Posts Tagged ‘Shoreline Development’

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Update: Dealing With Flood Waters

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:

Stream Crossings

Stream Crossings: Guidelines and Best Management Practices


Shoreline Stabilization

Shoreline Stabilization Techniques

Applying for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Site Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Sample General Project Plans for a Protection of Waters Permit

Locks

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.

Water Recreation

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.

Backcountry Recreation

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 full weekly Adirondack Conditions Report will run Thursday afternoon here at the Almanack, and Friday morning on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

Photo: A snowmobile sits in flood waters on the Schroon River in Chestertown. Photo courtesy John Warren.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Review Set For Lake George Mechanical Dredging

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.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Lake George Asian Clam Eradication Efforts

An aggressive plan has been released to attempt an eradication effort of the newest aquatic invasive species to Lake George – the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea). An ad hoc coalition of environmental groups, scientists, and public agencies developed the Plan to Eradicate the Infestation of Invasive Species Asian Clam in Lake George, which details efforts starting after ice-out next month to try and rid the lake of the Asian clam. This plan, organized by the Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force, details the scope of the problem in Lake George, long-term threats from this invasive, options for treatment, and details a plan that will try and eradicate this clam in the lake. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking Stock of Adirondack Trout

As the snow melts and the ice recedes from local water bodies around the Adirondacks, the thoughts of some turn to trout. There are a variety of trout species found in the Adirondacks: Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout and the king of all fish – in my eyes at least – the Brook Trout. While April 1st marks the opening day of trout season across New York State, many bodies of water in the Adirondacks are open to trout fishing all year long. For specific fishing regulations, check out the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis, is actually a char and our state fish. They are easy to identify, having wormlike markings or vermiculation on their backs and brilliant red spots on their sides that are surrounded by blue halos. The most distinguishing feature is the brilliant white edges on their pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Brook Trout live in lakes and streams in cold well-oxygenated waters and spawn in the fall. The state record for Brook Trout is 5 pounds 4.5 ounces.

Rainbow Trout Salmo gairdneri, are an introduced species originally coming from the Western side of the continent. They are dark olive, almost blue green in color above, lighter on their sides, with a pale yellow to white belly. Adults will have a pink or red band along their sides. Rainbow Trout occur in large streams and lakes where they have been stocked, and spawn in the spring. The state record for Rainbow Trout is 31 pounds 3 ounces.

Brown Trout Salmo trutta, are an introduced species originally from Europe. They are olive green, shading to tan or white on the belly. They have small irregular spots, which are surrounded by pale halos. Brown Trout are primarily a stream fish but can live in lakes. They tolerate higher water temeratures than Brook Trout and spawn in the fall. The state record for Brown Trout is 33 pounds 2 ounces.

Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush, are a native species of trout. They are silvery gray on their sides and have white on their bellies. Their backs have darker areas with white to creamy spots and vermiculation. Sometimes their fins will have an orange cast to them. Lake Trout are found in deep, cold, well-oxygenated lakes and spawn in the fall. The state record for Lake Trout is 41 pounds 8 ounces.

All species of trout feed on smaller fish species and insects, which is why it is important to conduct a bottom up management approach for fisheries management. Trout are very sensitive to changes in their environment, to maintain a healthy, viable trout population, which is why shoreline and streamside riparian buffers are important.

Photo: Above, Adirondack fisherman shows off a string of trout; Below, Brook Trout courtesy Wikipidia.

Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes regularly about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Travelling by Ice: Ice Bridges and Short-Cuts

Ice sports bring us out on frozen lakes for the sheer pleasure of being there. But through the years, folks have traveled our “winterized” lakes and rivers for a number of more practical reasons such as visiting friends and relatives, or hauling food, hay, coal, firewood, furniture, logs, milk and just about everything else imaginable.

In the late 19th to the early 20th century, the term “bridge” was commonly used to refer to the ice which allowed for these crossings. Note the following report from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, 2 March 1923: “The ice bridge between Willsboro and Burlington is quite extensively used, many visiting the city for both profit and pleasure.”

Throughout the 1800s, horse-drawn sleds and stagecoaches carried paying passengers on regularly scheduled trips back and forth across Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. As recently as 2010, when the worn Crown Point bridge had to be destroyed, folks again took advantage of the ice to commute across Lake Champlain to their jobs.

Milda Burns of North River said her father told her that from 1890 until 1930, he bridged the Hudson River by “brushing” it. This meant laying tree branches and twigs across a shallow part of the river to damn up the ice flowing downstream. In this way, ice built up to a depth sufficient to make a road strong enough to support horses and wagons crossing to the other side.

Ice crossings were also carried out for military reasons. By the 1600s, Indians, French Canadians and the English traversed Lake Champlain, most often to do battle with one another. One of the more famous crossings was that of Rogers’ Rangers, a British scouting force, which in the 1750s, retreated from the French by snowshoeing some thirty miles down the length of Lake George.

In 1870, Thomas H. Peacock accompanied his father on a trip from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake to bring supplies to several lumber camps. As the road would have been long and hilly, they cut the distance in half by traveling over the frozen Saranac Lakes, pulling a sled full of 25 to 30 bushels of potatoes, two or three quarters of beef, a large load of horse hay and eagerly anticipated mail. The trip took eighteen hours.

Loggers also followed frozen lake routes to shorten trips and bring logs out onto the ice where they were dumped and left waiting until spring. When the ice thawed, the timber was floated downriver to the sawmills.

An extraordinary variety of “freight” has been moved across the ice. Some folks still live year-round on road-inaccessible lakeshores or islands. In the winter, they must pull their groceries home using skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles.

Contractors and caretakers take advantage of the frozen lakes to move equipment and materials to road-inaccessible construction and camp sites. There was even an occasion in the early 1920s when rock-loaded sleds were pulled across Lake George by skaters holding sails, the stone used to rebuild the eroded shoreline of Dome Island. To reach remote ice fishing locations, sportsmen cross ice with snowmobiles, ATVs or trucks.

In earlier days the term “freight” included any number of things, not the least of which were houses! That moving buildings across the ice was not so unusual is demonstrated by a real estate advertisement found in the Essex County Republican of 10 September 1915 offering a 141′ long building which “could be moved over the ice to any point on the lake for trifling expense.”

Sometimes overlooked, ice serving as a bridge, has had a major influence on the North Country’s transportation history.

Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Frazil Ice at Hudson River Ice Meadows

Just North of Warrensburg in the Adirondacks, South of the Glen, along the Hudson River is a unique habitat. This microhabitat is 16 miles and a sparse 115 acres, part of which is protected by the Hudson River Shoreline Preserve. This unique preserve goes by another name: The Ice Meadows.

Some of the only natural grasslands in New York State can be found here. What makes the Ice Meadows so special are the rare species of plants and insects that can be found in this cooler microclimate habitat. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Elk Lake: The First Adirondack Conservation Easement

The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.

Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Lake George Land Conservancy Honors John Apperson

The Lake George Land Conservancy has elected to celebrate the memory of John Apperson by naming a society in his honor.

“The John Apperson Society recognizes Apperson’s significant contributions to the preservation of Lake George and honors those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Dave Gibson: Review Board’s Attacks on APA Unjust

Commendations to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for its recently released Policy Perspective found on their website [pdf]. It is a substantive policy update and, for a government report, a pretty strong communication piece to the general public as well as to “stakeholders.”

What I especially liked about the APA report and Chairman Stiles cover letter are that:

A. They strongly make the case that the environmental quality of the Adirondack Park is a fundamental prerequisite to a stronger economy.

B. They state in several places APA’s fundamental statutory purpose, upheld by older and very recent court decisions, which is “to serve a supervening state concern transcending local interests.”

The only problem is it’s reactive, not proactive, genesis.

The restrained but pointed cover letter from APA Chairman Curt Stiles to Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board (LGRB) Executive Director Fred Monroe makes it clear that Policy Perspective is in reaction to the LGRB paper released two weeks earlier under the kind of catchy headline most nonprofit advocacy groups dream of using, APA: Under the Influence and in Need of Detoxification.

Now, which report do you think the media covered? You’re right! Under the Influence wins the coverage. Of course, LGRB led with its report, and APA reacted, which makes one hope that the APA could be more proactive, and issue substantive annual policy updates about what they are doing to fulfill their mandate.

Section 804 of the APA Act requires the Agency to “report periodically to the governor and the legislature on the conduct of its activities but no less than once a year, furnishing a copy of each such report to the clerk of the county legislative body of each county…and to the review board.” The APA’s published annual reports have probably fulfilled this minimum requirement, but in all honesty these tend not to be overly substantive.

LGRB’s Under the Influence admirably served its statutory purpose of “periodically reporting” about the administration and enforcement of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan to “the Governor and the Legislature, and to the country legislative body of each of the counties.” Of course, I take issue with much of what the LGRB reports says, and how it says it.

In terms of content, I’ll select just three of the many topics covered in these reports:

1. Does the APA, as the LGRB alleges, sneakily expand its authority by secretly issuing regulations at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve? No. I remember the exhausting TAL (Technical Advisory List) meetings of APA stakeholders following the 1995 report of the Task Force on the Administration of the APA. If there was ever a never-ending “stakeholder” review process on regulations, APA demonstrated it from that day to this. LGRB attended every one of those meetings, and influenced the outcomes. Then, Governor Pataki introduced GORR, the governor’s office of regulatory reform. Every draft APA regulation undergoes months of additional scrutiny.

As to the 2010 boathouse regulation (which was under review for nearly a decade), at the last moment APA bent over backwards for developers, wealthier shore land owners, and the LGRB. The regulation should have been far stronger on behalf of all the other critters that use the shoreline, but who don’t answer to the word “stakeholder.”

2. Is there truly “no official local government role in the APA appointment process?” That is what the LGRB claims. Actually, LGRB has pretty effective influence, as the evidence bears out. All eight citizen commissioners must be confirmed by the State Senate. In thinking about the late Senator Stafford and now Senator Little, it’s hard to say that the Adirondack local government interests are poorly represented in that elected body. And many of those confirmations have been for deeply rooted Adirondackers. John Stock of Tupper Lake served the APA for decades. John was the chief forester for Litchfield Park and I remember the pride with which local leaders viewed his participation on the agency. Former APA Chairs John Collins and Bob Flacke were deeply involved with affairs in Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake and Lake George respectively, and still are. Today, former Johnsburg Town Supervisor Bill Thomas, Lake Pleasant Town Supervisor Frank Mezzano, Webb activist Lani Ulrich, and North Elba businessman Art Lussi comprise four of the eight citizen APA members and all enjoy strong local government support.

The Town of Minerva’s viewpoint apparently didn’t matter to the LGRB. Minerva voted to endorse Gov. Paterson’s nomination of Pete Hornbeck, one of that Town’s esteemed residents, a former member of its planning board and a successful businessman. LGRB didn’t like that nomination, and Senator Little has so far blocked Hornbeck’s confirmation.

Twelve years ago the LGRB was given a non-voting role at the APA table each month, and invited to comment on every agenda item at every meeting. Other organizations and individuals, lacking a statutory role, wait for Friday afternoons every month to communicate in person to the Agency.

Requiring the governor to select solely from a list of people endorsed by local governments in the Park would be dismissive of the interest all New Yorkers have for consideration of people with a broad array of talents, life experiences and motivations to uphold the intent of the APA Act.

3. Are APA enforcement fines against violators regularly unfair and egregious, as LGRB alleges? No. First, there are many potential violations out there, and only a handful of enforcement officers. The facts in APA’s report suggests that most violators who come to the agency’s attention want to do the right thing, and most APA enforcement staff want to work with these people in a respectful, fair and personal manner to heal environmental damage. Civil penalties in 2009 ranged from $100 to $4,000. LGRB hardly makes a strong fairness case here. The cases LGRB raises concern not the “little guy,” but a few high profile landowners whose purpose is to wage a legal and public relations campaign against the APA.

Photo: Whiteface Mountain in early November


Friday, September 17, 2010

Paulist Fathers Ponder Future of LG Lands

The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.

More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.

Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved.

On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.

In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.

“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel.
The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.

In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”

According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.

“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”

No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.

Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.

Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.

Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.

“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.

Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.

In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.

The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.

Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.

“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire.
Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.

“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”

Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.

This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”

Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.

The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.

According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.

Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.

Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.

Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”

But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.

“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.

Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.

“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”

Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Monday, September 13, 2010

APA Meeting: Lake George YMCA, Developments

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Thursday, September 16 and Friday Sept 17, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. On Thursday agency members and staff will participate in a field trip lead by Mr. Sean Ross, Director of Forestry Operations for Lyme Timber Company. Mr. Ross will discuss forest management and certification programs. On Friday the board will consider a setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, Blue Line Development Group’s 49 unit subdivision proposal in the Village of Tupper Lake, a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan, and more.

The Full Agency will convene on Friday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report.

At 9:30 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a shoreline structure setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook facility located on Lake George. The variance involves the replacement of a pre-existing one-story structure. The new structure will be used for camp operation purposes and to improve access to Lake George for participants in the Y-Knot Accessible Sailing Program. The project site is located in the Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The committee will consider Blue Line Development Group’s subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The project involves the subdivision of a 56±-acre parcel, involving class “1” wetlands and includes the construction of 13 townhouses with 49 total units. A dock would extend into Raquette Pond to accommodate 50 boats. The committee will also review a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County owned by Agency Commissioner Frank Mezzano and consider accepting proposed General Permit Applications for installing new or replacement telecommunication towers at previously approved agency sites and change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings.

At 1:00 p.m., the State Land Committee will hear a presentation from Dr. Chad Dawson discussing roadside camping in the Adirondack Park. The committee will consider Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan. This unit is located in the Town of Northampton, Fulton County. The committee will then hear a first reading on reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains. The Board will take no action on the fire tower proposals this month.

At 2:30, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider approving a map amendment proposal for private lands located in the Town of Westport, Essex County. The proposal is for re-classifying approximately 25 acres of land from Resource Management to Hamlet.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The next Agency meeting is October 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

November Agency Meeting: November 18-19 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Monday, September 6, 2010

APA Revised Boathouse and Dock Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) revised regulatory definitions for “boathouse” and “dock” will become effective on September 21, 2010. The agency board approved the dock regulation at its May 2010 board meeting and the boathouse regulation at the June 2010 meeting.

In response to public comment, the board delayed implementation of the revised regulations until after the 2010 summer construction season. Therefore this definition change does not apply to new boathouses with in-water components such as support piers substantially underway pursuant to a Department of Environmental Conservation permit or docks lawfully in place on the effective date of September 21, 2010. In addition, the board modified the proposed regulations applying Lake George Park Commission dimensional requirements for boathouses and docks built within the Lake George basin.

The regulatory change is prospective only. Lawfully existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. An APA variance is required, however, to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional thresholds still apply in all cases.

The revisions were undertaken as part of a statutorily required, five-year review and clarification of APA regulations following the 2002 promulgation of the current definitions. Additional changes were made as a result of public comment received during the rulemaking process.

The new regulatory definitions are:

Boathouse means a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind; (6) does not exceed a single story in that the roof rafters rest on the top plate of the first floor wall, and all rigid roof surfaces have a minimum pitch of four on twelve, or, alternatively, one flat roof covers the entire structure; and (7) has a footprint of 1200 square feet or less measured at the exterior walls (or in the absence of exterior walls, at the perimeter of the roof), and a height of fifteen feet or less. For the purpose of this definition, the height of a boathouse shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure. The dimensional requirements specified herein shall not apply to a covered structure for berthing boats located within the Lake George Park, provided the structure is built or modified in accordance with a permit from the Lake George Park Commission and is located fully lake-ward of the mean high-water mark of Lake George.

Dock means a floating or fixed structure that: (1) extends horizontally (parallel with the water surface) into or over a lake, pond or navigable river or stream from only that portion of the immediate shoreline or boathouse necessary to attach the floating or fixed structure to the shoreline or boathouse; (2) is no more than eight feet in width, or, in the case of interconnected structures, intended to accommodate multiple watercraft or other authorized use, each element of which is no more than eight feet in width; and (3) is built or used for the purposes of securing and/or loading or unloading water craft and/or for swimming or water recreation. A permanent supporting structure located within the applicable setback area which is used to suspend a dock above water level for storage by means of a hoist or other mechanical device is limited to not more than 100 square feet, measured in the aggregate if more than one such supporting structure is used. A dock must remain parallel with the water when suspended for storage, unless the size of the total structure does not exceed 100 square feet. Mechanisms necessary to hoist or suspend the dock must be temporary and must be removed during the boating season.

Contact APA’s jurisdictional office at (518) 891-4050, or email aparule@gw.dec.state.ny.us with any questions about the new definitions.

The APA statutes and regulations are meant to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. Boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline cause unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to these critical areas.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lake George Association to Celebrate 125th Years

The Lake George Association will hold its historic 125th Annual Meeting this Friday, August 20 at 10 am at the Lake George Club. The public is invited to attend and the meeting is free; an optional lunch afterward is $21 per person. Reservations are required.

Ken Wagner, Ph.D. will be the keynote speaker. Ken is editor in chief of Lake and Reservoir Management, the international journal of the North American Lake Management Society. For decades, Ken has played a valuable role in environmental research conducted on Lake George, working with the Lake George Association and other lake organizations. He is owner of Water Resource Services, a lake management consulting firm. Ken has worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and has 25 years of experience with northeastern consulting firms, working on a variety of water resources assessment and management projects. Ken holds a B.A. in environmental biology from Dartmouth College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in natural resource management from Cornell University.

The public will also have the opportunity to learn more about the environmental status of Lake George, and to meet others with a passion for its protection. Updates on many environmental initiatives taking place around the Lake will be given. Executive Director Walt Lender will give an update on the West Brook Conservation Initiative, considered the most important lake saving project in the LGA’s 125-year history. Randy Rath, LGA project manager, will provide summaries on the LGA’s other lake saving projects, such as those at English Brook, Hague and Finkle Brook deltas, Indian Brook, and the town of Putnam. Emily DeBolt will speak on the LGA’s educational and outreach initiatives, as well as New York State’s new phosphorus law, and the status of wall lettuce, a new invasive species growing in the watershed. Emily will
also provide results from the work of the LGA Lake Stewards and from the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program.

New members, and those who care about the lake and would like to learn more about protecting it, are welcome to attend the meeting to meet the board of directors, staff, volunteers and other members. Members will be voting on new directors for the organization: Thomas Jarrett and Salim Amersi, as well as returning directors Holly de Buys, William Dutcher and John Schaninger.

The New York State Legislature adopted a joint resolution commemorating the LGA’s 125th Anniversary in April of this year. The resolution recognized the LGA’s “long unyielding commitment to excellence,” and commended the “efforts of thousands of LGA members who, over the years, have increased the public’s awareness and understanding of Lake issues and have actively worked to preserve the purity of the Lake George waters for future generations to come.” The resolution also recognized many of the organization’s accomplishments throughout its history, including:

The LGA was “the first to re-stock the Lake with popular fish species.”

The LGA was “the first to provide a non-point source pollution program for the Lake.”

The LGA was “the first to establish a buoy system in the Lake.”

The LGA “advanced proactive management by government to protect the Lake’s water quality and influenced state leaders … to undertake the first series of technical studies of the Lake,” and later “ensured that effective storm water controls and wastewater treatment systems were included in development plans.”

The LGA worked toward “protecting the interests of dock owners, shoreline property owners and those who navigated the lake” by advocating for “a long-awaited and fought for verdict by the New York State Supreme court regarding lake levels, requiring a commission to supervise maintenance of water levels between 4.0 and 2.5 feet at the Roger’s Rock gauge between June 1 and Oct. 1.”

The LGA has “overseen over 100-plus lake-saving projects to stabilize eroding stream banks and shorelines, reclaim ponds for sediment retention, enhance wetlands, install roadside storm water catchments, and dredge deltas.”

The LGA has “expanded its programming to include active and participatory educational programs for lake users, including but not limited to, a Floating Classroom, serving 1,000 students and visitors each year.”

The Warren County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation naming the month of August “Lake George Association Month.” The proclamation recognized that “the members of the Lake George Association have worked together to protect, conserve and improve the beauty and quality of the Lake George Basin for 125 years.”

A special postal cancellation stamp has been designed to commemorate the historic occasion of the LGA’s 125th annual meeting. On the day of the meeting, August 20, all post offices around the Lake will hand stamp any mail posted on that day upon request. Commemorative caches will also be available in limited quantities.

Area Stewart’s Shops have renamed the store’s Birthday Cake ice cream flavor in honor of the LGA for the month of August.

Since 1885, the members of the LGA have been protecting and improving the beauty and quality of the Lake George basin. LGA is a non-profit membership organization of people interested in working together to protect, conserve, and improve the beauty and quality of the Lake George Basin. For more information, contact the LGA at (518) 668-3558 or visit the LGA website at www.lakegeorgeassociation.org.


Friday, August 13, 2010

LG: Preserve Renamed in Honor of Conservationist

The Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve, which was protected by the Lake George Land Conservancy in large part through the efforts of the late Lynn Schumann, was re-dedicated in honor of the conservancy’s former director on August 9.

“We’re here as an act of living love,” said Mark Johnson, a founding trustee of the Lake George Land Conservancy who served as a master of ceremonies. According to Johnson, the re-dedication of the Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve was an act of love for both a particular place and a particular person, whose names will be permanently linked.

“A preserve is as close to perpetuity as anything we can know of,” said Johnson.

The Reverend Bruce Tamlyn, the Silver Bay chaplain who officiated at the wedding of Lynn and Kurt Schumann, said in his invocation, “the beauty of this place will be forever joined with the beauty of Lynn.”

Lynn Schumann, who died in March at the age of 46, served as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director from 1999 to 2006.

She resigned the post to become the Land Trust Alliance’s northeast director, where she helped guide the work of 650 land trusts throughout New York and New England. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Schumann was the Wilton Wildlife Preserve’s first director. She was a graduate of Emma Willard and St. Lawrence University.

During Schumann’s tenure as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director, membership increased from 250 to 1,171. At the time of her departure, the organization had protected nearly 5,000 acres of land and 11,000 feet of shoreline.

According to Sarah Hoffmann, the Conservancy’s communications co-ordinator, Schumann regarded the preservation of Pilot Knob Ridge as her greatest achievement on Lake George.

Before being acquired by the Conservancy, Pilot Knob Ridge was the site of a house and road visible from the lake, the west shore, Assembly Point and Kattskill Bay. “It was a gross insult upon the landscape,” said Lionel Barthold, one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony.

Pilot Knob Ridge was the first parcel acquired by the Conservancy that was already developed. The visibility of the cleared portions of the property from the lake, and the danger that it would be developed further, helped persuade donors that acquiring this piece was critical for protecting the character of the eastern shore, Schumann said in 2000, when the 223 acre parcel was purchased.

“Protecting Pilot Knob Ridge set a precedent; it showed that we could un-do an offense upon the landscape,” Barthold said at the dedication ceremony.

Once the property was owned by the Lake George Land Conservancy, the house on the ridge was removed. At a farewell party in 2006, Schumann said the razing of the house was a highlight of her career.

“The organization made a significant decision to remove the house situated prominently on the hillside,” she said. “It was a sunny spring morning when the wrecking crew began the process of demolishing the house. I peered out over the ridge and saw some 40 boats anchored along the shoreline cheering as the house came down.”

While Schumann loved the waters of Lake George and was dedicated to protecting water quality, she was especially passionate about protecting wooded uplands like Pilot Knob Ridge, said Kurt Schumann.

“These breath-taking views, the wild life, these are the things Lynn fought to protect,” said Schumann. “We have all lost a conservation champion.”

Among other speakers at the ceremony were Chris Navitsky and Susan Darrin. Rick Bolton and Tim Wechgelaer performed some of Lynn’s favorite songs, and Lake George Land Conservancy chairman John Macionis raised a cup of champagne in Schumann’s honor, officially declaring the slope and summit the Lynn LaMontagne Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob Ridge.

“She’s smiling, humbled and grateful,” said Kurt Schumann.

Photo of Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve by Carl Heilman, courtesy of Lake George Land Conservancy

Photo of Lynn Schumann from Lake George Mirror files

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adirondack Serpent: The Northern Watersnake

Monday I was walking along the shores of the Hudson River in search of a particular orchid. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, and lots of flowers were in bloom. A few frogs hopped away from the clumsy thud of my boots, and damselflies darted here and there. There was a sudden rustle in the vegetation and something slithered across my path. I watched as the tail disappeared into the greenery, only to reappear on the other side as the snake slid into the waters of the Hudson: a northern watersnake, Nerodia sipedon.

This is a serpent that, as its name suggests, is equally at home in the water and on land. A rather robust animal, it is described in the literature as being “relatively large and heavy bodied.” In other words, this is no slender slitherer like our common garter snakes, nor is it cute in its tininess, like the red-bellied, brown or green snakes.

Northern watersnakes, to the untrained eye, might make one think immediately of water moccasins, or cottonmouths, both common names for the same venomous snake found in more southerly states. But we live in the Adirondacks where the only aquatic snake we have can be startling, can give a memorable bite, but is completely non-venomous.

Most of the snakes found in the Adirondacks are small to moderate in size, but the northern watersnake can grow upwards of four and a half feet long. Color can vary, but in general these reptiles are brown, or tan, with brown or reddish-brown bands or blotches. The animal I saw had a coloration very much like a milksnake, lighter in shade than I am used to seeing on these animals, although that could have partly been thanks to the water in which it was submerged when I took its photo. The older the animal, the darker its coloration. This is attributed to the tannins of the water in which they reside, which darken their scales over time. Perhaps my snake was fairly young, despite its size.

According to the authors of The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State, many New York specimens have red stripes on their faces. Sadly, I wasn’t close enough to this one’s face to see any such markings.

Found in almost any body of freshwater, northern watersnakes tend to prefer habitats that have some good vegetative cover nearby, like cattails or wet meadows. This explains why it made a run for the water as I blundered along the shoreline looking for my orchid (which I never did find). The Ice Meadows are quite verdant now that high summer is in full swing; between the heat and the rain of recent weeks, the vegetation has become quite lush – perfect for hiding cunning hunters.

Because they are excellent swimmers, it is not surprising to learn that these snakes commonly catch and eat fish and frogs. I remember watching one choke down a rather large sunfish along the banks of the Passaic River down in the Great Swamp in New Jersey. It was an impressive feat, considering the size of the fish, but down it went, leaving a fish-like bulge in the snake’s throat as it slid back into the water to avoid our curious stares.

The rest of this reptile’s diet is filled with birds, small mammals, young turtles, and even insects. In other words, if the snake can catch it and get its mouth around it, anything is fair game; this includes carrion, which occasionally makes it into the diet.

When I was a youngster and just learning about animal classification (back in ’72 it was), we were told that the only animals that gave birth to live young were mammals – it was part of what set us apart from the rest of the critters. Then I learned that there are mammals that lay eggs! And later on, I learned that some snakes have live birth. The world was not as simple as I had been led to believe.

As it turns out, there are quite a few snakes that give birth to live young, and the northern watersnake is among them. While gestating, the female will often bask in the sun, warming up her internal offspring to make them develop faster. When the time comes, she gives birth to 15 to 30 babies. Better her than me!

I hadn’t given it much thought, since northern watersnakes have been a regular part of my outdoor experiences, but it seems that while once commonly found throughout New York State, this hefty reptile has disappeared from part of the St. Lawrence River Valley and from much of the Adirondacks. Southern slopes in the southeastern part of the park (Lakes Champlain and George) seem to be where they hang out these days. Warrensburg fits into this geographical range, so it’s not too surprising that I found this specimen.

Like many a child, I’m not averse to picking up the occasional snake that crosses my path, but I do limit my snake handling to small and more docile species. I’d never attempt to grab a northern watersnake. For one thing, it will put up quite a fight. While striking and biting, it will also release copious amounts of various bodily substances, like feces and musky secretions. All of this stuff smells as bad as it sounds. And even though it is a non-venomous snake, the bite can be nasty. Not only will it hurt when the animal sinks in its teeth, but the wound will bleed like a son-of-a-gun because the animal’s saliva is laced with anticoagulants – all the better to subdue its prey with, eh? In other words, this is a snake better left alone and admired from afar.

So, if you see a northern watersnake on your journeys through or around some of the Park’s wetlands, rest assured that it won’t harm you if left alone. Watch it for a while. Who knows, maybe, like the one I spotted, it will turn its head and watch you back. Interesting animals, snakes are, and well-worth the time to get to know.