Yesterday I wrote a post on the Adirondack Explorer website about the contention of Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club that the permits for the Adirondack Club and Resort have expired. Consequently, I found myself in the middle of a dispute over arcane (to most) passages in the Adirondack Park Agency Act.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the APA has not issued permits for the Tupper Lake project. Rather, the APA board approved the permits subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, such as a study of the project’s impact on amphibians.
Until the conditions are met, there are no permits, and so far the conditions have not been met. » Continue Reading.
Where have all the young people gone? Having spent 19 months reviewing bars, taverns and dives in the Adirondacks, the thought had crossed our minds, but we never vocalized it. We just assumed they came out later. Like vampires. Not during the afternoon and evening. Not during Happy Hour. Or maybe they just restricted themselves to larger venues like Lake Placid and Lake George.
We found them one Wednesday afternoon in July, at the Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub in Childwold, somewhere between Cranberry Lake and Tupper Lake. » Continue Reading.
The brick building, trim and neat, stands just feet from the sidewalk on Main Street in downtown Tupper Lake. P-2’s Irish Pub, illuminated in red and green neon, replaces its former moniker, Al’s Lounge. Inside, a suit of armor standing guard at the pool table silently observes our entrance.
Dimly lighted with amber pendants and recessed spotlights, the interior’s Irish pub characteristics gradually come to light. The curved bar a rich, dark wood with red padded front, shows signs of its age and character. Old cigarette burns mar the top, scars of forgotten conversations and decades of good times. Arrow back bar stools match the studded green faux leather walls, padded for comfort. Tin ceiling, oak woodwork, worn wood floor and round, solid oak pub tables surrounded by sturdy backless stools all lend warmth, character and charm in this intimate space. » Continue Reading.
Trail’s End is a classic roadhouse bar located just outside Tupper Lake on Route 30. Step out the front door and look around. Surrounded by mountains, water, and trees, a few barely discernable dwellings dot the landscape. Located at the convergence of Tupper Lake, Simon Pond, Raquette Pond, and the Raquette River, Trails End earns the distinction of being the bar with the best view in Tupper Lake, with some of the nicest people.
As we stepped from our V-6 (not our V-twin), we received a friendly greeting from the pair of musicians seated with their guitars on a long bench on the porch. Thursday is open mic night at Trails End and some like to get there early to warm up, be it musically or otherwise. Trails End is a self-proclaimed biker bar, but don’t think non-bikers are not welcome. » Continue Reading.
Amy and I have just returned from two magnificent weeks on Lost Brook Tract. It was everything we could want and more, pure glory. I am still digesting the experience, not yet ready to write about it.
In the meantime I had prepared a set of Dispatches to run while we were gone so that you, dear readers, would not have the weekly streak interrupted. I came off the land revitalized, ready to respond to any comments and rejoin the fray. But as my columns were hardly controversial or provocative there were few comments to read (yes Catharus, looking for Bicknell’s up top is on our priority list). No comments? That’s no fun! So this time I decided to write a column with a topic guaranteed to produce a reaction: revitalizing Tupper Lake. I was motivated in part by the vitriol evident in a posting on the same topic just days ago. » Continue Reading.
New York State is celebrating its museums, art centers, zoos, historic buildings, botanical gardens and other cultural organizations from May 31-June 6, 2012 with New York State Museum Week.
According to Goodsell Museum‘s Executive Director Gail Murray, they are hoping this opportunity will draw different people into the museum.
“We have new exhibits in,” says Murray.” We are dedicating the upstairs to places we call ‘Accidental Museums’ like The Strand Theater here in Old Forge. We made one area look like the theatre and we have some of their film memorabilia and camera collection on loan. Another example of local history and accidental museums are The Farm Restaurant and Teich’s Old Trading Post.” » Continue Reading.
Coming up in the month of June is a rare astronomical event. The second planet to the sun, Venus, will pass between us, and the sun. Venus transits have a strange pattern of 121.5, 8, 105.5, 8 years, and the one prior to the transit in June of 2004 was 121.5 years ago in 1882. The next pair of transits wont happen again for another 105.5 years, so this will be the last chance any currently living human get’s to witness this event.
The reason transits don’t happen more frequently is due to the orbits of Venus and Earth not being on the same plane. Venus’ orbit is slightly inclined to the orbit of Earth, so when Venus passes between Earth and the Sun every 1.6 years Venus is either slightly above or below the Sun. » Continue Reading.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13th, and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is giving everyone the chance to celebrate the women in their lives whether great-grandmother, grandmother or mother. This event is not just geared toward children, but to embrace the child within. Join in the festivities and enjoy a free opportunity to explore Mother Nature inside and outside the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center).
According to Director of Programs Jennifer Kretser, the annual spring event is an opportunity to showcase The Wild Center’s exhibits as a place for all ages to explore. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest analysis by Billy Martin, a senior at Paul Smith’s College in the Natural Resource Management and Policy program who is interested in the economic and environmental sustainability of the Adirondack Park.
Adirondack history has been shaped by contention over how to manage the region’s resources. Maintaining this historical trend, contention over the use of a state-owned rail corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake has led to another divide among residents. The Adirondack Recreational Trails Advocacy (ARTA) and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) represent opposing poles on the issue, each with seemingly equal support from residents of the Tri-Lakes Region. » Continue Reading.
Those in Tupper Lake can join a new community maple project, led by The Wild Center and one of the first of its kind in the state. The Wild Center invites community members to tap maple trees in their yards and have it collected by a Wild Center representative on a daily basis during the sugaring season (once the sap begins to flow). Once returned to The Wild Center, the sap will be boiled down into maple syrup. Participating community members will receive 50% of the finished product (pure maple syrup) from the sap they provide. (Generally 40 gallons of sap = 1 gallon of maple syrup = ½ gallon of pure maple syrup to supplier.) Organizations like Sunmount have already agreed to participate in the project. Two informational pancake breakfasts and workshops will be held at The Wild Center to educate the community about the project. The free ‘Art of Maple Sugaring Breakfast and Workshop’ on February 24th and March 17th will introduce the natural history of maple trees, provide access to the latest in maple information, including the tools you need to tap a tree, collect maple sap and ways to participate in the project. You must pre-register to participate. Registered participants will receive a pancake breakfast, expert-led workshop, and the tools to tap your own sugar maple for the 2012 season, including one bucket and tap. Additional supplies will be available for purchase from The Wild Supply Company. You must attend one workshop on either February 25th or March 17th to be involved in this project. Families are encouraged to attend. Register at www.wildcenter.org/sweet.
While Vermont seems to have cornered the market on maple syrup, New York State has an enormous potential to compete. According to a report from The Uihlein Forest for Cornell University, only 0.4% of the potentially tappable maple trees are used for syrup production in Franklin County. If Franklin County made and consumed more locally-produced syrup, the economic impact of the maple industry could increase from $300,000 to more than $4,000,000 annually.
Sugaring will be down at the Wild Center where there will be an assortment of demonstrations, activities and events to celebrate all things sweet this maple syrup season. Visitors can watch how the sweet sap of trees becomes the highlight of a pancake breakfast and learn other ways to use this natural sweetener.
On February 25th and March 17th the Adirondack Museum will share some of the local stories of maple through historical object and pictures from the past. You can also take a maple “tour” with experienced naturalists at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm as they tell the story of maple sugaring through the stages of tapping, processing, and finally getting to the sweet part, maple sugar. Take a closer look at an operational evaporator, catch some running sap and drill your own tap as we explore the local maple sugaring story. Learn how you can sugar at home.
Nordic skiers in the northern Adirondacks will want to keep Tupper Lake’s free, groomed cross-country trail system on their radar screen. Expected snowfall should have the 10k trail network skiable this weekend. The trails are located on town-owned land and can be accessed from the Tupper Lake Country Club or Big Tupper Ski Area.
Even though the trail system has been in existence for 40 years, it’s something of a well-kept secret. “We’d like to change that,” says John Gillis, one of a half dozen community volunteers who maintain the trails in winter using snowmobiles and a variety of grooming and track-setting equipment. The trail system is free of charge, open to the public 24/7 (conditions permitting) and is dog-friendly.
The trail system’s website and Facebook page are updated frequently with current conditions and grooming reports. Upcoming events include:
– February 4th, 6 pm: Full Moon ski and bonfire at the Cranberry Pond Picnic Area.
– February 11th, 6 pm: Skiing with the Stars. If the night is clear a telescope will be set up.
– February 18th, 10 am: Lumberjack Scramble Ski Race.
– February 25th, 6 pm: Skiing with the Stars. If the night is clear a telescope will be set up.
– March 2nd, 6 pm: Winterfest Bonfire at Cranberry Pond.
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
The outcome to approve the Adirondack Club and Resort was not a surprise. The ten to one margin of the vote was a surprise. Nor was it surprising that Commissioner Richard Booth assembled the reasoned arguments why this massive, speculative real estate subdivision should be denied. He has an excellent mind, an articulate voice, and a logician’s ability to arrive at the kernel of a matter in relatively few words, readily dispensing with the “dead wood” of an argument to arrive at the heartwood at its core.
The vote went in alphabetical order, so Mr. Booth went first. Here is what he forcefully and passionately argued, in ascending order of importance:
1. Independent experts testified at the hearing that the project sponsor’s sales projections and real estate valuation estimates were completely unrealistic. Since it is the Agency’s job to take into consideration the possible economic and community benefits of an application in judging whether or not there are undue adverse impacts to the Park’s sensitive ecological and physical resources, the failure of the applicant to come up with even remotely reliable quantitative figures (it was shown in the hearing that the applicant derived the projections himself without aid of a professional appraiser or market analyst), means that the Agency must in rendering its judgment, as a matter of the law, largely discount the claims of large or even significant economic benefit;
2. Despite numerous requests to do so by the Agency, the project sponsor failed to conduct a wildlife inventory and assessment, something that is rather routinely done for smaller development projects elsewhere in the state. This failure, in and of itself, is not the central problem. The central problem is that such an inventory and assessment is crucial to judge whether the proposed project design poses adverse impacts to wildlife habitats and migratory pathways. If you don’t know what lives on the site, and where their habitats are, how can you determine the impacts? That is the “big hole” in the application that “never got filled.” This hole can not be corrected with project conditions, he said. To emphasize his argument, he reminded his colleagues that a single hearing expert (Dr. Michael Klemens) who was never invited to tour the property found in a matter of one day and night in a very small section of the project area more species than the project sponsor identified in seven years;
3. Most importantly, the project is not consistent with the description, purposes, policies and objectives of Resource Management land because it spreads houses across thousands of forested acres contrary to the letter and intent of the law. The ecological integrity of Resource Management, and the paramount importance of protecting its delicate biological and physical resources under the APA Act, is violated. A yes vote would send a negative message to other applicants that this type of development on Resource Management is acceptable. Furthermore, given the acreage involved there are many alternative ways to design the project which would avoid this violation, alternatives that the applicant failed to analyze.
The other Agency members followed, many either agreeing with Mr. Booth or sympathizing with his arguments, but concluding that “the process had worked,” the numerous project conditions would adequately protect natural resources, while a permit would lead to a better future for Tupper Lake. “It’s been an education for me,” said Mr. Lussi. “The sponsor has been receptive to some of the sensitive issues, and removed a number of upland developments. The plan is thoughtfully done.” Ms. McCormick of the State’s Economic Development Corporation gushed: “I am happy to vote yes. We’ve protected the land, and achieved tremendous economic benefit.” This is all in line with Governor Cuomo’s program for job growth, she noted. Mr. Wray was the last vote, and he “agonized” over his decision, nodded to Mr. Booth’s arguments, then concluded that “notwithstanding my discomfort, we can justify this.” How he justified it remained unsaid.
Mr. Booth’s logical arguments failed to carry the day because other members largely ignored the hearing evidence (upon which their decision was to rely on) and the law in order to fall into line with one or more of the following leaps of faith:
a. the project sponsor’s assertions of great economic benefit, hearing evidence to the contrary notwithstanding;
b. the feeling that our staff are the experts, we trust them and they say this is OK. Staff concluded that numerous project conditions would satisfactorily protect the park’s delicate physical and biological resources, and that this is an “ever so carefully regulated design” (to quote APA Chair Ulrich);
c. this development seems to fall into line with Governor Cuomo’s economic development program, the APA law and hearing evidence notwithstanding.
There is a large cultural sympathy for Tupper Lake that must also be acknowledged as a factor. “We have to do something for Tupper” is an undercurrent from many in that town and beyond it which, while hardly constituting evidence justifying ten votes in favor, does play with an Agency that craves public acclaim. Tupper Lake does need and deserve plenty of help to develop as a community, I readily agree. However, in this case the fact that “doing something for Tupper” may actually mean taking the same speculative gamble with the community’s resources, services and taxpayers that Mr. Foxman and Mr. Lawson and the project boosters are taking did not seem to overly concern these members.
A critical factor in the outcome of the vote, in my opinion, is that the APA staff performed badly (I could use a stronger word) in their summaries of the adjudicatory hearing evidence for the Agency’s members. On numerous occasions the staff downplayed what they considered “bad” evidence, and emphasized what they saw as evidence favoring the project. For instance, bad evidence that the project posed undue risk to the area’s natural resources from Drs. Glennon, Kretser and Klemens, was often given a sentence on a summary slide, and then members were invited to read the relevant pages of testimony for more. Good evidence, for example staff conclusions that deed covenants adequately constituted project alternatives and satisfactory resource protection, were spelled out in their entirety on a slide.
A particularly egregious example is that in the final project permit order APA staff chose to illuminate a positive April, 2007 letter from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency “taking official action toward the issuance of PILOT bonds on behalf of the Project Sponsor finding that the Project constitutes an appropriate ‘project’ within the New York State Industrial Development Agency Act.” The staff ignored “bad” evidence in the form of an FCIDA communication dated Feb 1, 2011 which so clearly makes its 2007 letter irrelevant and dated: “It has been four years since ACR’s application to the IDA in February 2007, and nearly that long since an inducement resolution was passed in April, 2007. The board that approved the project has since turned over four times and the project has changed….we have not determined the legal basis, precedent or workability of it (the PILOT) (emphasis mine)…it is premature for the IDA to provide testimony or opinion in the case of the ACR.” Why wasn’t this 2011 letter quoted in the final project order?
Another badly flawed project “finding” that the staff reached is this: “Site investigations to evaluate wildlife and wildlife habitat on the project site followed standard Agency guidelines and procedures.” This statement is utterly at variance with the hearing evidence. APA’s witnesses Sengenberger and Spada, along with outside experts, all found that the applicant failed to do what the Agency asked it to do, repeatedly, and that it was the applicant’s burden and responsibility to conduct the wildlife studies, not APA’s. At the last moment in the Agency’s deliberations this week, staff distributed to the members a 1993 APA staff memorandum titled “Guidelines for Biological Survey” which had not been disclosed during the hearing. Staff described the memorandum as supporting their finding that standard Agency guidelines and procedures with respect to wildlife and habitat had been performed. In fact, a close reading of this memorandum and its tables satisfies me that the Adirondack Club and Resort easily reached the threshold required for a comprehensive, quantitative biological survey – precisely the opposite conclusion reached by the staff. Agency members did not have adequate time to study this memo, and made no objection to the way staff characterized it.
1. The hearing’s evidence, upon which the members were legally and solely bound to consult in rendering their decision, actually played a relatively insignificant role in that decision. Witness Mr. Lussi’s closing comment that the land has been heavily logged, and is therefore not pristine – seemingly deaf to abundant hearing evidence, even from the Agency’s staff, that a history of logging in no way compromises the ecological integrity and functioning of this Adirondack landscape, while housing development can and does.
2. The facts emerging from the hearing that the applicants failed to carry their burden of proof on wildlife, alternatives and fiscal and economic impacts, and that this did not sufficiently bother more of the members calls into question how and why this Agency performs adjudicatory hearings;
3. The staff was not impartial in the way they chose to present the evidence, and in the evidence they chose to emphasize for the members;
4. Too many staff findings of fact and conclusions of law were not faithful to the hearing evidence and official record;
5. Many if not all of the “significant changes” to the original site plan (applauded by the members as something new) had been decided four years ago.
6. The Agency’s press release issued shortly after the vote was self-congratulatory to an extreme, cited all of the economic and employment benefits shown in the hearing to be highly exaggerated (Mr. Lussi even lectured the applicant about these exaggerations), and could have been written by the applicant himself.
7. There are some good project conditions, such as the after-the-fact wildlife studies and the independent environmental monitors, but these are wholly inadequate to correct such a deficient and defective project application.
I have interacted with the APA for twenty-five years. I readily admit to a point of view. I also have had and expressed great respect for the Agency and its staff over the years, and stood up for the Agency’s mission, budget, policies and staffing levels on many occasions. My final conclusions are, therefore, hard ones for me to express: they are that the Agency voted to give away the park, failed in its duty, failed the public’s confidence, and deserves to be chastised and investigated in the way it is currently performing its statutory mission to protect the “unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack Park” (Sect. 801, APA Act).
Photo: From the summit of Mt. Morris and Big Tupper Ski Area looking down at the ACR site, Tupper Lake in the distance.
The Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake has been green-lighted by the Adirondack Park Agency in a 10 to 1 vote. APA Commissioner Richard Booth was the lone vote no.
In addition to being livestreamed via the APA’s website, Jessica Collier at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and North Country Public Radio‘s Brian Mann have both been tweeting each speaker’s comments as the vote took place. A proposal to conduct a wildlife study of the development area was defeated in an earlier vote this week. The Almanack has been covering the development project since 2005. Almanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown wrote about what the project could mean to future fragmentation of lands designated Resource Management this week.
You can find out all the details of the project online [pdf].
Citing the lack of wildlife and ecological information in the hearing record, Adirondack Wild, a nonprofit membership organization which advocates on behalf of the New York Constitution’s “Forever Wild” clause, petitioned the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on Friday to reopen its hearing on the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) “to secure additional evidence.” ACR is proposed development of 719 dwelling units spread across 6,200 acres near Tupper Lake.
Adirondack Wild, a party to the adjudicatory hearing reviewing the large Adirondack resort project in Tupper Lake issued the following statement via press release: “The hearing should be reopened to obtain substantive information and assessment without which the members of the Agency cannot make the requisite findings of ‘no undue adverse impact’ to the Park’s ‘natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife, historic, recreational or open space resources, or upon the ability of public to provide supporting facilities and services.'”
“Every expert witness, as well as Agency staff, found the ACR project application seriously flawed due to the lack of on-site studies of wildlife, sensitive habitats or rare, threatened or endangered species,” Dan Plumley, partner with Adirondack Wild. said. ”Our motion also highlights the fact that Agency staff admit that the applicant failed to sufficiently examine alternative project designs, as the law requires.”
“Moreover, the project’s purported economic benefits have been put forth with no factual data, or other basis upon which the Agency can make an informed judgment about commercial and other benefits of the project. The lot value and sales projections were pulled out of thin air,” Plumley said. Adirondack Wild argues that the APA Act states that such benefits must be taken into account in order to evaluate possible burdens on the local community to provide supporting facilities and services to the development.
Agency Regulations permit any party, or the Agency itself, to move to reopen an adjudicatory hearing to secure additional evidence. The Agency has been deliberating about the ACR hearing since November, and is expected to render a decision on the permit at its January 20 meeting in Ray Brook. The Agency’s Executive Director informed its members in November that it has three choices: to deny the project, approve the project with conditions, or send the project back to hearing.
“The APA executive staff are trying to persuade the Agency board to make a blind inductive leap by purporting that open space, natural and wildlife resources are adequately protected with no basis for this conclusion in the evidentiary record given the failure of the applicant to complete the requisite wildlife studies,” Bob Glennon, Adirondack Wild’s advisor on the motion, said.
“The applicant bears the burden of proof that the project will be compatible with the character, description and purposes of Resource Management lands, will not have an undue adverse impact, and that reasonable alternatives have been thoroughly examined. The applicant has completely failed to meet all of these burdens,” states Glennon, who is a former APA Agency Counsel and Executive Director. ”The Park Agency cannot legally make their required finding of no undue adverse impact without substantial evidence that is competent, material and relevant. Instead, the staff is offering mere speculation that adequate habitat protection can be assured.”
“The Agency should deny the project without prejudice to resubmission, or reopen the hearing so that the applicant finally conducts the natural resource inventory and assessments, and the alternatives analysis that he should have provided years ago,” according to David Gibson, Partner with Adirondack Wild and a regular contributor here at Adirondack Almanack.
“Collecting this evidence will not require years of study,” Gibson said. “While two full field seasons would be preferable, one full field season of work by qualified experts would gather a considerable amount of information about the presence of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems that is presently not available to Agency Members as they seek to render an informed determination whether this is an approvable project or not.”
The project developers have not yet completed applications for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or for a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan (PILOT) with Franklin County. Developers are proposing taking out approximately $36 million in taxpayer supported bonds to finance the construction.
“Reopening the hearing to obtain vitally needed new evidence will not be holding up progress on the project at all. The applicant can pursue these other permit applications while he is obtaining the additional evidence we believe is essential for the hearing record and for an intelligent, well-reasoned, legally-defensible decision by the Agency,” Gibson said.
Photo: The view over the proposed development area from the summit of Mt. Morris, with Cranberry Pond and Lake Simond in distance.
Of all the issues out in the media about the Adirondack Club and Resort application and hearing now under review by the APA, there has been a surprising lack of information and discussion about water – sewage from all those homes, potable water supply, run-off, impacts on streams and Tupper Lake itself, and impacts on the Village of Tupper Lake’s public water and sewage delivery and treatment systems.
These are hardly glamorous issues, but they are of intense concern to local residents, village officials and to Park advocates alike, as well as to our public permitting agencies. Tupper Lake, into which a good deal of the sewage effluent will flow, is an extremely important Adirondack freshwater lake, and an important water source for the Village and Town of Tupper Lake. One of the problems in reporting and discussing these matters is that water issue jurisdiction is split between the APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and it is not at all clear to the public where one agency’s jurisdiction over water issues ends and the other’s begins. What is clear is that the ACR applicant, Mr. Foxman, has not completed his applications for the four or five DEC permits he must have to begin construction. These applications pertaining to water supply, sewage and wastewater treatment, and storm water run-off and pollution prevention were all noticed by DEC as being incomplete in a long letter to the applicant’s consultant, the LA Group, dated October 18, 2010.
The DEC water-related permits are completely separate from the APA permit. Indeed, the DEC letter states that only after the water applications are deemed complete and published to allow for public comment, and only after those comments are analyzed can the department judge whether or not to hold a separate DEC public hearing on ACR water issues. So, even if APA issues a permit, ACR is hardly home free. Mr. Foxman noted this in recent interview. Then, there are the necessary Industrial Development Agency hearings required before the IDA can issue the private revenue bonds to build the sewer and water systems, but that’s a whole other story.
The contents of that DEC letter have long been eclipsed by the APA public hearing, but they are significant. For one thing, the department seems very concerned about the applicant’s stormwater pollution prevention plan (so-called “SWPPP”) as well its wastewater treatment plant proposed just south of Cranberry Pond. As much as possible, DEC seems to want ACR to dispose all its sewage effluent in the Village of Tupper Lake’s sewage treatment plant, and not on site. During 2010, DEC developed new stormwater standards based on a policy of non-degradation of receiving waters. In other words, Tupper Lake can not receive more pollutants from storm and sewage runoff after developing the ACR than it receives currently without the ACR development. And there is the question of current conditions. How is change measured? DEC is not comfortable with the adequacy of current water quality data – as a baseline for measuring change in the watersheds affected by the ACR. DEC may demand that Mr. Foxman conduct a thorough baseline examination of current water quality conditions in the streams and “receiving waters” such as Cranberry Pond and Tupper Lake.
Of the applicant’s August 2010 stormwater plan update (SWPPP), DEC writes that the applicant’s plan is “inadequate for addressing stormwater runoff from the proposed development….the significance of the post construction stormwater discharges and the extent of the proposed changes to the natural conditions of the drainage area raise a concern to prevent the receiving waterbodies from potential impact. The plan is not presenting any water quality analysis, water balance analysis, or downstream analysis particularly to the most immediate water courses feeding to the down gradient streams or lakes. Discharges to small lakes and headwaters in the stream network raise the question of cumulative impact of the development on these types of waters. The primary concern is the impact of increased flow volume and nutrients due to runoff from new development.”
So, DEC has a long list of technical issues the applicant must address for stormwater, including new design standards, reducing the total amount of runoff, and greater use of “green infrastructure” to handle the runoff. To further quote from the twenty page letter: “Due to the large areas of steep slope being disturbed as part of this project and the number of sensitive receiving waters located at the project site, the individual SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit is going to require the owner to hire a dedicated erosion control team whose primary role will be repairing, maintaining and upgrading the erosion and sediment control practices that will be used at the site.”
This part of the DEC letter is interesting because it seems to conflict with the APA staff’s conclusion that Mr. Foxman has avoided building on steep slopes, and that “implementation of proposed grading, drainage, site layout, erosion and sediment control, on-site wastewater treatment, road and stormwater plans will serve to protect soil, surface water and groundwater resources” (APA Draft Conditions). Those APA draft conditions merely note in one sentence that the applicant has to comply with updated DEC stormwater runoff design standards.
There are a host of sewage related concerns in the DEC letter. First, the letter states that the applicant has yet to provide engineering details about how the new sewage plant would operate, or the wetland treatment system downstream of the plant which the applicant says will “polish” the effluent. Second, DEC feels the applicant has yet to evaluate alternatives to the current proposal to send some sewage to the village plant, send some to a new plant to be constructed above Cranberry Pond, and build septic tanks and leach fields for about half of the 39 proposed Great Camps. Alternatives are “a critical component of the Department’s review because the Department must ensure that the project conforms to the State’s water quality anti-degradation policy…At this time, it appears that connection to the municipal sewer system remains a viable alternative.” The letter notes that one new proposed plant near Cranberry Pond, designed to treat up to 150,000 gallons per day of sewage, is not the preferred solution. A new on-site sewage system should be “the treatment option of last resort. Due to phosphorus in the wastewater, subsurface discharges are the preferred alternative.”
The letter notes this concern: “Phase 1 of the proposed development is anticipated to generate 12,448 gallons per day of sewage. The Department is concerned that during low occupancy periods, the wastewater treatment plant will experience flows well below this rate and will have difficulty operating properly. Please provide an evaluation of how the plant will perform during periods of low flows and also during cold weather periods.”
DEC is very concerned about long pipes or mains serving infrequently occupied residences far from the source of water or the treatment of the sewage. Having sewage, for instance, sit for long periods in the long, small diameter force mains and grinder pump stations necessary to reach some of the Great Camps will result in serious operation and maintenance problems, the letter notes. Only when the DEC is convinced that there is no possible on-site septic opportunities for all of the Great Camps will it allow this type of sewage development, it states. At present, ACR plans to sewer the 15 western Great Camps because, in APA’s opinion, bedrock makes it infeasible to develop septic systems there.
“There are inherent operational problems in running long water supply mains” to serve the Great Camps, the letter states. DEC concerns are that water stagnates in these long pipes, and that this stagnant water will lack contact with chlorination or other disinfectant agents, and that secondary chemical byproducts could form in the water. DEC recommends that no Great Camps be served by the project’s water district, and all be served by on-site wells. This recommendation appears to conflict with the current proposal that has gone through the APA hearing, whereby at least 15 western Great Camps are planned to be served with public water supplies.
One could go on and on. APA still has received no septic system plans for many of the Great Camps, and many of these may not be feasible to be built. Impacts on Cranberry Pond from sewage effluent, from stormwater runoff and from use for snowmaking are very much up in the air. Many citizens are worried about all of the pharmaceuticals that ACR residents will flush down their toilets, which will end up untreated in Tupper Lake and Cranberry Pond.
Then, there are unanswered questions about how any of the ACR’s sewage will get to the Village treatment plant. While Village officials and DEC seem to agree that the recently upgraded Village Sewage Treatment Plant has sufficient capacity to handle ACR, the sewer collection system will need a major upgrade to get ACR sewage to the plant. A new four-six inch force main will have to be built under the Rt. 30 causeway across the Tupper Lake marsh, and DOT is adamant not to dig up the road again. Outside of the road, one side is Forest Preserve, and all is freshwater marsh. Mr. Foxman had the chance to put a new force main in when Rt. 30 was freshly dug up in 2006-2007, but refused to pay for it. A new main will be needed at Wawbeek Street. Then there are the necessary upgrades to the pump stations and gravity lines.
To sum up: DEC now requires far lower biological oxygen demand in waters receiving sewage effluent, meaning that treatment must remove much more of that demand before downstream release. How, in the cold Adirondack climate with strung-out infrastructure on and far beyond Mt. Morris will ACR achieve this? DEC requires more precise water quality measurements before development takes place to measure “non degradation of receiving waters.” When will ACR conduct these measurements? Through the DEC applications, the stormwater run-off performance of all of ACR’s housing and roads will be subjected to individual scrutiny. Meanwhile, there may be significant differences between what APA considers approvable, and what DEC deems sufficient from a water quality perspective. The public won’t learn much about all this during the APA’s current permit deliberations. But the other shoe, taking the form of costly final DEC permit submissions and possible hearings, will eventually drop.
Photos: Above, Mt. Morris from Cranberry Pond in winter; below, Mt. Morris from the Rt. 30 causeway.
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