Rivers policy and history, stewardship of our Forest Preserve, and positive interactions with young people from Albany came together on Arbor Days, April 27-28, north of Lake Luzerne. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was pleased to play a role. First, let’s review some history.
The role of Paul Schaefer’s Adirondack Hudson River Association: Many years ago, the utility giant Niagara Mohawk power company owned land along the upper Hudson River in Luzerne, Warrensburg and North Creek. One of their goals was to create large hydroelectric dams at Hadley-Luzerne, and the shoreline was considered flowage, where water levels would fluctuate up and down 50 feet or more during power generation, and reservoir filling. Other mega-dams on the Upper Hudson were being planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would flood the river as far north as Newcomb. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has issued its 2011 Annual Report which summarizes the year and includes links to important documents. In a prepared statement APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich said, “Facing natural disasters and their related economic hardships, the Adirondack Park community stood together in 2011 to persevere. Going forward we must build upon this momentum to ensure the protection of the Park’s natural wonders. With the same conviction, we will promote economic opportunities to sustain the 103 towns and villages which add so much to the character of this special place”
1988 was a long time ago, and not just in years. It was a different time in America. It does seem like yesterday in my life, but that’s because I’m in my mid 50s and time is speeding up. In the Adirondack Park of 1988, as in the rest of the country, a real estate boom had been underway for some time. Speculators were getting into the game. At the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the number of permit applications was way up.
The park’s Resource Management and Rural Use lands – the “backcountry” – were under considerable real estate pressure. The Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century would be established by Gov. Mario Cuomo the following year. In contrast with today, in 1988 a majority of Agency commissioners viewed themselves as agenda setters. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature to make sweeping changes to the rules for private land use and development in the Adirondack Park.
“The current rules for development are too weak and outdated to protect the park’s pure waters, wildlife and unbroken forests,” said the Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal said in a statement issued last week. “Conservation science and smart growth principles have advanced a great deal since 1971. Unfortunately, the Adirondack Park Agency’s regulations have not.” The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) was created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1971, after resort development and the construction of an interstate highway (I-87) through the Adirondacks prompted a public call to protect the park. None of those rules has been amended since 1978, when several were weakened, the Council asserts, adding that “a recent resort review illustrated why the rules need attention.” » Continue Reading.
A significant part of climate is precipitation, and fundamental to any discussion on the impact that global warming is having on a region’s climate would have to include possible changes to the rain and snowfall patterns. While unusually prolonged periods of precipitation can turn a backcountry camping trip into a nightmare, discourage golfers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts, and frustrate anyone trying to put a new roof on his/her home, or a coat of stain on the deck, too much rainfall, especially concentrated over a short span of time, can wreak havoc with the environment. » Continue Reading.
A federal court judge this week dismissed civil rights claims in a case arising from a planning board decision to modify plans for a proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake in the Village of Lake Placid.
This is the second legal challenge in the past year to the authority of Lake Placid/North Elba’s Joint Review Board to regulate boathouse construction. Both challenges have been shepherded by Lake Placid Attorney James Brooks. Chief United States District Court Judge Norman Mordue on Wednesday dismissed all charges that the community’s planning board violated the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection when it required a private property owner, developer Keith Stoltz, to shorten the length of the dock he sought to build behind his Main Street storefront. The court also remanded an Article 78 challenge of the review boards’ procedures to state court.
On August 23rd, in a separate boathouse case litigated by attorney Brooks, acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer issued a summary judgment supporting Mr. Brooks’s argument that municipalities have no regulatory authority over boathouses built entirely above navigable waters. Mr. Brooks, who is Judge Meyer’s former law partner, contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the sole responsibility to permit and regulate such shoreline-adjacent construction throughout the state.
Attorney and SUNY Albany School of Law Dean Michael Hutter and attorney for the Town of North Elba Ron Briggs have appealed Judge Meyer’s decision as well as a number of the jurist’s intermediate procedural orders. Arguments in the case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s Third Appellate Division in Albany by year’s end.
Also on August 23rd, in related criminal indictments handed up by the Essex County Grand Jury, general contractor Dan Nardiello of Lake Placid and builder Robert Scheefer of Saranac Lake were arraigned on misdemeanor charges of construction without a building permit. The property owner William Grimditch of Lake Placid was subsequently arraigned on the same charges. Judge Meyer will hear the cases against the three men—all represented by attorney Brooks—later this Fall.
Disclosure: Adirondack Almanack contributor Mark Wilson serves as President of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association. The Association has filed a friend of the court brief supporting North Elba’s appeal of Judge Meyer’s decisions.
The Lake George Association (LGA) and the Southern Adirondack Audubon Society (SAAS) are sponsoring a volunteer event at West Brook tomorrow Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 9 am to 1 pm. Volunteers are needed to remove invasive shrubby honeysuckle and to replace it by planting native species.
The LGA is working on a management plan to maintain the banks of West Brook, which is centered between the north and south parcels of the West Brook Conservation Initiative, a stormwater treatment complex and environmental park currently being designed and constructed. » Continue Reading.
Facts are stubborn things. So are traditions, and patterns of use. These all lay at the heart of the recent Lows Lake court decision in Albany County Supreme Court which upheld a Wilderness classification for Lows Lake and the Bog River Flow.
Verplanck Colvin, the great Adirondack explorer and surveyor, came to what is now Lows Lake in the late 1890s, just before inventor A.A. Low dammed the Bog River in two places as part of extensive industrial enterprises that lasted less than 15 years. Colvin’s survey of 1898-1899 was his last (published by the Adirondack Research Center of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in 1989). » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Hilary Smith of the Adirondack Invasive Plant Program a founding member organization of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).
Some of the latest regional invasive species news has chronicled the detection of a new population of didymo, also known as “rocksnot.” Now in five rivers in NY, the closest of which is Kayaderosseras Creek with headwaters that lie in the southern Adirondacks, didymo is literally one step away from invading renowned trout streams such as the Ausable. A single celled alga that blankets riverbeds, didymo is easily spread on the felt soles of waders. » Continue Reading.
For those people familiar with nature, the uniquely-shaped silhouette of a large bird in flight with a set of thin legs jutting well beyond its tail, and a neck that coils back into a compressed “S” creates an unmistakable image.
Additionally, the slow and methodical manner in which this lanky giant beats its sizeable wings helps make the great blue heron one of the easiest birds to recognize as it flies, even from a distance of well over a half mile. The great blue heron is a wading bird and uses its stilt-like legs to stand and walk through aquatic areas, some of which may be covered with up to a foot of water. It is in places like these that this predator waits quietly for small fish, frogs, salamanders, and other similar size animals to stray within striking distance. Once a victim is spotted close by, the heron draws its head back, simultaneously stepping forward while thrusting its long and pointed bill directly at the target. Rather than spear its prey, the great blue heron attempts to grab hold of the potential meal and swallow it quickly before it can wriggle free.
From late spring through mid August the amount of time an adult heron spends hunting increases significantly. Not only must the adult heron satisfy its own appetite, but toward the end of May, when the 3 or 4 eggs in its nest hatch, the bird must also meet the demands of the young for a steady diet of animal protein.
For the first several weeks after the eggs hatch, one of the parents remains either in the nest or very close to it in order to protect the babies from being attacked by a forest predator, like a raccoon, or eagle. The other parent travels to a favored feeding site, such as a section of marsh, the edge of a slow moving river, or the weedy shoreline of a lake or pond. There it tries to kill enough creatures to fill its crop for transport back to its nest. Once there, the parent regurgitates chunks of the previously swallowed material into the open mouth of its babies. The constant demand for food by the developing nestlings causes the great blue heron to hunt for prey even during the night, especially when a full moon provides adequate illumination for it to see.
After the first month, the young herons become large enough to prevent a parent from spending more than a few minutes in the nest. At this stage in their development, the nestlings require so much food that both parents are forced to hunt for the majority of the day leaving their babies unattended. As the nestlings get older the parents no longer feed them from their mouth, but rather drop the catch off into the nest and let the young birds fight over it.
Because there is safety in numbers, a pair of great blue heron makes its nest close to the nest of other great blue herons. A colony, also known as a heronry, may contain from a dozen nests to over a hundred. The number is highly dependent on the suitability of hunting areas in the surrounding region. For example, a heronry near Lake Champlain is able to support many more pairs of herons than ones located in sections of the Park where favorable aquatic areas are scattered over much greater distances.
In order to minimize the chance of predation from climbing creatures, the great blue heron prefers to construct it stick platform as high as possible in the tallest deciduous trees at the site in which a heronry becomes established. Since a heron nest is around three feet in diameter, the mass of sticks used in its construction can become quite substantial, and the supporting limbs beneath it must be large enough to hold the weight. Additionally, the nest must be tightly woven into the framework of the twigs from the supporting limbs to prevent this structure from being torn loose during periods of high wind, such as those that accompany strong thunderstorms. In most instances, a pair of herons will refurbish the nest that they occupied the previous year if it was able to withstand the fierce gales that battered it during the preceding winter season.
It takes the nestlings almost two full months before they fledge, and even then these young birds depend on their parents for frequent meals until they can get the knack of hunting for themselves.
There are many creatures that prey on the bounty of animal life that exists in and around wetlands; however, few of these stand out against the background as does the great blue heron here in the Adirondacks.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
Tom Kalinowski has written several books on nature in the Adirondacks.
Although water levels have finally dropped below flood stage on Lake Champlain this week, a Flood Warning remains in effect and facilities and businesses near low-lying shorelines continue to be heavily impacted by high waters.
The Ausable Point Campground remains closed, as is the campground access road. Many Valcour Island campsites and access points are still flooded and due to the high waters, floating docks have not been installed and bathrooms are closed at Peru Dock, Port Douglas, Willsboro Bay and other boat launches. Vermont closed all access to Lake Champlain except for Tabor Point, malletts Bay, Lamoille River, Converse Bay, and Larabee’s Point. Quebec closed all access and shut down boating to prevent further shoreline erosion due to wakes. » Continue Reading.
The Darrin Fresh Water Institute’s (DFWI) annual program of testing waters near municipal beaches and town shorelines for coliform contamination will be less extensive this summer than in years past, according to Larry Eichler, a DFWI Research Scientist.
According to Eichler, The Fund for Lake George has withdrawn its financial support for the program.
While some municipalities may assume the costs of sampling waters near beaches, no organization has stepped forward to fund the monitoring of shorelines, Eichler said. “The FUND for Lake George has contributed more than $300,000 in cost sharing for this program over the past 25 years,” said Eichler. “But while still supporting the efforts of this program, The Fund is unable to fund this program due to other committments.”
Those other commitments, explained Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, include exterminating invasive species like the Asian clam and financing the West Brook Conservation Initiative, which will protect the lake’s south basin from urban runoff.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to continue funding the program,” said Bauer. “While it’s time for The Fund to transition out of the program, the importance of monitoring public beaches should motivate local governments to adopt at least that part of the program.”
Bolton, Lake George Village, the Town of Lake George and Hague have agreed to consider adopting monitoring programs, said Eichler.
“Evaluation of bathing beach water quality provides a reminder that water quality is not guaranteed and that proper maintenance and surveillance of swimming areas remain critical,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the executive director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute.
According Larry Eichler, DFWI can test sampled waters for Total Coliform (TC), Fecal Coliform (FC), and Fecal Streptococcus (FS) for as little as $30 per week. The Towns would be responsible for the costs of collecting the water samples.
New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has tested the waters near state-owned beaches since the late 1980s, after the Million Dollar Beach was closed for three days in 1988 because of an excessive fecal coliform count.
The Darrin Fresh Water Institute has tested waters near municpal beaches every summer since 2002.
“The program was a low cost mechanism to provide assurances that the public beaches on Lake George posed no threats to the public,” said Larry Eichler.
“We continue to believe that this program provides a valuable service to the Lake George community through assurance of water quality at our public bathing beaches.”
Even before it began testing municipal beaches for coliform contamination, DWFI was sampling sites around Lake George for coliform bacteria, which are generally viewed as indicators of sewage leaks or other sources for nutrients, such as storm water.
“The Lake George Coliform Monitoring Program was designed to be a proactive water quality program,” said Eichler. “Prompt identification and remediation of wastewaters entering Lake George is one of the most efficient ways to protect water quality.”
Waters were evaluated at sites with chronically high levels of coliform bacteria or in areas where algae appeared, Eichler explained.
“We’re disappointed that The Fund could not continue to support the program, but we understand fiscal realities,” said Eichler.
Eichler said grants may permit the Darrin Fresh Water Institute to re-establish the colliform monitoring program in the future.
Photo: Darrin Fresh Water Institute
For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.
In any shallow, muddy-bottom body of water in spring, when the sun is shinning or a southerly breeze has elevated the temperature into the 50’s or 60’s, the painted turtle may be seen lounging peacefully, often in the company of others of its species.
As with all reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded. This means they are unable to generate any internal heat of their own. In order to elevate their body temperature to a level that is more favorable for carrying out numerous physiological processes, these slow moving creatures must first pull their body from the still frigid waters that engulf them, and then attempt to absorb as much solar radiation, or thermal energy from the air as possible. In this way the painted turtle can effectively restart its system after lying totally dormant over the long winter season here in the Adirondacks. Like several other cold-blooded organisms, the painted turtle passes the winter embedded in the layer of dark, muddy silt and organic debris that forms the bottom of most quiet Adirondack waterways. Even though this shelled vertebrate has lungs rather than gills, it can remain submerged for prolonged periods without breathing when the water is close to freezing. As is the case with other reptiles, the painted turtle becomes increasingly more lethargic as the environment surrounding it cools in autumn, thereby decreasing its need for oxygen. As the temperature drops to within a degree or two of freezing, the painted turtle lapses into a state of complete dormancy which further reduces it need for this essential elemental gas. The very limited amount of oxygen needed to sustain life comes from this turtle’s ability to absorb this dissolved gas from water that is repeatedly drawn into a special sac near its tail and into its throat.
As the sun’s rays become more intense in mid to late April, and begin to penetrate the bottom muck, the painted turtle’s internal temperature starts to rise. The dark color of this turtle’s back shell allows it to effectively absorb the sun’s infra-red rays, even when it is below the surface. Exposure to solar radiation can boost a turtle’s core temperature by several degrees above that of the water which surrounds it. This helps provide it with the energy needed to resurrect itself from the bottom muck and become somewhat active again. When conditions above the surface become favorable, the painted turtle swims to an object that it can climb onto in order to lift itself completely from the frigid water. Logs that are floating on the surface, a small island of peat, or a deteriorating muskrat house are all common places that the painted turtle visits to bask in the sun. Since these spots are separated from the shore, the turtle is less likely to come under attack from a shoreline predator.
Since this creature’s metabolic state is still drastically depressed by the cool surroundings, the life processes within this normally sluggish critter are not yet fully functional. Even acquiring nourishment becomes a challenge, as the turtle’s digestive system is unable to effectively process any of the various items consumed by this omnivore when it is immersed in the water. By basking in the sun, the painted turtle is able to elevate its core temperature to a level that allows for a more effective break down of the food ingested when it forages along the bottom.
Along with promoting digestion, the temporary warming of the turtle’s body helps facilitate the process of egg formation within mature females. In the Adirondacks, it is usually toward the end of May when the females leave their watery home and venture onto dry land to lay their eggs. As with all reptiles, the painted turtle must leave the safety of the water and seek out an appropriate spot on land in which to deposit her eggs.
Painted turtles regularly emerge from the water during the spring whenever the air temperature is warmer than the water, or when the sun is beating down on a particular spot in their home. For this creature, it is more than just a pleasant way to relax, but a method allowing for the digestion of their food, and the development of their eggs.
Tom Kalinowski has written several books on nature in the Adirondacks.
A series of remarkable photographs issued by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) shows shoreline erosion and sediment and nutrient loading of Lake Champlain as a result of the flooding that continues to occur around the region. The lake has reached historic levels that have accelerated shoreline erosion and sent dark plumes that likely contain contaminants into open water.
The filling of historic wetlands, channeling streams and development along watersheds that empty into the lake have increased storm water run-off and added what is considered an unprecedented about of contaminants – pollution, nutrients and sediment – into the Lake Champlain ecosystem according to the LCBP. “While there will be time in the future for a careful assessment of the flooding of the many tributaries and of the Lake itself,” an LCBP press statement said, “it already is clear that the impact on water quality (in addition to the immediate human distress) will be very significant.”
Among water quality managers’ concerns is controlling run-off phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers, believed critical to managing and reducing water pollution. Increased phosphorus pollution is linked to the growth of potentially toxic and economically disruptive algae blooms.
During unseasonably warm weather last July health warnings were issued in New York and Vermont for algae blooms in Lake Champlain (including some near Westport, Port Henry, and Crown Point). At the time health officials recommended avoiding all contact with the affected water including swimming, bathing, or drinking, or using it in cooking or washing, and to keep pets and livestock from algae-contaminated water.
The water quality issues come at a time when Plattsburgh is celebrating its 10th year of hosting professional fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain. According to Dan Heath, writing in the Press Republican, Plattsburgh has hosted more than 50 tournaments that included some 25,000 anglers since 2001. More than 3,000 bass anglers are expected for this year’s tournaments which together will offer $1,8 million in prizes. “Lake Champlain has earned a reputation as one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America,” Heath wrote.
The tournament season will kick off withe the American Bass Angler’s Weekend Series on June 11th.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program has posted the aerial photos (taken on April 29-30, 2011) online; the photos are also linked to Google Maps. It’s likely a similar situation is occurring on many of the Adirodnack region’s lakes and reservoirs.
Photos: Above, sediment plume from the Ausable River and Dead Creek; Below, headland erosion and suspended sediment north of Mooney Bay. Photos courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
This winter’s deep snow pack combined with heavy rains last week and this week continue to leave lakes and ponds brimming, and rivers and streams swollen with cold and fast water. All major rivers are at or above flood stage and flooding continues to occur and is expected to continue through Friday. Except for the Tug Hill Plateau, Flood Warnings continue to be in effect across the region. Roads and trails around the region have been reported closed, several roads and bridges have collapsed, and major flooding has forced evacuations along the Hudson, Schroon, Ausable, Bouquet, Saranac, Moose, Black and Raquette Rivers, and along Lake Champlain and many other water bodies around the Adirondacks.
The NYS Department of Environmetnal Conservation has issued the following announcement about continued flooding and the environmental risks associated with flooding. Gasoline and Oil Spills
DEC is warning homeowners and building owners with flooded basements to check for sheens or odors from gasoline, oil or substances that may have leaked from fuel oil storage tanks, furnaces or motorized equipment before pumping out water. If a sheen or odor is present, contact the DEC Spills Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362.
If pumping is already occurring when sheens or odors are discovered, cease pumping immediately. A mixture of gasoline or oil and water can impact the surface water, ground water and soils when pumped and released into the environment. It is best to collect and remove spilled gasoline and oil while it is still contained in a basement. DEC Spills staff will work with home and building owners to determine the most effective means to address the spill.
Repairing Flood Damaged Streambanks and Lake Shorelines
Property owners who have streams or shorelines which have been eroded or otherwise damaged by flooding should check with the DEC Environmental Permits Office before undertaking repair work to determine if a permit or emergency authorization is required. Depending on the situation, work immediately necessary for the protection of life, health, general welfare, property or natural resources may be authorized under emergency authorization procedures. Projects for the purpose of shoreline restoration and erosion protection are subject to a permit application process.
DEC provides a number of documents on its website to assist in developing a shoreline stabilization project:
Sample General Project Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit
Both the Lower Locks, located between First Pond and Oseetah Lake and the Upper Locks, located between Lower Saranac Lake and Middle Saranac Lake, are closed to public usage until further notice. High waters and large amount of debris are still preventing the operation of the locks.
Boat Launch Sites
Most boat launches in the region are flooded, making it risky to launch and retrieve boats. Boaters not familiar with the location of the various structures on around the boat launch (ramps, walkways, docks, posts, etc.) that are now underwater risk damaging trailers and boats when launching or retrieving boats.
Paddlers and boaters should continue to stay off of rivers and streams. Water levels are high and water temperatures are low, rivers and streams are running swiftly. Cold waters increase the risk of hypothermia and drowning if you should fall into the water.
Waters may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards such as boulders, rock shelves, docks and other structures that normally are easily seen and avoided.
The previous warning to keep out of the backcountry has been rescinded. However, hikers and campers should be aware of the conditions they can expect to encounter in the backcountry. Streams are still high and extra caution should be used at stream crossings without foot bridges.
Trails are muddy and wet. Hikers should be prepared for these conditions by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails. Trails and campsites adjacent to waters may be flooded.
Blowdown may be found on trails, it is expected that large trees may have been blown over due to winds and saturated soils. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes still exists, particularly if the forecasted rain occurs.
Snow is present in elevations above 2900 feet, and snowshoes are required in elevations above 3200 feet.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
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