Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Unfinished business

boat stewards

Sometimes in the environmental protection field there’s a celebration of achievements before they’re fully realized. Case in point: We recently reported that a state road salt task force that was celebrated as a potential win for Adirondack water quality was not actually a done deal, as the governor has yet to appoint its members.

When the governor announced his resignation, another such premature victory came to light: The state’s new boat inspection law to prevent movement of invasive species in the park’s waters still awaits a governor’s signature. We reported on that law’s passage months ago, but technically, it’s not reality yet.

Environmental groups are hopeful that incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul will finish the job. The Adirondack Council’s Willie Janeway said this about it in a news release: “Many of the state’s functions inside the Adirondack Park have ground to a halt as the executive branch of government succumbed to administrative paralysis while the current Governor attempted to defend his actions. As Kathy Hochul becomes governor, the entire state will have an opportunity to heal and make progress again.”

It’s important work, as is the road salt study, septic and sewage management and proposed new surveys of park lakes’ changing ecology. We’ll see how the new governor approaches these problems.

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

Photo courtesy of Adirondack Watershed Institute


Monday, August 30, 2021

Green tips for back-to-school supplies

school suppliesChildren are enjoying the activities of summer riding their bikes, swinging on the playgrounds, swimming, and creating art and games with sidewalk chalk. Meanwhile, we are starting to see the store aisles filled with backpacks, lunch boxes, pens, notebooks, and other supplies. A lot of green is spent when it comes to back to school shopping. But instead of spending green – there are lots of ways to save green. When it comes to school supplies, an important concept to keep in mind is “precycling,” — that is thinking through future purchases to reduce, delay, or eliminate creating waste.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Upper Saranac Monitoring Platform reports daily from the lake

The Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) has launched a new interactive website to display near real-time data on water quality and weather conditions on Upper Saranac Lake.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Caring for Your Trees After a Caterpillar Outbreak 

gypsy mothsDo you have trees in your yard that were defoliated during the caterpillar outbreak this year? (Read more about it here)

Most healthy trees can withstand a couple years of leaf loss from caterpillar damage. Long-term damage depends on the type of tree as well as how much defoliation took place:

  • Hardwoods – A healthy leaf-bearing tree should have grown new leaves by now, though leaves may be smaller than usual. If your tree lost all its leaves and does not grow any new ones by summer’s end, watch it in the spring. If it still does not leaf out next spring, it has died.
  • Conifers – If your needle-bearing trees lost more than 50 percent of their needles, there’s a good chance they probably won’t recover. Keep an eye on them in the coming seasons, and if you have concerns or think the tree could endanger a house if it were to fall, contact an arborist.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Adirondack Water Week celebrates our waterways  

Mirror Lake Scientist provided by AsRA

Adirondack Water Week kicks off on Sunday, August 22 and runs through Saturday, August 28 this year. The annual event is a collaborative celebration of the region’s freshwater resources and precious watersheds. Co-hosted by the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, Northwood School, and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, Water Week was created to raise awareness of value of our waterways.

“We rely on our Adirondack waterways for drinking, recreation, tourism, and basic ecosystem functions”, said Dan Kelting the executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute. “This annual celebration is a chance for the public to reflect on the importance of freshwater, get out and enjoy our waterways, and perhaps experience something new.”

This year’s Water Week includes a self-guided Watershed Walk around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, a river clean-up and invasives pull in the Boquet River watershed, guided paddling tours, science talks, watershed educational programs, and much more.

“Wool and Water” is a unique project that kicks off during Water Week. It blends fiber arts with scientific data. Led by AWI’s director of science and fiber artist, Michale Glennon, the project visualizes changing water conditions through knitting and crocheting. Michale’s work will be displayed at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor’s Interpretive Center starting Monday, August 23.

In addition to scheduled programs, organizers encourage the public to simply get out and enjoy their waterways during Water Week and if so inclined to tag their social media posts with #adkwaterweek.

“Go for a paddle, sit by a lake, or take a walk in your watershed”, said Zoë Smith, AWI’s deputy director. “It’s a time to appreciate the value that water brings to our everyday lives.”

All events are open to the general public and more information can be found on the Water Week calendar at adkwatershed.org/community/events.

Mirror Lake research photo provided by Ausable River Association


Friday, August 20, 2021

Distressing (not quite) fall colors

early fall color

Being first isn’t always a good thing. For example, trees that are first to have their leaves turn color are definitely losers. Premature autumn leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn. Although the display of colors that our hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation, when it starts in late July or early August, it worries me.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Award-winning water reporting

road salt truck

One of the Adirondack Explorer’s priorities over the last couple of years has been to thoroughly explain the park’s hidden water quality issues, including the problems associated with New York State’s heavy use of road salt in winter. So it was a nice affirmation recently when the Society of Environmental Journalists honored that work, and reporter Ry Rivard, with an honorable mention.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 16, 2021

Lesson from Wetland Hydrology 101

Many, many years ago I entered graduate school at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. My graduate interests lay primarily in water resources, so I searched that first semester for a lead professor/advisor in that vast field – and, due to recent retirements, found none.

As luck would have it, a Ph.D. candidate hosted a course in basic wetland hydrology 101 that fall. He was young, energetic, no nonsense kind of person, a stickler for getting out in the field and measuring things like water flow, water inputs, outputs and what was going on underneath our feet and the wet soils he was interested in. He took us to interesting places called bogs, fens, and cedar swamps requiring hip boots. We saw great swamp trees, like tupelos or black gum. We brought back funny looking, stained sketches of bogs and fens, with arrows showing what we thought was the direction of water flow pointing in various directions. I learned that a fen was a kind of boggy wetland where surface and/or ground water flowed through, introducing minerals and oxygenated conditions and thus making a fen somewhat less mineral impoverished than a bog lacking such through flow.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Spruce Blues and Wet-Weather Woes

blue spruceWhen I’m asked to diagnose tree problems, folks naturally want the remedy. Sometimes the only solution is tree removal; other times it’s a cable brace, pest management, corrective pruning or fertilizing. But increasingly, the diagnosis is climate change. If anyone knows how to solve that through an arboricultural practice, please let me know. 

With rising temperatures, a novel weather pattern has taken hold with longer and more intense dry and wet periods. In 2012 many areas had the lowest soil moisture ever recorded. Nonstop rain in 2013 led to flooding and farm disaster relief. A drought in 2016 set more records in some places, and catastrophic flooding hit in 2017. Drought followed in 2018, and 2019 was another massive flood year. Prolonged dry spells cause root dieback, weakening trees for several years afterward. But unusually wet seasons are just as bad for trees.

(Photo at left: Mundhenk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

How to Report a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)

harmful algal bloom, aka HABDEC’s harmful algal bloom (HABs) notification season has begun. HABs notifications will be updated through the fall using an online reporting and notification system dubbed NYHABS. The system includes an interactive map that shows reports of freshwater HABs, as well as a public reporting system. Instructions on how to use NYHABS are on DEC’s HABs notification page.

Know it:  If you see a HAB, please use the reporting form to submit a report to NYHABS.

Avoid it:  Because waterbodies may have HABs that have not been reported to DEC, we recommend avoiding contact with floating mats, scums and discolored water.

Report it: If you, your family, or pet have been in contact with a HAB, please rinse with clean water and report any symptoms to your local health department.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 9, 2021

Adirondack Watershed Institute releases 2020 stewardship report

 Boat stewards serve on the frontlines to prevent the spread of invasive species in Adirondack waterways. Photo provided by Adirondack Watershed Institute.

Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (PSC AWI) released its Annual Stewardship Program report for the 2020 boating season. The publication summarizes data on aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prevention and highlights achievements from the previous summer field season.

The report, which can be found on adkwatershed.org/publications, states that six species of aquatic invasive species were found on boats in the Adirondacks in 2020, none of which were new to the region.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Oak wilt: No laughing matter

leaf and whole tree symptoms of oak wilt in a red oak treeIt’s normal to tune out all the Chicken Littles (such as yours truly) who run around squawking about this or that invasive forest pest or disease that pose a threat to trees. I mean, how many times can the sky fall, anyway? But the real danger is when we feel so overwhelmed that we throw up our hands. Thinking we can’t make a difference could result in more harm to forests than the pests themselves.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Follow the discussion on Lake George

lake georgeRecently, the Explorer’s Gwendolyn Craig reported that the Lake George Park Commission had assembled a committee to consider the effects of septic systems on the lake’s water, and to discuss whether or how to regulate them. At its meeting today, the commission announced that Essex and Washington counties had joined Warren County on the committee, providing representation for all lands around the lake.

This question of septics and other possible sources of nutrient pollution in the “Queen of American Lakes” is a topic in which the Explorer has invested a considerable amount of reporting, as wastewater pollution is emerging as a top priority in the Adirondacks. We’ll continue following it and explaining how it may affect homeowners, vacationers and the environment. In the meantime, this new committee will meet today, Aug. 5, and you can find information for following that discussion online by clicking this link.

Lake George photo from the Almanack archive

This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to subscribe.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Harmful algal blooms are here

harmful algal bloomsIt’s harmful algal bloom season, and Lake George had its first reported one of the season last week.

Getting information about it was messy. The Lake George Association first reported the suspicious bloom, found during a routine Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program survey, to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC staff confirmed it was a harmful algal bloom and posted that information on its notifications page. I saw that report and requested information from both LGA staff and the DEC. What then ensued was a back-and-forth between DEC and LGA, via email and phone. It was clear that though the bloom was documented a couple of days before, no one was on the same page about how to get information out about it. There was even discrepancy over whether to call it a harmful algal bloom.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Was the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Duped?

upper saranac

APA mandate is to “ensure compliance with the laws the Agency administers” including the New York State Freshwater Wetlands Act. Instead, APA did the exact opposite with a recent decision permitting the virtual destruction of a Category 1 Wetland- the highest designation for a wetland – on Lot 9, Deerwood, Upper Saranac Lake (USL). For no apparent reason, other than convenience of the new landowner, APA issued an amended permit.

» Continue Reading.