Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Major Renewable Energy Project For Wild Center

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is planning to install a large-scale wood gasification heat system that will combine sustainably sourced wood biomass with a solar collector system to heat the 54,000 square-foot Center. The project is being touted as “one of the most efficient and modern gasification/solar systems in the United States.”

According to press release issued today: “The system has potential application for large buildings, including schools throughout the region, and the technology has the potential to boost the economy of the Adirondacks by creating demand for a sustainably produced local fuel source.”

Leading representatives from the Forest Products industry, system manufacturers, Clarkson University (which will help monitor the test system), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is co-funding the project, will make presentations to the press on Thursday, July 23rd.

The Wild Center project includes programs to monitor system performance and measurements of emissions as well as a full exhibit on the system for the public, including a see-through series of tubes that will let visitors see the fuel being delivered to the system.

Take a look at the Wall Street Journal slide show on the new technology.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Builders and Realtors: Learn About Home Energy Efficiency

Many Adirondack homes have been languishing on the market, For Sale signs weathering on the lawn. Yes, a lot of real estate is overpriced and a lot of people are nervous about buying, but maybe some of these places would be snapped up if they weren’t under-insulated oil-sucking money pits.

If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the business of selling homes, or are just interested in learning more about how you can reduce fossil-fuel use in your own household, there’s a daylong program in Saranac Lake Thursday, September 24 you might want to sign up for.

Local can-do person Gloria Volz has arranged to bring the Green Build Science (GBS) training program to the Adirondacks. The course is designed mostly for Realtors and building trades professionals, including contractors, interior designers and home stagers. However anyone, including home and business owners, are welcome to learn more about sustainable building practices, energy efficiency and energy-saving tax credits.

An greenhouse gas inventory of the Adirondack Park commissioned last year found that out of 45,965 year-round homes here, 18,000 are “badly in need of insulation.” About 60% of the energy in every home is wasted through inefficiencies, according to Community Energy Services (CES), based in Canton. A few nationwide numbers: the USA Green Build Council says 92% of people surveyed said green features are important when buying property, and 40% of new homes are being built with green features. That last percentage is depressingly low, actually.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers a Chinese menu of cash incentives for all kinds of ways to improve home efficiency, from insulating to replacing appliances, to tapping in to clean sources of energy like sun, wind and geothermal, or carbon-neutral local sources like wood and pellets. Sometimes it’s daunting to figure out how to take advantage of these programs, so the September 24 seminar might help with that. If you’d like to start right away, CES is set up to help Adirondack homeowners navigate their way to better home finances and Earth stewardship.

For more information or to register for the course, visit greenbuildscience.net or Volz’s site.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Annual Adirondack Loon Census Seeks Volunteers

Loons are the quintessential symbol of wilderness. Just watch any TV show or movie that has a “wilderness” scene and you will hear loon calls in the soundtrack (even if it is in the desert). A stroll through any gift shop in the Adirondacks, Canada or Maine proves that they are probably the number one animal associated with the outdoors (competing only with moose and bears). There is nothing quite like the mournful wail of a loon floating through the night air as you lie in the dark trying to sleep. It is easy to see how people might once have associated them with unhappy or restless spirits. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Biomimicry, Nature’s Solutions Focus at Wild Center

A new exhibition at The Wild Center looks at how humans are tackling problems by uncoding natural solutions to problems in the wild. From MIT to the University of Tokyo scientists equipped with new tools that let them look into the nano structure of nature are discovering the secrets to some of the most elusive tricks in the world. Their sights are aimed at everything from making energy from sunlight to replicating the way spiders forge a material stronger than steel at room temperature.

David Gross, head curator at The Wild Center, which will showcase some of the breakthroughs this summer, has spent more than a year researching where the new science is headed. Gross is a biologist, and his lifetime of observing animal behavior turned him on to the bio-based discoveries. “Most of these new breakthroughs are happening because people saw something in nature, and were curious about how it happened. How do spiders make silk? How does a burr stick to a dog’s fur? In the last decade we have developed the tools to see and work at tiny scales, where nature works, so we can start to build things in a revolutionary new way.”

This relatively new science, coined biomimicry, (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Basically, after 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us are the secrets to survival.

Biomimicry is gaining in recognition throughout the world. A recent article in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph highlighted this truly international movement. A fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip, modeled on the human inner ear that could enable wireless devices capable of receiving cell phone, internet, radio and television signals has recently been developed by scientists at MIT. A National Geographic article highlighted biomimetics in April 2008.

Here are some examples of how looking at nature can help solve some of the problems of humanity.

Locusts Don’t Crash
Locusts fly in swarms but never crash. How do they avoid having multi-locust pile-ups? Car manufacturers like Volvo and Nissan are studying locusts, and other insects like bees, to discover their crash-avoidance systems to see how they can be incorporated into our vehicles, making our roads safer.

Frozen Frog Hearts
Organs used for transplants can last as little as five hours. Keeping hearts and other organs on ice can significantly damage the tissue making the organs not viable. So how does the wood frog manage to freeze in the winter and thaw itself in the spring with no damage to its internal organs? Scientists are working on ways to mimic their non-toxic antifreeze to prolong the life of transplant organs.

Shine a Light on Moths and Butterflies
Moths, unlike cats, have very non-reflective eyes, a trait that protects them against nocturnal predators and helps them see at night. Their eyes have a series of bumps that help keep the light from reflecting. Using a silicon coating on solar panels that resembles the texture of moths’ eyes improves the solar collecting efficiency of solar panels by as much as 40 percent, bringing the price of solar down.

Scientists recently discovered that butterflies harvest the warmth of the sun through small solar collectors on their wings. Their wings are covered with an intricate array of scales, arranged in such a way that the light reflects off of other scales rather than bouncing off the wing where the warmth would be lost. Chinese and Japanese researchers designed a solar cell based on the butterfly’s intricate design and converted more light to energy than any existing solar cell at a lower fabrication cost.

The Whale’s a Fan of the Owl
Plane’s wings have streamlined edges so they can cut through air more efficiently, right? One of the biggest animals in the world, the humpback whale has extremely unstreamlined edges and can still fly through the water. Scientists have determined that the tubercles, or bumps, on the edge of the flippers produce more lift and less drag than sleek flippers. This discovery has implications for wind power and ceiling fans. Owls fly silently through the night, stealthily approaching their prey before capturing their next meal. Would mimicking the design of owl’s wings silence the noise of the fan in your computer? Engineers are studying the tips and curvature of owl’s wings and have created a quieter and more efficient fan blade design.

Gross says the promise of this kind of science is huge. “I’ll use the spider example. They can make seven different kinds of thread, do it all at room temperature, and it’s not just stronger than steel, it’s stronger than anything we have invented. And at the end of the day the spider can eat its own web and recycle the material. Imagine if we could make buildings out of tiny beams that required no mining, no smelting, and minimal energy, and could be entirely recycled again at room temperature? Or if we could figure out how plants photosynthesize, we could solve all of our energy needs.”

Why the Adirondacks? “One thing about these inventions is that you need to be able to watch nature to see what it’s up to, and it makes the Adirondacks a living lab. You can see the wood frogs that freeze solid and thaw, right here at The Wild Center. If you pay attention at The Wild Center you can begin to look at things differently when you’re outside and learn from them.” Gross says the inventions are everywhere. “The real breakthrough is that we can start to see the molecular structure and even the chemistry lab inside a spider, that’s what is fueling the breakthroughs.”

On a walk at The Wild Center Gross points out subjects under study. A bee buzzes by. “We know they vote. They can come into a hive and present a case for a new hive location, and elect which option to choose, and the bees all head to the new location. Computer companies are trying to figure out how so much information is shared and acted on so accurately and quickly.”

The Wild Center’s exhibit, throughout the 31 acre campus, is the first of its kind in the world. It will feature 51 stories of how humans are studying nature and discovering a better way to do things. How does nature make colors without using toxins? How do loons desalinate salt water? How can dogs detect cancer cells just from sniffing a person? A trained sniffing dog, a robot that can scurry over almost any object based on a cockroach and a silent fan modeled on an owl’s quiet flight will be on display. From the moment visitors enter the parking lot, until they leave, they will discover amazing ways that nature has solved its own challenges without using high heats, harmful chemicals or overusing its own resources.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FUND for Lake George Marks 30th Year of Continuous Study

The FUND for Lake George has begun its annual water quality monitoring program on Lake George. One of the most successful long-term monitoring studies in the country, the comprehensive water quality monitoring program includes a variety of leading parameters to evaluate and track the water quality of Lake George. 2009 marks the 30th straight year that the FUND for Lake George and the Darrin Fresh Water Institute have partnered to study the water quality of Lake George. The long-term database created by the study has charted the ecological health of Lake George for three decades.

The scientific studies have focused attention on critical public issues facing the lake, including chronic septic system or municipal treatment failures, increasing salt levels, the growth of an annual dead zone in the south basin, and impacts from inadequate stormwater management and poor land use practices. The FUND and DFWI have committed to publishing a report on the state of Lake George based upon the past 30 years of lake study.

“The monitoring on Lake George is our most significant research program. Long-term datasets are extremely valuable to fully grasp how we are subtly and significantly altering our environment. Without this kind of information we are subject supposition, accusation and hearsay as to why water quality is changing, which greatly limits communities acting deliberately to protect water quality” said Dr. Charles Boylen, Associate Director of the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute. “This partnership is unique in the U.S. where we have a private group that has raised the awareness about the importance of water quality monitoring as well as provided the financial support for a scientific institute to perform sampling, monitoring, analysis and interpretation.”

The monitoring program covers 12 locations, four littoral zone areas (shallow) and eight deep water locations, from south to north on Lake George, from the Lake George Village to Heart Bay. This study includes the five major sub-basins of Lake George. Specific locations include Tea Island, Warner Bay, Basin Bay, Dome Island, Northwest Bay, French Point, Huletts Landing, Sabbath Day Point, Smith Bay, and Rogers Rock. The analytes sampled include: pH, Specific Conductance, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, Total Soluble Phosphorus, Soluble Reactive Phosphorus, Nitrate, Ammonia, Silica, Sodium, Calcium, Chloride, Sulfate, Dissolved Oxygen, Chlorophyll-a, Magnesium, Alkalinity, and Transparency, among others.

Over the past 30 years, the FUND for Lake George has raised over $1.5 million to support this long-term monitoring program and other associated research efforts with the DFWI. Support for lake science in 2009 is $98,000.

Additionally in 2009, the FUND and DFWI will monitor coliform levels at public beaches around Lake George, maintain an atmospheric research facility at the south end of Lake George in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Lake George Park Commission, and study stormwater impacts on West Brook.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is an Adirondack Wetland?

We have a new school program here at the Visitor Interpretive Centers: What is a Wetland? Since I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on this program, I thought it would make a good topic for the Almanack.

Put very simply, wetlands are lands that are, well, wet. That is to say, they are wet for part or all of the year. Some wetlands are obvious, like swamps, bogs and marshes that have sodden ground or standing water that you can see (or feel) every time you are there. Other wetlands, however, are seasonal, appearing when water levels are high, and disappearing in the heat of summer.

One of the Adirondack Park Agency’s responsibilities is protecting the integrity of wetlands within the Blue Line. They have staff who go into the field to conduct “wetland deliniations,” which are essentially determinations of the borders of wetlands. In order to do this, their staff look at three determining criteria: plant species, soil type(s) and hydrology.

The plant part is easy. There are species of plants that are either totally dependent on water (like pickerel weed and sphagnum moss), some that are in water two-thirds of the time you find them (like Joe-Pye-weed and black spruce), and others that are nowhere near water (like sugar maple and eastern white pine). If the area in question has a majority of plants in the first two categories, it is a wetland.

Soil types are kind of fun to determine. A core sample is taken within the test area. The soil from the sample is then compared to a soil chart, looking for evidence of oxidation. Oxidation indicates the presence of air in the soil. If there is no sign of oxidation, the soil is considered gleyed and is classified as a wetland soil. If oxidation has occurred, the soil will look rusty. If the amount of oxidation is minimal, the area is likely a seasonal wetland. On the other hand, if the soil is totally oxidized, then air gets through the layers year round and it is not a wetland.

Finally, we come to hydrology: is there water present? If there is visual evidence of innundation or saturation, you have a wetland. Do you see water? Does it squish underfoot? Is there a line of debris along the shoreline, below which the shore is scoured of vegetation? Are there areas of dead trees, where the trees essentially drowned from flooding? These are all indicators of wetland habitats.

Why is the APA so concerned about wetlands? Wetlands are extremely important habitats. Far too many people are unaware of just how important they are. Over the course of my career in environmental education, I’ve come to conclusion that many people think that those of us who promote the protection of wetlands are merely looking at them as animal homes, but the truth is that while indeed they are imporant for all kinds of wildlife, they are also so very important for people.

For one thing, wetlands clean and filter all sorts of pollutants from our water. These pollutants range from toxic chemicals to seemingly harmless fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorous. We know that nitrogen and phosphorous are essential for healthy soil and plants, but when large amounts enter lakes, ponds or streams, the result is potentially harmful algal blooms and excessive growth of water weeds, which can choke waterways and reduce oxygen levels in the water, resulting in the death of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Wetlands also act as giant sponges. Every time it rains, wetlands soak up the water and release it slowly. This helps protect areas downstream from severe flooding. Look at places around the globe that suffer from massive floods today. Chances are that over the last century or two the associated wetlands have been changed or entirely removed. Without the mediating effects of these “sponges,” the water now rushes downstream, gathering speed and volume, with nothing to slow its progress as it rushes to the sea. This leads to the next benefit we get from wetlands.

Wetlands reduce soil erosion by slowing down the flow. With slower moving water, shorelines are not eaten away, and silt can fall out of the water, leaving cleaner, clearer water to continue downstream.

And, of course, wetlands are vital habitats for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and mammals.

Did you know that one of the deciding factors for the establishment of the Adirondack Park over one hundred years ago was protection of our waters? The Adirondack region is the source of much of the drinking water for downstate New York. With all the unregulated logging that was done in the 1800s, vast areas of land were left denuded of trees, and as a result, streams and rivers were severely impacted. Some had reduced flow, others were no longer clean as a result of runoff. You can listen to a reenactment of the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention at the Newcomb VIC that lays out these very concerns.

So, yes, wetlands are important and we need to protect them. After all, there is only a limited amount of freshwater on this planet, and all environmental reports these days suggest that freshwater will soon become more valuable than gold. We need to protect our freshwater so that it will always be there when we need it, and this means protecting our wetlands.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UPDATED: Constitutional Amendment for Power Line

One story has been lost in the drama coming out of the New York State Legislature lately: the Constitutional amendment. In May, before it became completely dysfunctional, the NYS Senate passed a bill that would give after-the-fact permission for a new power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The Constitutional Amendment is necessary to provide an exception to the Forever Wild clause of the Constitution (Article 14, Section 1). The Forever Wild clause forbids logging or development on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and that includes power lines. The Amendment requires passage by two separately elected legislatures, which is now complete, and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot this fall. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bigger Better Bottle Bill Coalition Responds to Defeat

On June 1st the Bigger Better Bottle Bill was supposed to go into effect. Instead the bill’s implementation was delayed by a federal judge. Considered a landmark environmental victory, the legislation marked the first comprehensive update of New York’s 5-cent deposit law (known as the Bottle Bill) since it was created in 1982, and caps a more then seven-year campaign by a widespread coalition of environmental organizations.

The judge’s ruling blocked the collecting five-cent deposits on bottles of water until April 2010. The law would also have allowed the state to begin collecting 80 percent of unclaimed deposits, money which bottlers had been keeping for themselves. According to the Associated Press the ruling may cost the state “an estimated $115 million in unclaimed deposits on bottles for water and other beverages that it was to start collecting this year.” Judge Griesa also declared that a requirement for New York-specific bar coding on labels violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

The following press release was issued by a coalition of environmental groups:

Groups Call on State Leaders to Fix Law, Protect Environment & Restore State Budget

Today should have been a historic day for New York’s environment. After a long campaign involving hundreds of groups, businesses, and recycling advocates, a significant victory was achieved when the Governor and the State Legislature approved the Bigger Better Bottle Bill this spring. The expansion to water bottles and other key elements of the new law were scheduled to go into effect today.

But in a surprising decision, late last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa delayed implementation of all the new updates to the bottle law until April 1, 2010. This ruling went well beyond what Nestle and the other water bottling companies were seeking in their lawsuit. It not only delays the expansion to water bottles, but extends to all other parts of the new law, including the transfer of 80% of the unclaimed deposits to the state and the 1.5 cent handling fee increase for stores and redemption centers.

As a result, the state will lose at least $115 million this year in revenue from the unclaimed deposits, which will throw New York’s recently enacted state budget out of balance. More than two billion water bottles will end up in the waste stream rather than recycled. And many small redemption centers who were counting on the increased handling fee will be forced to shut down and lay off workers.

How did this happen? While many businesses raised concerns that the new law’s labeling requirements were impossible to meet by June 1st, the Governor, Assembly and Senate failed to come to an agreement on amending the law in a timely fashion. As a result, the decision to delay the bottle bill was made in court. Although no one could have predicted the judge’s decision, this matter need not ever have reached the courtroom.

On Earth Day, almost 50 environmental groups presented awards to Governor David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for enacting this important environmental law. Now, we urge them to do everything in their power to bring the bottle bill back on track as soon as possible so that our environment, our businesses, and our budget will not suffer from this judicial setback.

Members of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill Coaliton include:

Adirondack Council • Adirondack Mountain Club • American Farmland Trust • American Littoral Society • Bottle and Can Redemption Association • Buffalo Audubon Society • Citizens Campaign for the Environment • Citizens’ Environmental Coalition • Environmental Advocates of New York • Group for the East End • Hudson River Sloop Clearwater • Jamesville Positive Action Committee • Land Trust Alliance • League of Women Voters of New York State • Long Island Environmental Voters Forum • Long Island Pine Barrens Society • Natural Resources Defense Council • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference • New York League of Conservation Voters • New York Redeemers Coalition • New York Public Interest Research Group • New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling • New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness • North Shore Land Alliance • Orange Environment • People’s Environmental Network of New York • Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter • Sure We Can • Surfrider Foundation • Upper West Side Recycling • Wildlife Conservation Society


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cornell Offers Green Jobs Forum in Warrensburg

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is working with Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute of New York to host a Green Jobs forum on Thursday, June 25, 10:00am to Noon. The forum will be broadcast to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations located in 14 counties across New York State via Cornell’s distance learning network. The forum is free and open to the public. Information on the following topics and issues will be addressed:

* what is meant by the term “green jobs”
* where and in what sectors of the economy do they exist
* information on available training programs
* what does the future look like for the “green jobs sector”

General information about the workforce development institute and information about what services are available to the public will also be discussed.

The Green Jobs Forum will also provide information on starting a home performance / home energy audit business. New York State currently has training programs in place and some financial incentives available to entrepreneurs and home improvement contracting firms that want to expand into the home energy audit field.

Seating for the Green Jobs Forum is limited so if you are interested in attending, please phone Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County at 668-4881 or 623-3291 to reserve a seat.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Current 10 Best Selling Books About The Adirondacks

In time for planning those summer reads and outdoor activities, here is a list of the current ten best-selling Adirondack books according to Amazon.com.

1 – 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks: Short Walks, Day Trips, and Backpacks Throughout the Park, Fourth Edition by Barbara McMartin (May 2003).

2 – At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York’s Adirondacks by Peter Bronski (Feb 26, 2008).

3 – Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region (Forest Preserve Series, V. 1) by Tony Goodwin and Neil S. Burdick (April 13, 2004).

4 – The Adirondack Book: Great Destinations: A Complete Guide, Including Saratoga Springs, Sixth Edition by Annie Stoltie and Elizabeth Folwell (April 21, 2008).

5 – The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park by Jerry C. Jenkins and Andy Keal (Jun 30, 2004).

6 – Adirondack Home by Ralph Kylloe (Oct 19, 2005).

7 – The Adirondacks: A History of America’s First Wilderness by Paul Schneider (Sep 15, 1998).

8 – Adirondack Wildlife: A Field Guide by James M. Ryan (April 30, 2009).

9 – Adirondacks (Hardcover – April 25, 2006).

10 – Adirondack: Wilderness by Nathan Farb (Jun 16, 2009).


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lake George FUND & Waterkeeper Want Phosphorus Law

For your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure comes this delightful press release from Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. The FUND for Lake George and the Waterkeeper are working together to support state legislation to ban the sale of high phosphorus household cleaners and fertilizers. According to Navitsky, studies find 50 percent of phosphorus in stormwater runoff comes from lawn fertilizers and nine to 34 percent of phosphorus in municipal sewage treatment plants is from household cleaning products. New York law would follow laws in Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin and a law just enacted in Westchester County. You’ve got a lot of science and policy reading ahead of you, so enjoy!

Lake George – The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper support new state legislation to ban the sale of high phosphorus products used for household (and commercial) cleaning supplies and in lawn fertilizers. The impact of the widespread use of these products is that they contribute to water pollution across New York. In this action, New York follows successful legislative efforts of the state of Minnesota, which passed similar legislation in 2005, and Maine, which started its law on January 1, 2008, and Wisconsin, which just passed similar legislation in April 2009. Local laws banning phosphorus in household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers have passed a number of counties in Michigan, Florida, and Illinois, among other states such as Maryland and Vermont. In New York, Westchester County recently passed a phosphorus product sale ban in order to protect the water quality of its public drinking water supply reservoirs and the Long Island Sound. Studies of the Minnesota law found 97% compliance in retail establishments, no higher costs for consumers, and found an overall decrease in phosphorus loading to state waters.

“One pound of phosphorus can make 50-60 pounds of algae in a lake or pond” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “This state legislation would have a positive impact on Lake George where overall phosphorus levels have continued to rise due to poor lawn management, lack of stream buffers, poorly designed and managed septic systems, and high volumes of stormwater runoff. Limiting the amount of phosphorus used in fertilizers and in household cleaning products used primarily for dishwashing, is an important tool to help protect the water quality of Lake George.”

This legislation prohibits the sale or distribution of household/commercial cleaning products used in dishwashers that contain 0.5% by weight of a phosphorus compound, reduced from 8.7%, and to prohibit the use of such products in commercial establishments as of July 1, 2010. High phosphorus household cleaning detergents often include as much as 9% phosphorus and are often responsible for between 9 – 34% of the total phosphorus in municipal water treatment plants. The legislation bans the sale of fertilizers that contains 0.67% by weight of phosphorus. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that fertilizers can be responsible for 50% of the total phosphorus in stormwater runoff. Phosphorus loading continues to negatively impact Lake George.

“It’s important to limit the amount of phosphorus that is being loaded into Lake George” said Chris Navitsky, the Lake George Waterkeeper. “Each time it rains, improperly managed stormwater loads phosphorus into the lake. Phosphorus in fertilizers is being washed into Lake George, is not being absorbed into the soils and becoming absorbed into soils and is failing its intended use.”

The issue of phosphorus loading into Lake George has long been identified as a major long-term problem facing the lake. The 2001, the Lake George Park Commission published a report “Total Phosphorus Budget Analysis for the Lake George Watershed” by Sterns & Wheler, which concluded that “The majority of phosphorus loading is from surface water runoff, with a disproportionate amount of runoff derived from developed area round the lake as compared to undeveloped (forested and agricultural) areas. Although developed areas only account for 5 percent of the land area in the watershed, they produce 43 percent of all the phosphorus that enters the lake as surface runoff.” The report also calculated that Lake George is receiving 300% of the amount of phosphorus that it can naturally process.

Lake George is buffered somewhat as compared with other lakes across New York as its watershed is 95% forested. The undeveloped natural forest systems around Lake George load phosphorus to the lake. This happens as leaves and twigs that fall into the lake decay and as sediment is carried to the lake as part of the natural stream bed load, among other ways. A healthy Lake George needs phosphorus to function. Excess phosphorus causes water pollution and the natural aging processes are accelerated.

The Sterns & Wheler report stated that undeveloped areas around Lake George, which includes 95% of the entire watershed (some 141,500 acres), produces as much phosphorus as the developed 5% of the watershed (some 7,500 acres). Just 5% of the watershed around Lake George is developed with houses, roads, parking lots, barns, stores, parks, sewers, yards, and a whole lot more, whereas. 95% is still relatively wild, either in private forest lands, a backyard forest, or as part of the state’s Forest Preserve. From this 2001 study the developed areas deliver phosphorus to the Lake George at a ratio of 15-1 when compared with natural forest areas. This is consistent with research around the U.S. that compares developed areas with non-developed areas. Use of household cleaning detergents and fertilizers are part of the overall phosphorus loading problem.

As mentioned above, Lake George receives 300% more phosphorus than it can process naturally. What happens to phosphorus-rich waters? They steadily lose water clarity as transparency in the water is lost as microscopic algal life is stimulated. They stimulate greater plant growth, which is turns creates more decayed matter on the lake bottom thus changing the aquatic system as this matter accumulates. Phosphorus rich waters are also very hospitable to invasive aquatic species, such as Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM), which require high levels of nutrients. High phosphorus rates are also a human health issue as this can make water not safe to drink. High levels of phosphorus also contribute to creation each summer of a “dead zone” on Lake George where oxygen levels are depleted due to high nutrient levels making large parts of the lake unable to support fish life. Lake George has been experiencing a slow, steady decline in water quality. Land use changes and poor land use practices on just 5% of the land areas around the lake have changed the lake’s water quality.

“Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution across New York. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. In many ways, Lake George is the engine of the Warren County economy. The high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, among others, all require clean water” said Peter Bauer.

“If this legislation is unsuccessful at the state level, we would explore whether or not it’s feasible for the Lake George Park Commission to undertake a similar effort within the Lake George watershed” said Chris Navitsky.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

More: Yesterday’s 2009 Environmental Bond Act Hearing

We’ve received a little better sense of what the organizers of the green jobs bond act are looking to accomplish. It comes in testimony of Scott Lorey, Legislative Director for The Adirondack Council, at the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation Public Hearing on the Enactment of a New Environmental Bond Act yesterday morning. Since this statement details the state of environmental financing and offers a focus on watershed protection and clean water infrastructure (something the Adirondack Council has been working on), and it’s all we know so far, I’m reprinting most of it here: » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 Environmental Bond Act Pitch From Adk Council

I’m reprinting below a press release issued on the proposed $5 billion 2009 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act by John Sheehan, Director of Communications for the Adirondack Council. The bond act is also being pushed by businesses like Caterpillar and Nova Bus, and the American Cancer Society, Audubon New York, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Public Transit Association, New York State Laborers, Scenic Hudson, and The Nature Conservancy. The hope is that the targeted spending in this time of economic crises will encourage a green economy and provide more jobs. Projects include wastewater infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects. Although details are scarce (bond act organizers are waiting for the Legislature to suggest projects), I have a copy of a slightly more detailed pdf fact sheet outlining the bond act, if anyone is interested. More later today. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Water Quality Best Management Practices

Water quality best management practices are an important component for logging operations. Potential problems include sedimentation of streams and other water bodies, thermal pollution (damage by exposing stream beds to full sun for example), and biogeochemical changes (changes in soil chemistry). Forester Peter Smallidge notes that “cutting trees does not cause erosion, disturbing soil causes erosion.” Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Logging roads and skid trails should follow contours in the land.

Disturb as little soil as possible, especially along streams and stream beds. Skid in winter.

Deal with small amounts of slow moving water such a rain events by using waterbars, sediment barriers, and culverts.

Avoid streams whenever possible. Always cross streams at right angles.