how their agencies are working to implement the report’s proposals.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Water Line goes West

The Sandy River at Oxbow Regional Park

Coalition of the undammed

Drop by a riverside hike on a holiday vacation to the Pacific Northwest and get an unexpected lesson on dam removal.

The Sandy River near Portland, Oregon, has flown freely since 2007. That summer Portland General Electric blew to pieces its Marmot Dam and the electricity it generated for around 16,500 homes.

A few months later, as planned, a massive deluge washed away a temporary earthen cofferdam used for removal and much of the gargantuan load of sediment that had built up behind the dam since it was installed in 1913.

When salmon were federally listed as threatened in 1998, their runs on the Sandy, which originates from glaciers on Mount Hood, were down to as little as 10% of historic levels. That status required new protective measures when the dam went up for license renewal.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The year that was


The Indian Lake Stone Dam

The big stories of 2023

Dams. Road salt. Floods. Milfoil.

Baby Water Line!

2023 was a big year on the Adirondack water beat. Here’s a look back at some of the stories I covered over the past year.

  • Dam Safety: Over 500 dams shape the Adirondack Park. Many are gradually deteriorating and present a quiet threat to public safety, infrastructure and aquatic ecosystems. Varied ownership, high costs, intensive regulations and seemingly-remote risks complicate the challenge facing dam owners, communities and state regulators looking to upgrade the critical structures found in nearly every corner of the park.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Floods strike again


A truck pushes through a section of Route 9 closed from flooding.

Floods cut off access

Floods throughout the Adirondack Park closed roads, cut off access and inundated large areas on Monday amid long-lasting rain storms in warmer-than-usual December weather.

Rivers swelled overnight and throughout Monday, with many reaching flood stage on Monday. Key sections of state Routes 30, 73, 9 and 9N were closed, as were numerous secondary roads throughout the region.

Local governments and counties declared states of emergency, and school was disrupted in some school districts.

The Ausable and Boquet, New York’s steepest rivers, rose quickly during the downpour. Water on the Ausable rose to the bottom of the bridge crossing it near the Olympic ski jumps in Lake Placid, and the Boquet swamped nearby roads.

Some rivers rose even higher than in July, when heavy rainstorms led to flooding and elevated water levels throughout much of the season. Summer or winter… flooding is a central challenge to Adirondack communities.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Big Salt, Big Money

A state Department of Transportation salt storage dome

Piling up the salt

Statewide contracts managed through the Office of General Services lower the price and streamlines the purchase of commodities like fuel, milk and, of course, road salt.

A half-dozen suppliers accounted for more than $850 million in salt purchases statewide the past five years under the OGS contract, according to state records.

American Rock Salt in Mount Morris near Rochester and Minnesota’s Cargill supplied nearly three-quarters of all salt ordered by state agencies, local governments and other users under OGS’s buying agreement.

The vast quantities of salt that can be purchased at those rates — on average 2.7 million tons each of the past fives years — helps keep society humming along the state’s byways and highways. It also continues to accumulate in soil, groundwater and surface water — the water we count on for drinking and sustaining aquatic life.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Dear Governor

low salt road sign

Hochul hears from salt reduction advocates

A pair of letters sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul last month urged the governor to do more to follow through on the road salt reduction proposals outlined in the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report.

The 10 members of the task force Hochul appointed joined a letter that asked her to empower state agencies to develop an action plan to implement the task force’s numerous recommendations.

A coalition of seven Adirondack organizations — including the Adirondack Watershed Institute, Adirondack Council and AdkAction — signed a second letter that outlined the groups’ proposal for moving forward. That letter suggested Hochul establish an interagency council that could bring together state officials to focus on salt reduction efforts. They also called for a new staff position to coordinate the interagency work.

A similar government body exists to facilitate work on invasive species, and the groups said it could serve as model for salt reduction.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Tupper Lake’s water woes

Tupper Lake building

Tupper Lake looks to switch back to lake water after long move to wells

It isn’t always easy for Adirondack communities looking for a public water source.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about lingering frustrations in Ticonderoga over a long-running move to groundwater wells. Supervisor Mark Wright earlier this month handily beat back an electoral challenge there.

In Tupper Lake, incoming mayor Mary Fontana will have her hands full with a major project to switch the village water supply back to Tupper Lake and overhaul an old filtration plant. The village had moved to new groundwater wells in 2018, but a problem with iron in the ground is creating a problem of foul-looking water coming out of the taps.

» Continue Reading.

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.

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