Posts Tagged ‘Shoreline Development’

Thursday, December 11, 2008

APA To Discuss Revised Shoreline Requirements

The Park Agency Board will discuss guidance today for implementation of new regulations which were passed at its November Agency meeting. The Agency adopted new regulations in November after a four year public process that revised five issues with the APA Act. The shoreline expansion regulation has generated the most concern and confusion.

This revision to a 1979 regulation requires that any expansion of structures built prior to the enactment of the APA Act in 1973 and located within defined APA shoreline setback areas will need a variance. These structures are referred to as “non-conforming” structures. The revision does not change the rights of landowners to repair or replace non-conforming structures; it only addresses expansions of these structures.

The regulation was developed based in part on technical data that proves the placement of structures close to shorelines can significantly accelerate erosion and sedimentation into water bodies. This results in negative impacts on water quality. When combined with inadequate on-site wastewater treatment systems, structure expansions increase the potential for public health risks and further degrade water quality.

This new regulation requires evaluation of the on-site wastewater treatment system before an expansion of a non-conforming structure is allowed. A wastewater treatment system with the capacity to accommodate increased use will be a factor in determining variance approval. The variance process will ensure that shoreline lots are responsibly developed with adequate infrastructure in place.

On Thursday, December 11 the Agency will discuss exemptions for “minor” expansions of non conforming structures from the variance requirement. This will allow some expansion to non conforming structures without first obtaining a variance. Specific criteria of minor expansion will be clearly explained.

The Agency will also consider a transitional period in which variances will not be required from the Agency pursuant to the new rules. To qualify, a landowner must obtain all required local permits and variances for the proposed structure expansion prior to December 31, 2008, and the foundation or framing for the expansion must be complete by May 31, 2009.

The proposed guidance would also honor Agency permits and non-jurisdictional determinations issued before this regulation was adopted, even if construction has not commenced. It will also honor local permits issued and subdivision plats filed before the effective date of the regulations, December 31, 2008. For shoreline structures which already have all necessary permits for expansion in place on December 30, 2008, the landowner will have until May 31, 2009 to complete the foundation or framing of the addition.

The Adirondack Park Agency was created to protect the unique and valuable resources of the Adirondack Park while balancing the economic needs of local municipalities. Increased shoreline development over the last 30 years has resulted in obvious decline in water quality attributable in part to inadequate sanitary waste treatment, increased impervious surfaces too close to water bodies and removal of vegetation that stabilizes shorelines. In addition, the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines is diminishing as a result of over built structures located too close to the water.

The previous regulations allowing expansions to non-conforming structures built prior to 1973 did not comply with the terms of the APA Act, which specifically requires that expansions not increase any non-compliance with the minimum setback requirements. This revised rule and included exemptions will protect water quality throughout the Adirondacks so that future generations will continue to benefit from clean water.

The proposed guidance documents are online at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0812/Legal.htm


Friday, August 8, 2008

Adirondack Finch Pruyn Lands Acquisition Presentation

Dubbed “The largest conservation and financial transaction in the history of The Nature Conservancy in New York,” the recent purchase of former Finch and Pruyn wild lands in the heart of the Adirondacks includes more than 80 mountains and over 250 miles of rivers and shorelines (70 lakes and ponds) in the towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake, North Hudson, Minerva, and Long Lake. It also includes the Essex Chain lakes, the Upper (Upper) Hudson Gorge, OK-Slip Falls (itself a natural wonder), the Opalescent River headwaters, and the Boreas Ponds.

In terms of flora and fauna the area includes rare ferns and mosses growing around even rarer limestone outcroppings and includes 95 significant plant species (37 of which are rare in New York and 30 rare or uncommon in the Adirondacks). The area is also home to the Bicknell’s Thrush and the Scarlet Tanager – the purchase was important enough to make to Adirondack Almanack’s list of Seven Natural Wonders. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ADK Calls For Expansion of St. Regis Canoe AreaDispels Quiet Waters Myths

In a recent press release – “Quiet Waters Would Enhance Adirondack Experience” – the Adirondack Mountain Club countered some of the critics of the newly formed Quiet Waters Working Group and at the same time called on the working group to make use of what it called “an excellent opportunity to expand one of the Adirondack Park’s greatest attractions, the St. Regis Canoe Area.”

Adirondack Mountain Club officials called on the working group to expand the St. Regis Canoe Area (recently named one of Adirondack Almanack’s 7 Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks) to include 13 interconnecting ponds directly south of the St. Regis and west of Upper Saranac Lake. These would include Follensby Clear, Rollins, Floodwood, Polliwog, Little Square and Whey ponds. They also supported an Adirondack Explorer proposal that the area should remain open to boats with electric motors, with a 5 mph speed limit. Explorer’s proposal also states that “Pre-existing landowners would be exempted,” which wasn’t mentioned in the ADK plan. All told, the 13 ponds have a total surface area of 3 square miles.

Last month, state Department Environmental Conservation Commissioner Grannis and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Chairman Curt Stiles announced the formation of an interagency “Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park.” The working group will evaluate lakes, ponds and rivers in the Park for potential designation as “quiet water,” meaning that motorized craft would be prohibited.

This new proposal is a compromise by paddlers that would allow anglers to navigate the ponds in boats equipped with electric motors and enjoy quiet fishing undisturbed by the noise and wakes of gas-powered motorboats. It’s still to be seen if that will alleviate opponents of Quiet Waters like this one last week by Robert E. Brown in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

There has been a decade of new quiet water access purchased by the state with constant loss of motor boating waters. Now we hear of a committee being formed because ‘there are too few paddling opportunities.’ The state, now running out of lands to buy and reclassify as wilderness, intends to regulate motors off waters used by residents and sportsmen for generations.

The ADK supports the creation of the Working Group, saying that it “does not advocate any wide-reaching ban on motorboats on Adirondack waters.”

“Motorboats have been allowed for decades on most larger Adirondacks lakes, and ADK believes that this traditional use should continue,” executive director Neil Woodworth was quoted. “But there also should be more opportunities in the Adirondacks for canoeing and kayaking in peace and quiet. We believe this can be accomplished in ways that has little impact on other users.”

The ADK also called on the Quiet Waters Working Group to study the economic impacts of any Quiet Waters initiatives. Woodworth said the Working Group should also study possible motor restrictions or speed limits on Adirondack rivers, such as the Raquette, Jordan and Osgood. High-speed boats operating close to shore create wakes that disrupt nesting loons and inhibit their ability to reproduce. The Working Group should also consider economic incentives to encourage motorboat owners to switch from loud, dirty two-stroke engines to four-stroke engines.

The ADK also argues that the argument that there are thousands of lakes and ponds, covering hundreds of square miles, that are open to quiet paddling and that many lakes and ponds are inaccessible because they have been “locked up” in wilderness areas., is false.

They argue instead that

The DEC has cataloged more than 3,600 lakes and ponds in the park, but nearly half are less than 5 acres and three-quarters have less than a mile of shoreline. When private and public water bodies are taken into account, about 90 percent of the park’s lake surface area is open to motorboats. Although wilderness accounts for 17.5 percent of the total area of the Adirondack Park, wilderness ponds cover only about 12,000 acres, less than 4 percent of the park’s total.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Environmentalists Sue Over Floatplane Use

Received from the Adirondack Mountain Club and forwarded for your information, the following press release:

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Albany on May 29. The suit asks the court to compel the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake in the Adirondack Park.

The lawsuit was filed because DEC has failed to abide by legal commitments it made in 2003 to eliminate floatplanes on the wilderness lake. In January of that year, the DEC commissioner signed a unit management plan (UMP) for the area that committed DEC to phasing out floatplane use of Lows Lake over five years. The five-year window expired at the end of January, but DEC has not promulgated regulations to ban floatplanes. According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of the state Executive Law, “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”

“Lows Lake is a true wilderness within the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve,” said David H. Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. “Eighty-five percent of its shoreline is bounded by designated wilderness. It is the true eastern border of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The public expects DEC to manage wilderness according to well established principles and legal guidelines, among which is the key provision that there shall be no public motorized use.”

“We take this action reluctantly and only after extensive discussions with DEC at the highest levels,” said Roger F. Downs, conservation associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “From the moment these lands and waters were acquired for the public in 1985, the state’s verbal and written intent was to treat this body of water as wilderness and to close Lows Lake to all public motorized use. Finally, in 2003, DEC committed in the UMP to doing just that over the ensuing five years, providing floatplane operators with a long time to adjust their business plans. Five years constitutes a very generous and lengthy public notice. We act today because DEC has failed to follow through on a very public commitment advertised far in advance and involving extensive public involvement and debate.”

At 3,122 acres, Lows Lake, which straddles the St. Lawrence-Hamilton county line, is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of a roughly 20-milelong wilderness canoe route. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until recently. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased. Motorboats, except those for personal use by the few private landowners on the lake, are now prohibited on Lows Lake.

A recent analysis by the Residents’ Committee shows that only 10 of the 100 largest lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are “motorless,” and three of these are in remote areas that are not easily accessible. The vast majority of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are overrun with floatplanes, motorboats and personal watercraft.

“Motorboats have already been prohibited on Lows Lake, making this decision by DEC inconsistent as well as illegal,” said Michael P. Washburn, executive director of the Residents’ Committee. “The park should be the place where people know they can find wilderness. That will only happen if New York state follows its own laws.”

DEC’s proposed permit system would limit flights into the lake and allow DEC to designate specific areas for take offs and landings, but the plan creates a number of problems. For one thing, floatplane operators would be allowed to store canoes for use by their clients on Forest Preserve land designated as wilderness, an inappropriate and unconstitutional commercial use of public land. Floatplanes would also have to beach on the wilderness shore to drop off and pick up clients at the canoe storage sites.

During the peak paddling season, July through September, floatplanes would be prohibited from landing on and taking off from Lows Lake on Fridays and Saturdays and on Sundays before 2 p.m. This would increase pressure on the area because visitors coming in by floatplane would have to camp for at least three nights on weekends during the busy season. Floatplane customers would also be coming in on Thursday, allowing them to quickly fill up camping sites before weekend paddlers have a chance to get there.

DEC attempts to justify the proposal by manipulating the results of a survey of paddlers who visited Lows Lake in 2007. Generally, the survey results do not support continued use of floatplanes on Lows Lake. For example, 68 percent of the paddlers surveyed said they believe it is inappropriate for floatplanes to use the lake and 85 percent said floatplanes diminished their wilderness experience. These figures are consistent with the hundreds of letters the state received in 2002 supporting a floatplane ban.

“Lows Lake provides a rare wilderness paddling experience, but that experience is greatly diminished by the intrusion of floatplanes,” said Neil F. Woodworth, executive director of ADK. “It’s frustrating, after a hard day canoeing or kayaking, to discover that your favorite campsite has already been grabbed by someone who can afford to hire a plane.”

The suit is returnable on July 11 in Albany. Attorney John W. Caffry of Caffry & Flower of Glens Falls is representing the coalition in the case.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Schroon Lake: Scaroon Manor Day Use Area Finally Opens

The Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, on the site of the old Taylor’s on Schroon, has finally opened to the public (word has it that their will be limited camping facilities beginning next year). According to a DEC press release, it’s the “first new recreational facility constructed in the Adirondack Forest Preserve since 1977.”

Scaroon Manor comprises 241 acres in the towns of Chester, Warren County, and Schroon, Essex County, including 1,200 feet of shoreline on Taylor’s Point on the western shore of Schroon Lake. The day use area, which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, contains a beach [next to the abandoned boat crib at left], swimming area, large parking lot, bathhouse, and 58 picnic sites located in the pavilion and surrounding areas. It will be operated by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The parking lot contains ample parking for all users of the Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, with designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities.

The site features a 120-foot long beach and 10,000 square-foot swimming area that can accommodate hundreds of bathers and swimmers. The lawn area immediately adjacent to the beach provides additional space forrecreation or relaxation. The beach bathhouse has changing areas, flush toilets, and sinks, all of which are accessible to persons with disabilities. The picnic pavilion contains 20 picnic tables and there are 38 additional picnic sites located in three areas close to the beach. Half of the picnic sites in each area are also accessible to people with disabilities.

In the 1700s, the Scaroon Manor site was called Spirit Point because of its use by religious worshipers. The property was home to a large farm, and eventually housed a succession of summer resorts. As a major summer resort from the 1930s through the 1950s, the facility included a grand hotel with a large ballroom, guest cottages, a golf course, and a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater. The last resort at this site – The Scaroon – closed in the early 1960s.

The property was acquired by New York State in 1967, and became part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Many of the original buildings were sold and removed to new locations, some of which can still be found on the shores of Schroon Lake today.

That last line is interesting – the big rub has always been that they simply burned down a historic hotel and resort complex. That’s still true.

No word on what will become of the “500-seat outdoor amphitheater” (right) an amazing Greek style theatre that looked pretty rough last time we saw it.