Bolton’s new Cross Street parking lot, built on a residential parcel purchased by the town for $257,000 in 2014, is poised to become the first municipal project to be awarded LID certification by the Lake George Waterkeeper.
LID, as Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky explains, is an acronym for Low Impact Development. Projects that disturb landscapes the least and leave the lake’s water quality undiminished are eligible for LID certification – much as green buildings are LEED certified. » Continue Reading.
The leaders of Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George are the first to seek LID certification from the Lake George Waterkeeper.
LID is an acronym for Low Impact Development, and the projects that disturb landscapes the least and leave the lake’s water quality undiminished will be LID certified – much as green buildings are LEED certified. » Continue Reading.
Since the 1970s, scientists and officials have been aware that the Lake George Waste Water Treatment plant has been discharging unacceptably high levels of nitrates through ground water, into West Brook and ultimately, into Lake George.
“Nitrates are probably the single, biggest influence on the water quality in the West Brook watershed, and the treatment plant is the single largest source of nitrates,” says Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
According to Navitsky, excessive levels of nitrate stimulate the growth of weeds and algae and can endanger fish life, the quality of drinking water, recreation and even human health. “Fortunately, we haven’t reached that level yet,” he said, adding that after Lake George Village completes the second phase of improvements to its waste water treatment plant, which it has committed itself to undertaking after being cited by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, we won’t. » Continue Reading.
The 5th Annual L.O.V.E. the Lake Paddle Fest will be held on Saturday, July 12, 2014, at Shepard Park in Lake George Village, from 10 am to 5 pm. This family-friendly event promotes paddler safety and resource stewardship through on-water demos, vendors, live music, and more. The event is co-sponsored by the American Canoe Association (ACA) and the Lake George Waterkeeper. It is free and open to the public.
Paddle Fest is the culminating event of the L.O.V.E. the Lake Memorial Paddle — Starting in Ticonderoga at 1:00 pm on July 11th and ending in Lake George Village on the 12th. The lake-long Memorial Paddle honors Peter Snyder and Stephen Canady who lost their lives in separate paddling incidents on Lake George in 2010. Interested paddlers can join in for shorter stretches of the trip. » Continue Reading.
Clean water advocate and distance paddler Margo Pellegrino will shoot for a speed record for paddling the length of Lake George from Moss Point to Shepard Park this Saturday (July 20th). Her attempt will be one of several events scheduled for the 4th annual Love the Lake Paddle on Lake George.
On her outrigger canoe, Pellegrino has paddled the entire Atlantic Coast from Miami to Maine, the Pacific Coast from Seattle to Sand Diego, and the Gulf Coast advocating for clean oceans and watersheds. » Continue Reading.
As the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort in Tupper Lake wound its way through the approval process, two planning consultants separately recommended in 2008 that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) require clustering of homes in the backcountry. Under a draft clustering policy written by one consultant, the resort’s “Great Camp” estates would have consumed 280 acres of forest instead of 2,800 acres.
“The same number of homes could have been constructed, but the project would have been largely concentrated near the [Big Tupper] ski area,” said Jeff Lacy, a consultant in Shutesbury, Mass., who proposed the policy on behalf of the Adirondack Council. “My guess is it would be under construction today rather than under review by a court.” » Continue Reading.
The environmental impacts of dredging the deltas that develop at the mouths of Lake George’s tributaries will receive a second look from conservation agencies and advocacy groups.
New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has agreed to conduct the new review, which will include a study of methods to be used to dredge deltas around the lake, including those at the outlets of Hague, Finkle and Indian Brooks.
The review will constitute an update of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the “Lake George Delta Sediment Management/ Shoreline Restoration Project,” approved by the Lake George Park Commission in 2002. The Lake George Association has formally requested the new review, said Walt Lender, the LGA’s executive director.
“We were very involved in drafting the original Environmental Impact Statement, and we felt it was necessary to supplement the original by investigating new methods of dredging so they’ll be fully vetted,” said Lender.
The review should be completed by autumn, 2011, said Lender.
The decision to conduct a new review apparently resolves a deadlock over whether to dredge a delta at the mouth of Finkle Brook, in Bolton Landing.
The proposed method of dredging the delta, called mechanical dredging, was not one authorized when the original Environmental Impact Statement was approved, the Lake George Park Commission said in a resolution adopted in September.
The project as designed might have unintended environmental impacts, the Commission stated.
According to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, who also objected to the plan to employ mechanical dredging, “While that method – using a steam shovel and scraping the lake bottom – may be the least expensive, it’s one that’s most damaging to the lake.” Walt Lender said he hoped mechanical dredging would be approved during the supplemental review so that it could be used at Finkle Brook and other sites around the lake.
According to Lender, an excavator builds its own “access pads” of dredged material as it moves out from shore. The excavator is then reversed, removing the sediment as it returns to shore. The sediment is then transported by truck to a nearby landfill.
Chris Navitsky, however, says the access pads are roads constructed in the lake which, even after they have been removed, will damage the lake and shoreline.
Navitsky also claims the dredging will allow nutrients to escape, creating algae blooms.
Photo: A large Lake George delta, this one at the mouth of English Brook in Lake George Village. Courtesy of Lake George Association.
Joe Martens, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s choice to become the state’s new Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, was instrumental in protecting the 1,423-acre Berry Pond Tract on Prospect Mountain that includes the headwaters of West Brook.
Protecting the land was a crucial part of the West Brook Conservation Initiative, a $15 million project to restore the water quality of Lake George’s south basin; as president of the Open Space Institute, Martens arranged a $2.64 million loan to the Lake George Land Conservancy to buy the property. “We wouldn’t have been able to protect the Berry Pomd Tract without OSI, and Joe Martens was instrumental in securing the OSI’s loan to the Conservancy,” said Nancy Williams, executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“Joe Martens understood the importance of the Berry Pond tract and the necessity to protect it from development if we are to protect the water quality of Lake George,” said Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association.
When Cuomo announced that he would nominate Martens to head the Department of Environmental Conservation on January 4, Lake George conservation groups were unanimous in their praise.
“Joe Martens has a strong grasp of the importance of Lake George to this area’s economy and way of life. We expect him to be an advocate for protecting the environment around the state and around Lake George; we all know that when we protect the lake, we protect this area’s most important economic asset,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.
“It’s a positive sign that someone who’s already familiar with our issues, who has an intimate knowledge of Lake George and the Adirondacks, has been appointed to the position,” said Lender.
“We feel his experience and leadership on conservation issues will set a good precedent for the Department and hopefully sets a strong commitment for the new administration on environmental issues,” said Chris Navitsky, Lake George Waterkeeper.
According to The Fund for Lake George, Martens brings a long resume in state government to the new position. In addition to serving as president of the Open Space Institute and president of ORDA, he worked in the State Legislature, as an administrator at the Adirondack Park Agency, and as a top environmental aide to Governor Mario Cuomo.
Martens studied Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and received an M.S. in Resource Management from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. Photo: Tim Barnett, Adirondack Nature Conservancy; Dave Decker, Lake George Watershed Coalition; Peter Bauer, The Fund for Lake George; Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Village; Walt Lender, Lake George Association; Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward; DEC Region 5 director Betsy Lowe; Nancy Williams, Lake George Land Conservancy; with Joe Martens in Lake George to announce the protection of the Berry Pond Tract, 2008.
The Lake George Watershed Coalition will hold it’s 6th Annual Forum on Water Quality & Resource Conservation on Tuesday, October 5th at the Fort William Henry Conference Center. Speakers at the event will include Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Waterkeepers Chris Navitsky and Kathy Bozony, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Laurel Gailor and more. A panel discussion will focus on the West Brook watershed project. Registration begins at 8:15, and the cost to attend, including lunch, is $25. Click here for a registration form. Here’s the full agenda:
Welcome Address – Department of State/Mayor Blais
The State of your Lake: Influence of Land-use on Stream Chemistry within the Lake George Watershed DFWI – Mark Swinton PhD & Charles Boylen PhD
Stream Assessment Report Results Chris Navitsky, P.E., LG Waterkeeper
Observations on the Impact of Fireworks Displays on Water Quality Emily Debolt, LGA
Documented Observations of Increased Algal Blooms in Lake George Kathy Bozony, LG Waterkeeper
Invasives in the Watershed Laurel Gailor, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Watershed Headwaters & Their Importance to Water Quality Rebecca Schneider PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Presentation of Stewardship Awards Mayor Blais
Prudent Measures for Turf Management – Property Management in Critical Watershed Areas Frank Ross PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension
* Town Highway Department Stormwater Improvement Project * Eurasian Watermilfoil Management Program * The Floating Classroom * Lake Steward Program * Shepard Park – Native Plantings Demonstration Project * Upland Protection Activities * Do It Yourself – Water Quality Guide
Panel Discussion: The West Brook Watershed Stormwater Improvement & Conservation Initiative – Update
Roundtable Discussion: Watershed Management – Challenges & Success in our Watershed & Others Across the State.
Photo: Lake George, courtesy the Lake George Watershed Coalition.
The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.
The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board. “The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.
“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”
The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.
“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”
“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”
Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.
Every small town has its stars. Rolf Ronning was one of Bolton’s. The only child of a wealthy, well-educated couple, he graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1966 and earned two Masters, a doctorate and a law degree before returning to his hometown in 1977.
A little more than a decade later, he was in prison, convicted of possessing and conspiring to sell cocaine.
“I embarrassed myself and my children with those drug charges,” says Ronning. “My wife and I have tried to make it up to them. My daughter is at St. Lawrence and wants to go to law school. My son wants to get his PhD and teach. I want to succeed for them. I can’t give up.” Released from prison in 1992, Ronning returned to Bolton Landing. Stripped of his license to practice law, he turned to real estate development, in which he made millions of dollars.
Now he’s lost most of those millions. Foreclosure proceedings have been brought against five of his properties, including his lakefront home.
The state of Ronning’s financial affairs is threatening to overwhelm his latest project, one that he hopes will redeem his fortune and his reputation: a ski area on one hundred acres near Exit 24 of the Adirondack Northway.
“I wish I could appear before the Town Board and the various agencies as a financially secure individual, but the rumors that I am in financial difficulty are true,” said Ronning.
Ronning concedes that title to the property, once envisioned as a residential subdivision to be called Westwood Forest, could end up in court.
“There’s litigation regarding the validity and enforceability of the mortgages,” said Ronning, guardedly and obscurely.
Some of those mortgages, he added, are held by companies controlled by “a person who loans money at high interest rates but whose name never appears on documents.”
At a Bolton public hearing on a proposal to permit ski centers in two areas currently zoned for rural and residential uses, a letter was read aloud by Supervisor Ron Conover from someone whom Ronning believes is affiliated with one of those companies.
“Rolf Ronning is not capable of handling a ski resort as he hasn’t the proper funds. He owes the investors involved in Westwood Forest over one million dollars. He is broke. It will be just a matter of time before Ronning loses all his properties,” wrote Gloria Dingee.
Ronning said he was surprised that Conover read the letter aloud, since it had no bearing on the issue before the Town Board, which at that point was nothing more than a change in zoning rules.
As Conover himself says, “the zoning change is not being undertaken on behalf of any particular project; we’re doing it to increase opportunities for appropriate development within the Town.” Nevertheless, Ronning would be its first beneficiary.
“We’ve all felt the effects of the Sagamore closing for the winter, and a ski center might bring visitors back to Bolton in winter and be good for the residents as well,” said Ronning.
According to Ronning, the ski area would consist of a 1,570 foot long double chairlift, a T-bar and a lodge.
“We’re contemplating night skiing and summer activities that would complement the nearby Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course,” said Ronning.
Snow could be made by drawing water from a nearby brook, an idea that Department of Environmental Conservation officials in Warrensburg found reasonable, according to Ronning.
As many as fifty people would be employed every winter, said Ronning.
“This is still in the conceptual stages,” said Ron Mogren of Saratoga Associates, who drafted preliminary plans for the ski area, tentatively named “Thrill Hill.”
But if he can secure at least some of the necessary permits, the investors will come, Ronning says.
Bolton’s Town Board deferred its decision on whether to approve the zoning changes for another month, but Ronning said he remained optimistic.
“I’d be unrealistic if I wasn’t concerned about how people’s views of me might affect this, but I hope that the Town Board, the Planning Board and the others will judge the project on its merits, not on what they might think of me,” he said.
After the meeting, Ronning sought out Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky to show him the plans for the ski area.
The Waterkeeper has brought several lawsuits against subdivisions planned by Ronning, and at times Ronning has publicly accused the Waterkeeper of deliberately attempting to bankrupt him.
But on the surface, the two are cordial toward one another, as is often the case in small towns, even with the most antagonistic relationships.
Navitsky, however, was non-committal.
“It looks interesting, Rolf,” was the extent of his comments.
“I’m trying to do the right thing,” said Ronning. “Every day I wake up and promise myself I’ll do my best. Day by day, that’s how I keep going.”
Editors Note: The Lake George Mirror rents office space from Bell Point Realty, which is owned by Rolf Ronning.
From the heights of Bolton Landing, the views are of water, islands and mountains covered with forests that have not been disturbed for a century or more.
But from a boat on Lake George or from the opposite shore, the hills of Bolton Landing might remind some of a spawling suburb; houses creep along the crests and ridges, all designed with one goal in mind: to capture as much of the view as possible.
Despite the protests of groups like the Lake George Waterkeeper and The Fund for Lake George, more houses on ridge lines have been proposed.
And there appears to be little the environmental groups can do about it. Bolton’s own comprehensive plan calls for the protection of the town’s hillsides, but that plan has yet to be translated into specific rules.
In the absence of regulations, the town’s Planning Board must work with developers to make roads and houses as unobtrusive as possible and to limit the numbers of trees that are felled.
“The challenge of the board is to allow development without changing the natural environment,” said Kathy Bozony, The Fund for Lake George’s land use co-ordinator.
One proposed development that will change the environment, representatives of the environmental protection organizations claim, includes a mile-long road up a mountainside where houses will be built.
The road and houses will be visible from the lake, the town-owned Conservation park and the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Cat Mountain preserve.
In December, for the third time in twelve months, the Planning Board reviewed the proposal.
According to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, the development will “become a permanent fixture of the viewshed from Cat Mountain, one of the most prominent peaks on the western shore of the lake. The clearing and disturbance is excessive and will have an impact on the resources of the community for generations to come.”
“We’re’re sensitive to viewshed preservation,” said Peter Loyola of CLA Site, the Saratoga-based architecture and design firm that planned the road and home sites. “But there’s a dilemna; the higher the home, the better the view. We want the houses to have some views of the lake.”
According to Loyola, the developers worked with the Town to create the most comprehensive and stringent program ever proposed in Bolton to mitigate the effects of tree cutting at the site, including stiff, enforceable fines for cutting trees once the houses were constructed.
“In twenty years, you won’t even see the houses,” said Loyola. Anyone violating the prohibition on tree cutting could be fined as much as $35,000 per violation, Loyola said.
But John Gaddy, a member of the Planning Board, said he questioned the efficacy of tree-cutting restrictions. “We’ve tried re-vegetation programs; they’re abused to get views. The Town won’t be a strong enforcer because it does not want to become the Tree Police,” said Gaddy. Moreover, he said, “There’s too much disturbance and the houses are in too sensitive an area for me to support this project.”
Gaddy and another Planning Board voted against the project at the December meeting, just as they had at the two earlier meetings. With two members absent, having recused themselves, the proposal could not muster the support of a majority.
But according to lawyers for the developers, that vote does not mean the project has been denied. Instead, citing state law and local zoning codes, they argue that a stalemate constitutes “no action” rather than a denial. They assert the application must be deemed approved by default.
“We’re very disappointed the town could not reach a decision on one of its most controversial projects,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “We’re contemplating legal challenges if the deadlock is treated as an approval.”
The FUND for Lake George, a not-for-profit, privately funded organization dedicated to the protection of Lake George that was formed in 1980, will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting on July 10th at the Lake George Club, beginning at 10:00 AM. The meeting will include an overview of the major issues confronting Lake George and the major programs and projects of the FUND, the Lake George Waterkeeper, and their partners. This year, the FUND will honor the Lake George Land Conservancy with the James D. Corbett Award. Since its creation, the LGLC has protected over 12,000 acres around Lake George, including over three miles of undeveloped shoreline areas. The LGLC’s work has helped landowners protect their lands, increased public access to wild areas, protected priceless undeveloped shoreline areas, helped protect the lake’s upland scenic beauty, and helped to protect water quality around the lake through preserving land in a natural state.
Past recipients include Lake George Mayor Robert Blais and past Chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Bill Thomas for their leadership in organizing the West Brook Conservation Initiative, Dr. Carol Collins for her leadership on Lake George protection efforts over the past 25 years, and the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute for its long-term commitment to scientific study of Lake George.
In honor of Jim Corbett, The FUND for Lake George established an award in his memory. The Corbett Award recognizes an individual or organization whose work to protect Lake George continues the tradition of Jim Corbett’s passion and commitment to the lake. James Corbett had a tremendous passion for Lake George. He spent part of all of his 89 years here on the lake. As a senior partner with Merrill Lynch, Jim’s business career was on Wall Street where he was known as “Gentleman Jim.” Due to his integrity and sound thinking, upon retiring in 1970, Jim and his wife Amy became permanent residents of Huletts Landing. Jim’s passion for the Lake got him heavily involved with the Lake George Association and later he was the founder of The FUND for Lake George. Not only did Jim give endless hours of his time to preserve Lake George, he shared his treasures. He was a man of action dedicated to this lake.
2009 FUND for Lake George Annual Meeting Agenda
10:00 Welcome & Refreshments 10:15 Introductions and Agenda 10:20 Board of Trustees Business 10:30 FUND Treasurer’s Report 10:45 Program Reports: Lake George Waterkeeper 11:45 Break 12:00 Lunch: James D. Corbett Award to the Lake George Land Conservancy 12:30 Program Reports 2:00 Adjourn
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.
Warren County State Supreme Court Judge David Krogman issued a decision in a lawsuit by the Lake George Waterkeeper against the Town of Lake George that nullified the Town’s approval of the controversial Forest Ridge subdivision. The judge struck down a plan that would have put new lots on 180 out of 190 acres of the subdivision, all overlooking the west side of Lake George. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has now also asserted jurisdiction over the possible future reconfigured subdivision. Last spring, the State Attorney General and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) joined with the Lake George Waterkeeper in its legal action against the Town alleging violation of state laws in its approval of the Forest Ridge development. The APA recently asserted its jurisdiction over the future subdivision. The developers will need new approvals from both the APA and the Town of Lake George to proceed.
According to a press release issued by Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky:
This follows an earlier decision from June 2008 where Judge Krogman suspended approval of the subdivision and ordered that the Town of Lake George to substantiate the record regarding its initial approvals of the subdivision. Unsatisfied with the Town’s response, the Judge struck down approvals of new lots on 180 out of 190 acres of the subdivision, overruling the Town’s approval of lots 5-10. (Lots 1-4 are small lots on an existing road, which were sold prior to the commencement of legal action by the Waterkeeper and were authorized by Judge Krogman to protect the purchasers, two of whom had started houses).
Poorly regulated subdivisions and poor administration of stormwater regulations by local governments are contributing to the steady decline in Lake George water quality.
“We remain extremely concerned about the continued failure of the Town of Lake George to properly administer its stormwater management regulations and segment its environmental reviews.” Navitsky said, “We hope that this legal victory will be a wake up call to the Town to improve the way in which it does business when it administers stormwater management regulations and reviews subdivisions.”
The Lake George Waterkeeper will work with the landowners to ensure environmental sound stormwater management for the remaining lots. According to Navitsky “although this is the responsibility of the Town of Lake George, the Town has continued to refuse the need to comply with the Town Code despite the original decision by the judge. We hope that with the APA involved a comprehensive review will be undertaken and a sound stormwater management plan will be incorporated on these lands and that we’ll see a much better subdivision in the future.”
The Lake George Waterkeeper has repeatedly appeared before the Town of Lake George Town Board and Planning Board to point out what it calls “the inadequacy of the Town’s environmental review process.” Here is a time line of legal history of this development supplied by the Waterkeeper:
* The Forest Ridge subdivision is a 191 acre residential subdivision on Truesdale Hill Road on the steep hillsides west of Lake George. In April 2006, the Town of Lake George Planning Board approved the first phase of the three phase subdivision without an adequate environmental review as per the State Environmental Quality Review Act and segmented the stormwater management review. The Waterkeeper actively intervened in the Town’s review to point out its failure to comply with local and state laws.
* In May 2006, the Waterkeeper challenged the Town’s approval of the Forest Ridge subdivision pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practices Laws & Rules of the State of New York.
* In June 2008, Warren County State Supreme Court Judge David Krogman suspended the approval of the subdivision and ordered the Town of Lake George to justify its approval.
* In October 2008, the Planning Board rescinded the original approval for 6 lots, except for four lots that had been sold. These four lots, according to the conclusion of the Court, were illegally excluded from major subdivision review, and failed to comply with the Town’s stormwater regulations. In addition, the proposed 3-phase subdivision received segmented environmental review. The Waterkeeper objected.
* In December 2008, the Adirondack Park Agency and the State Office of Attorney General filed an Order to Show Cause with the Court, supporting the position of the Lake George Waterkeeper.
* In February 2009, Judge Krogman issued a final decision. He rescinded approvals on 95% of property, 6 lots, while protecting landowners on 4 lots on 10 acres, which had been purchased lots prior to the Waterkeeper’s lawsuit.
The mission of the Lake George Waterkeeper is to defend the natural resources of the Lake George watershed for the common good of the community. The Lake George Waterkeeper is a program of the FUND for Lake George and was started in 2002.