Friday, February 27, 2009

Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Ill Wind

It seems every morning nowadays newspapers bring another ominous story on the poor health of, well, newspapers. Last week the publisher of the Post-Star in Glens Falls wrote to assure nervous readers and advertisers that the demise of the paper’s corporate owner, Lee Enterprises of Davenport, IA had been exaggerated. Good to know, but doesn’t it make you nervous just to have to be reassured? Last weekend the Journal Register Company of Yardley, PA–owner of The Saratogian and Troy Record–filed for bankruptcy. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, privately owned by Ogden Newspapers, Inc. of Wheeling, WV, has recently jettisoned a locally syndicated column, instituted a hiring freeze and eliminated their freelance budget. Even the parent company of the Albany Times-Union, Hearst Corp. has announced intentions to sell or fold newspapers out west.

This constant drumbeat is not good news for anyone who loves newspapers. More importantly, and to paraphrase a 56 year-old misquote, what’s bad for newspapers is bad for democracy.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Enrollment Down at Paul Smith’s, Up at NCCC


The slowdown in the economy is affecting the Adirondack Park’s two colleges in different ways.

At least twenty students have left Paul Smith’s College this year for financial reasons, president John Mills told The New York Times this week. “Their parents are losing their jobs, or they’re afraid of taking on any debt, even student loans,” Mills said to the Times. “It’s a fear of the unknown.”

Enrollment at the private two- and four-year college is 834 right now, low for a spring semester, college spokesman Kenneth Aaron explained Wednesday. Faculty and staff have taken a voluntary pay cut (from 1 to 2.5 percent) to help make ends meet, he added.

The story is different at North Country Community College (NCCC), which has campuses in Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Malone. While hard times are hurting four-year colleges across the United States, they are boosting enrollment at career-oriented community colleges.

NCCC numbers are up 8 percent (103 students) over last spring, reported Ed Trathen, vice president for enrollment and student services. Some 2,200 students attend NCCC, more than double the number 10 years ago.

“For us, it definitely has to do with people departing voluntarily or involuntarily from the workforce and looking to retrain themselves,” Trathen said. The college focuses on programs that can lead to local jobs; for example, nursing, radiologic technology, massage therapy, sports events management, and business for sole proprietors. NCCC also established a 2-year pre-teaching program that’s transferrable to SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh.

Affordability is another factor. Tuition at NCCC, which has no student housing, is $3,490 a year. At Paul Smith’s it’s $18,460, plus $8,350 for room and board.

Nurses are in demand, and NCCC received 350 applications this year for the 70 slots in its Registered Nursing program, Trathen said. In 2007 Paul Smith’s College explored launching a nursing curriculum, but no action has been taken.

Kenneth Aaron said Paul Smith’s endowment is down, just like all investment portfolios. “The silver lining is we’re not as reliant on our endowment as other institutions,” he added.

Paul Smith’s is under a hiring freeze, and NCCC is bracing for a reduction in state aid (some funding also comes from Essex and Franklin Counties). Both institutions are trying to cut costs without having to lay off faculty or trim education programs, Aaron and Trathen said.

Photograph of Paul Smiths College in the 1950s courtesy of campawful.com


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Road Salt, Moose and Other Reasons to Drive Slower

The Adirondack Council this week issued a report on drinking-water contamination and environmental damage caused by road salt throughout New York State. The advocacy group offered six steps that could curtail the pollution, such as better coordination between state and local plowing crews, preemptive deicing, and development of salt alternatives.

At the bottom of a bulleted list of recommendations was the simplest: Slow Down.

“New York should adopt an aggressive approach to encourage safer winter driving, which can include lower winter speed limits, well-placed variable message boards, and greater enforcement of safe speed limits during winter storms,” the Council said.

There are other good reasons to ease up on the gas. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Victory Over Adirondack Mercury Pollution

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Bush administration and the utility industry to reinstate a mercury-control regulation that would have allowed increased mercury pollution in the Adirondacks. According to the ADK’s Neil Woodworth, this is the “final nail in the coffin of this ill-advised regulation, which left the Adirondacks and Catskills vulnerable to continued mercury contamination.”

In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls set forth in the Clean Air Act. Here is a little history of the legal battle over mercury pollution from the Adirondack Mountain Club:

In February 2008, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) won a major victory when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the CAMR, a cap-and-trade program that allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls. CAMR resulted in regional mercury “hot spots,” and two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The appeals court ruled that the EPA mercury plan conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires each power plant to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent.

The Bush administration and the utility industry appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Obama administration withdrew the federal government’s appeal, the industry continued to pursue the case. Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the industry’s writ of certiorari, thus upholding the appeals court’s decision in the case.

The decision means that EPA must now promulgate regulations requiring each power plant to install the most advanced pollution controls to reduce its mercury emissions. Here is more from an ADK press release:

In enacting the Clean Air Act, Congress provided for strict limits on mercury emissions through the installation of maximum achievable control technology, which Congress made applicable to all coal-burning power plants. By contrast, the EPA administrative rule challenged in this lawsuit would have delayed for two decades the elimination of airborne mercury emissions as a source of mercury toxins in the Northeast.

Furthermore, the contested rule would have allowed many of the worst polluters to buy “pollution rights,” continue to release mercury up their smokestacks and perpetuate mercury hot spots in New York and the Northeast.

The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by the Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.

Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish.

Because of high mercury levels in fish from six reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs. Mercury is also present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival.

New York State recommends that no one eat more than one meal per week of fish taken from any lake, river, stream or pond in New York State. There is a complete (and disturbing) list and map of the Adirondack fish advisories from the New York State Department of Health located here. It lists 55 Adirondack lakes from which “children less than 15 years old and women who are pregnant or who might one day become pregnant should not eat any fish.”


Monday, February 23, 2009

Adirondack Almanack Adds Contributors

Big news here at Adirondack Almanack. Next month marks the fourth year of the blog and there are changes in the works, including a little redesign and two new contributors. Both are well-known folks for Adirondackers: freelance writer and editor Mary Thill and local cartoonist and commentator Mark Wilson.

Mary has worked in the Adirondacks since 1990, writing for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Lake Placid News, Plattsburgh Press-Republican, Adirondack Explorer and Adirondack Life, where she was also an editor from 2001 to 2008.

Mark’s editorial cartoons – under the pen name MARQUIL – appear in newspapers and online across New York State. He also provides editorial illustrations and occasional commentary pieces for The Sunday Gazette of Schenectady.

Mary and Mark live in Saranac Lake. Please join me in welcoming them to the Almanack.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Opinion: Our Local Media is Killing Our Democracy

The election for the 20th Congressional District is about 40 days away. Three candidates have announced. Our local news is ignoring one of them – it’s as simple as that – and now they’ve been so brazen as to tell us why.

NCPR’s political reporter Brian Mann ran a story entitled “Lightning-fast 20th race pits experienced Republican against a fresh-faced Democrat” – no mention of the other candidate, or links to his website, although the other two are linked. Then he told us on his blog:

My job is to reflect reality in my stories. So I will be covering Mr. Sundwall, though I’ll generally treat him as an “issue” or a “protest” candidate. How much coverage he receives will depend on a) how interesting, thoughtful and compelling he turns out to be; and b) the degree to which his ideas influence the campaign debate. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Frozen River, the Oscars, North Country Realism

Frozen River is nominated in two categories of tonight’s Academy Awards: best actress (the very deserving Melissa Leo) and best screenplay (by the equally deserving Courtney Hunt, who is also the film’s director).

If there were awards for North Country realism, Frozen River would run away with the all-time top honor.

The independent movie, filmed in Plattsburgh in 2007 on a budget of less than $1 million, has won 21 prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, where Quentin Tarantino called it “one of the most exciting thrillers I am going to see this year.”

The plot centers on two single mothers — one Mohawk, from the Akwesasne Reservation, and one white, living in Massena — on the financial brink. They team up to smuggle illegal immigrants across the St. Lawrence River in the trunk of a car. There is suspense inherent in driving across ice, as a North Country audience knows all too well.

Director Hunt’s husband is from Malone, and her familiarity with local detail is abundant, down to the dirty snowbanks, rez radio, Quebec strip bars, Price Chopper, Yankee One Dollar, purple ties on State Troopers, and WPTZ weatherman Tom Messner giving a perky forecast of 30-below on a Rent-to-Own TV that’s always on inside the trailer of Ray Eddy, the character portrayed by Leo.

The movie also examines the jurisdictional ambiguities of the smuggling economy at Akwesasne, a nation unto itself straddling the U.S.-Canada border.

Other efforts in the bleak-North-Country genre (including an adaptation of Russell Banks’s The Sweet Hereafter, and Vermonter Jay Craven’s Northeast Kingdom movies) seem to sacrifice verisimilitude for art or convenience. Perhaps the truest antecedent for Frozen River is the ice-crossing scene in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, filmed in Port Henry in 1927 (excerpts can be seen here).

Frozen River was released on DVD earlier this month. Trivia/spoiler note: Michael O’Keefe, the actor portraying the State Trooper, played Danny Noonan in Caddyshack 29 years ago.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

DEC Closes Four Adirondack Campgrounds


View Larger Map
According to a Times-Union story, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will close four campgrounds within the Blue Line. The four campgrounds are:

•Sharp Bridge in North Hudson on the Schroon River;
•Poke-O-Moonshine in Chesterfield;
•Tioga Point on Raquette Lake;
•Point Comfort on Piseco Lake.

The move is a cost-saving measure, targeting low-traffic campgrounds. None of the 38 remaining DEC Adirondack campgrounds will be affected.

ReserveAmerica, the company handling DEC campground reservations, will contact anyone holding reservations at the four campgrounds to offer alternatives.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Ebenezer Emmons


1799-1863. As Chief Geologist for the northern New York State Geological District, Emmons is credited with leading the first recorded ascent up Mount Marcy in 1837. In a paper submitted to the New York State Assembly on this date in 1838, he gave the Adirondacks its name.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Bobsled, Skeleton World Championships Start Today

The Bauhaus FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships come to Lake Placid February 20-March 1 at the Olympic Sports Complex. The sliders will compete on the famous mile-long track down Mt. Van Hoevenberg with hopes of being crowned a 2009 World Champion.

This is the ninth time that Lake Placid has hosted the Bobsled World Championships, and the second time hosting the Skeleton World Championships, with the last ones being in 2003. The 2009 World Championships features athletes from over 20 countries competing in five disciplines: men’s and women’s skeleton, women’s bobsled, two-man bobsled and four-man bobsled. The competition consists of four runs over two days for each discipline, with the lowest combined time sled being crowned champion. This is the last major sliding event for these athletes leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

The Bauhaus FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships begin on Friday, Feb. 20 at 8:30 AM with the first two runs of the women’s bobsled competition. Saturday’s action begins with the final two runs of the women’s bobsled event at 8:30 AM, followed by the first two runs of the two-man competition at 1 PM. Sunday morning also starts at 8:30 AM with the last runs of the two-man bobsled. The Team Event wraps up the first week of competition at 1 PM Sunday afternoon.

The second week of the World Championships starts with the women’s skeleton competition at 9 AM Thursday, Feb. 26. The women return to the track Friday morning, Feb. 27, at 8:30 AM with their final two runs. Men’s skeleton kicks off their competition at 1 PM with the first two heats Friday afternoon. The four-man bobsled teams begin their event on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 9 AM, followed by the final two runs in the men’s skeleton competition at 1 PM. The World Championships wrap up on Sunday, March 1, at 9 AM with the final two runs of the event, in four-man bobsled.

There are two Lake Placid World Fest parties slated for Feb. 22 and Feb. 28. The party starts at 3 PM and runs until 6:30 PM at the Mirror Lake Beach. These free community festivals will have live music, food vendors, games, a kids’ area, fireworks and more! Russ Cook and Brad Hurlburt as well as Zip City provide the live music Feb. 22 while Slyde and Raisinhead take to the stage Feb. 28.

Spectators at the Bauhaus FIBT World Champions can visit the Whiteface Zone each Saturday and Sunday during the event, located trackside, and pick up a lift ticket good for Whiteface from March 1 through the end of the season for only $25!

Sandra Kiriasis of Germany won her seventh straight FIBT World Cup title for women’s bobsled. Kiriasis, the five-time defending World Champion and defending Olympic Champion, earned 1679 points to easily with the title. Teammate Cathleen Martini finished the season in second place, with 1599 points, while Shauna Rohbock of the United States took third, with 1440 points. Rohbock won silver at the 2006 Olympics, and has two bronze medals from the World Championships.

Switzerland’s Beat Hefti won his first two-man bobsled World Cup overall title this season as he amassed 1581 total points to win the Joska trophy. Hefti, an Olympic brakeman, is in his rookie season driving on the World Cup. Andre Lange of Germany finished second overall with 1501, followed by teammate Thomas Florschuetz with1453. Lange is the defending World and Olympic champion in both the two-man and four-man bobsled. He has three Olympic gold medals as well as 13 World Championships medals, including eight gold ones. The last time the World Championships were in Lake Placid, in 2003, Lange won both disciplines.

Aleksandr Zubkov of Russia captured both the FIBT World Cup Four-Man and Combined titles. This was his first four-man title since 2004. Zubkov finished in the four-man standings with 1646 total points while Janis Minnis of Latvia finished the season in second place with 1549. Lange ended the season in third with 1251, followed by U.S. driver Steve Holcomb in fourth with 1224 points.

Zubkov won the combined two-man and four-man title with 2967 points while Hefti, the 2008-2009 2-man World Cup champion, was second with 2765, followed by Lange, 2752.

Germany’s Marion Trott won this year’s FIBT Women’s Skeleton World Cup Tour title. Trott won two of the last three races of the season to clinch her first World Cup title with 1572 total points. Great Britain’s Amy Williams barely held off American slider Katie Uhlaender to claim second place overall. Williams finished with 1468 points while Uhlaender was just two points behind with 1466 for third. Uhlaender finished second in last year’s World Championships at Altenberg, Germany, and is hoping to win the gold on her home track. 2008 World Champion Anja Huber of Germany returns to Lake Placid with hopes of retaining her title.

Alexander Tretiakov of Russia completed a sweep in the final races of the season to secure his first FIBT Men’s Skeleton World Cup title. Tretiakov finished the season with 1526 total points. German teammates Florian Grassl and Frank Rommel finished in second and third places, respectively. Grassl ended the season with 1453 points while Rommel had 1436. Rommel won the bronze medal in last year’s World Championships, while Grassl finished fourth. Defending World Champion Kristan Bromley of Great Britain, who finished tenth in the standings is returning to Lake Placid with hopes of winning another World Championship title.

Tickets for the Bauhaus FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships are on sale now. Single day tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for juniors (ages 7-12) and seniors (65 and over). Guests may purchase a Silver Pass good for all three days for just $19. Tickets may be purchased at the Olympic Center Box Office in person or by phone (518) 523-3330, online, or at any area Price Chopper store. Visit the ORDA Store on Main Street in Lake Placid to pick up FREE tickets, while supplies last. Please visit www.lakeplacid2009.com for all ticket packages and more event information.


Friday, February 20, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, February 20, 2009

Alternative Home Power Program at The Wild Center

The Wild Center will be presenting a program by Jim Juczak on “Alternative Power sources for Your Home: Wind, Solar, and Wood” tomorrow Saturday, February 21st at 1 pm in the Flammer Theatre. There is a lot of information on alternative energy systems available and it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Jim Juczak will describe how wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and wood heaters work and how they can be installed in your community or on your own home. As the cost of non-renewable energy rises, using locally produced, renewable energy systems will become much more important. This program will attempt to demystify and simplify your understanding of these important sources of power.

James S. Juczak is from Adams Center, NY has been a middle school and high school shop teacher for 26 years, with a strong focus on teaching his students practical skills. He and his wife, Krista, founded Woodhenge in 1997- it is an off-grid, mortgage-free intentional community. Their property is intended as a living museum for alternative energy, alternative structures and alternative food production systems serving as a working example in sustainability for local communities. They grow and preserve more than half of their food using traditional methods. Jim is on a leave of absence from his public school job in order to write, lecture and farm. His book: “The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging” will be published in the Spring of 2009. He was featured by the Science Channel’s Invention Nation program on building wind turbines from scratch.

For more information visit www.wildcenter.org or call 518-359-7800. The program is free for members or with paid admission.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Canadians Prepare for President Obama’s Visit


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Federal Stimulus and The Rooftop Highway

The signing this week of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–the federal economic stimulus package–has spurred a stampede of applicants for financial assistance from every state and every sector of the economy. The State of New York has posted a website spelling out how much of the overall $789 billion will come our way and roughly what types of projects will receive what share over the next two years. To wit: the $789 billion total is divided into $326 billion worth of tax cuts and $463 billion in direct spending. Of that $463 billion, $24.6 billion will come to New York State, and (for example) $1.1 billion of that will be distributed across the state for highway and bridge projects.

This cannot be good news for supporters of the Northern Tier Expressway (aka the Rooftop Highway), the proposed 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain.

Endorsements from a diverse spectrum of politicians ranging from Richard Nixon to Hillary Clinton have kept this project limping along for nearly fifty years, an eternity for most public works concepts. Persisting doubts about the potential return on the estimated one billion dollar cost of the road have kept the roadway on the drawing board. Any hopes that the federal stimulus might rescue it from its bureaucratic limbo are now pretty well dashed.

While the final draft shows the roadway approaching the Adirondack Park no closer than two miles at its nearest point (near Ellenburg), the potential economic and environmental impacts would spread far inside the Blue Line. In 1999, The New York Times reported Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club supporting the road as a way to open up the western regions of the park to hikers, relieving the congestion in the high peaks. More recently, concerns raised over the impact of highways on wildlife migration patterns have conditioned the enthusiasm. In its conservation report issued last month, the Laurentian Chapter’s incoming vice-chair Peter O’Shea suggests it might be time to take the project off life-support before any federal stimulus money attaches to it.

One final, picky thought on the matter: Anyone who understands metaphor and knows the first thing about house construction can tell you that the nickname, Rooftop Highway is all wrong. Rooftops are exterior surfaces, existing above the space in question. Seen in this light, a Rooftop Highway already exists: Highway 401 just across our rigorously-guarded frontier in Canada. As for the proposed road above the Blue Line and below the border, perhaps renaming it the “Attic Crawl Space Highway” might help lower our expectations.



Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.

Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.