ADK Action will hold an information session and discussion from 5 to 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, July 12 at the Old Forge Library, 220 Crosby Blvd. ADK Action was founded in the Tri-Lakes area as a non-partisan organization in 2007. Membership is open to both seasonal and full-time Adirondack residents.
“The issues we tackle are politically neutral, but we believe they are of great importance to the future of the Adirondacks,” said Dave Wolff, the organization’s chair. “Some are economic, such as consistent property assessments, universal access to high-speed broadband, and more shared services among the many government jurisdictions of the Park. Some are environmental, such as water quality and salt pollution. We try to focus our limited resources where we can make a difference and, most importantly, we try to take action and make things happen.” » Continue Reading.
Summer is the season for being on the water in the Adirondacks, and a canoe or kayak is the perfect way to explore the many ponds, slow-moving rivers and marshes that exist throughout the Park. While these shallow, muddy-bottomed settings may not be great for swimming, the rusty-tan water occasionally covered with patches of floating leaves and strands of submerged vegetation does teem with life. Among the residents of these quiet, weedy waterways is the redbelly dace (Phoxinus eos), a common and widespread member of the minnow family of fish. » Continue Reading.
A cast-iron pan, a quart pot and a tea kettle. It’s hard to believe that I spent six months pretty much just using those three utensils to make all of my meals. And it’s not that I had been eating out a lot or eating unhealthy meals, but with only a little propane stove to cook on, I got by with the bare minimum of dishes. Plus it was really hard to wash dishes with no running water.
Another writer told me to use spray bottles to do the dishes. Put warm, soapy water in one and clean in the other to save on water, since I was filling a five-gallon jug every couple of days and hauling it to the cabin. It was a great idea and definitely saved on water, but I found that using the spray bottle to rinse was just not effective. The wash bottle was great, but I still just ran the spigot on the jug to rinse. » Continue Reading.
I hope you got the idea from the Dispatch two weeks ago that I put a premium on cooking real food over saving weight when I’m in the wilderness.
It’s no contest; I love to eat well when I camp, no matter the circumstances.
Admittedly Lost Brook Tract affords me a real advantage because we have a lean-to and a fire ring with which to maintain a permanent base camp. In fact during our first summer trip there, in addition to lots of tools, supplies and the makings for Shay’s Privy, we hauled in a primo cooking setup. It consisted of a large, heavy-duty two-burner stove, tubing, a propane gas distribution pipe and a screw-on lantern at the top.
Some hiker noticed my load at the trail head when I hauled in the propane tank, one of those deals you usually see mounted on the front of an RV. Their look of scorn and derision was forgotten as soon as I fired this deal up for the first time. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Layne Darfler, a junior at Paul Smith’s College majoring in Environmental Studies. She is from Hudson Falls, NY. This is part of our series of essays by young people from Paul Smith’s College.
What if there were a way to become more sustainable and recycle more than the everyday paper, plastic, or cans? What if we could recycle nature? It seems almost impossible since the guy on TV just told us the Earth is dying, but in reality there is a lot we can still do to help our planet. How about recycling the rain? » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $5,120,000 investment for NY Works projects that will allow for eight flood control system and dam repair projects in the North Country. Projects slated for the Adirondack North Country include the Lower Lows Dam and Upper Lows Dam on the Bog River. Those dams, made of concrete and located in a area classified Primitive, are favored by paddlers on the Bog River, Hitchins Pond, and Lows Lake. The other dams slated for repair are Palmer Lake Dam in North Hudson (popular with anglers); Taylor Pond Dam in the town of Black Brook, southwestern Clinton County (part of the Taylor Pond Wild Forest); Kingdom Road Dam which holds back Lincoln Pond in Elizabethtown; Main Mill Dam in the City of Plattsburgh; and Whiteside Dam. All are considered “Critical Dam Repairs.” The funds will also support a Malone flood control project. Two notable back country dams gave way late last summer during Hurricane Irene. The Marcy Dam is expected to be rebuilt. DEC has decided that the Duck Hole Dam will not be rebuilt. » Continue Reading.
The mild temperatures and limited snowfall that the Adirondacks have experienced this winter season have failed to establish the usual snowpack that blankets the region by this time of year. While a substantial covering of snow provides numerous recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, it also serves as an essential fresh water reserve to supply the many brooks, streams and rivers across the Park with water when spring arrives during March and April. With the first few thaws of late winter and early spring, much of the water produced from melting snow flows over the surface of the still frozen ground. This water quickly moves down hillsides and creates small, seasonal water courses on the forest floor. As these tiny tributaries merge and empty into larger, more permanent streams, the level of the water increases, along with the strength of the current. » Continue Reading.
Since 1992, the Champlain Basin Education Initiative (CBEI) has provided professional development opportunities for educators who wish to teach their students about the Lake Champlain watershed. More than 700 educators have participated in workshops and graduate courses offered through the CBEI partners. A new web resource, WatershED Matters, has now been developed to compile the knowledge and teaching strategies used by recent course participants. WatershED Matters is housed within the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s website on behalf of the CBEI partners. WatershED Matters features curriculum units and community projects currently being implemented by New York, Vermont and Québec educators. The CBEI partners expect the site to grow as educators suggest links to their favorite field trips and classroom resources for teaching about the Champlain basin.
“This resource tool has been in demand for several years by both teachers and the CBEI partners,” says Colleen Hickey, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program. “In recent years, nearly 40 educators have completed our eleven day watershed course and it’s great to be able to share what they’ve learned about the Lake, its tributaries and nearby resources.”
Champlain Basin Education Initiative partners currently include: the Lake Champlain Basin Program, Shelburne Farms, Lake Champlain Sea Grant-UVM Extension, ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, the Lake Champlain Committee, and curriculum coach Amy Demarest. Several New York groups have also assisted with educator outreach in the past year by implementing workshops about specific watershed topics.
Beach Road at the south end of the Lake is about to become the first heavily traveled roadway in New York State (and one of the only roads in all of the Northeast) to be paved with porous asphalt. This technology allows stormwater to drain through and be filtered naturally by the earth below. The silt, salt and pollutants the stormwater carries are expected to be filtered naturally and not go into the Lake.
The $6 million-plus reconstruction project is expected to begin in mid-April, and be completed in about 18 months. The pavement will be installed between Canada Street and Fort George Road. Warren County Director of Public Works, Jeff Tennyson, and the state Department of Transportation, have helped move the project forward, one expected to get national recognition, and set a precedent for other lakeside communities. Beach Road has been in need of reconstruction for several years. In 2010, Warren County was planning to use traditional asphalt on the road. After attending the North County Stormwater Conference & Trade Show, and seeing several presentations on porous asphalt applications, Randy Rath, project manager at the LGA, and Dave Wick, director of Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, encouraged the county to consider porous asphalt as an alternative to traditional asphalt.
Together, Randy and Dave quickly conducted research on the possibilities and made a presentation. In 2011, the LGA provided just over $8,000 in funding for a feasibility study with project engineer Tom Baird (Barton & Loguidice), to provide the information the county and state needed to move forward. At the same time, Dave Wick helped draft an application for additional monies to offset any higher cost from using porous asphalt.
Because this technology is still relatively new in the U.S., the county plans to install the infrastructure and storm drain system that would be needed with traditional asphalt, while the road is under construction. This traditional drainage system will be capped off and is expected to be brought online only in the event that the permeable pavement fails and has to be replaced by traditional asphalt at some point in the future.
Stormwater runoff is considered the number one source of pollutants entering Lake George. The dense development at the south end of the Lake, and the many impervious surfaces created by it, increases the volume and rate of flow of stormwater. Along with the stormwater, many contaminants, such as silt, salt and harmful nutrients, are carried directly into the Lake.
According to the Lake George Association (LGA), research studies and previous projects have shown that porous pavement is highly effective in draining stormwater, and as a result, it increases traction, reduces the build up of ice, and requires much less de-icing material in the winter. The amount of salt detected in the south end of the lake has doubled in just over 20 years according to the LGA.
Photos: Above, the Beach Road in Lake George Village; Middle, a cross-section of porous pavement technology; Below, porous pavement in use at an Albany parking lot. Courtesy LGA.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have announced that they have secured funding to prevent the imminent shutdown of 18 United States Geological Survey (USGS) river and lake gauges in the Lake Champlain basin. Those gauges – nine in Vermont and nine in New York – were seen as vital to communities impacted by last year’s spring floods and during Tropical Storm Irene. The funding has been secured through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered an inspiring State of the State message, which I heard on the radio this week. He invoked the past, gave us all hope for the future, and had a long list of policy accomplishments to point to. He pointed to the need to invest state dollars in the upstate New York economy, especially people who are struggling in Buffalo and surroundings. He spoke up for major state investment in our aging infrastructure. He spoke glowingly of the performance of his economic development councils, and public-private partnerships. If I had to sum it up, in his speech the governor tried to set a high standard for New York, and inspire its citizens to reach for such a standard. However, the governor said nothing about the high standards of New York’s environment, and how much the state benefits from this condition. One very distinguishing high standard for New York State is and has been its tremendous water supply and water quality, which derives from its undeveloped, mountain forest headwaters – in the Catskill Mountains, in the Finger Lakes, in the Adirondack Park, in the Long Island Pine Barrens, in the Schenectady aquifer, and found in many other very valuable, special places. Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, a former upstate Mayor, understood the value of watersheds for his City of Rochester. As Mayor, he championed the Environmental Protection Fund for its role in preserving his city’s clean water supply from the Finger Lakes.
Governors should never forget how, for instance, the three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks distinguishes the state from every other state, and every other nation on earth. These wild lands, just hours distant from twelve million people, provide water to urban and suburban areas which does not require filtration to meet clean drinking water standards. These wild watersheds provide nature benefits which, if they became polluted and not usable, would cost the state many billions of dollars, with untold other costs not measurable in dollars.
In his formal office at the Capitol, Governor Andrew Cuomo has replaced the portrait of former Governor Theodore Roosevelt with one of a former Governor he admires even more, Al Smith. Regarding a proposal to dam an Adirondack river for hydroelectricity back in 1926, here is what then Governor Al Smith had to say about the Forest Preserve:
“In view of the definite attitude of the people of the State with regard to the preservation of their rights in the Forest Preserve, and in view of the further fact that by no stretch of the imagination can this River Regulating District be brought within the purview of the Constitution, I respectfully suggest that the application be denied” (it was).
On another occasion, Governor Al Smith said:
“We owe it not only to ourselves but to the generations to come that the Adirondack Preserve be kept the property of all the people of the state, and should any part of it be flooded, the floodings should be restricted to the public benefit now set forth in the constitution and not for exploitation by private interests.”
Al Smith thought past his own generation, and understood the long-term values of protected Adirondack watersheds. He is the same governor who blocked his ally, the powerful parks council chairman and builder Robert Moses, from constructing an automobile “tourway” around the shore of Tongue Mountain by buying the mountain for the Forest Preserve. Smith also opposed Moses in his bid to construct rustic motels, roads, and gas stations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. He is the same governor who in 1924 put up a state bond for $15 million – a great sum in its day – to acquire Forest Preserve, including many miles of the eastern Lake George waterfront for the public.
I am hopeful that Governor Cuomo pays attention to this part of Al Smith’s legacy, and internalizes for himself the great competitive advantages in keeping and wherever possible expanding the quantity and quality of large blocks of intact, forested landscapes, many of which are embedded within our State’s Constitution.
Yes, Governor Cuomo and his team have pledged not to compromise “forever wild” principles, which of course is entirely laudable and sensible from an economic as well as environmental perspective.
But isn’t it long past time simply to treat “forever wild” as a rule not to flout, and limited to just the Adirondack and Catskill Parks? Why should it not be an eminently successful and advantageous ethic and policy to embrace and affirm in a State of the State address? Why not propose to strengthen the state’s environmental quality review to measure and control the carbon emissions of many different types of development? Why not study the advantages of expanding the boundaries of the Catskill or Adirondack Parks? Why not pledge to acquire Follensby Pond, or the Essex Chain of Lakes? Why not embrace the Park’s status as an International Biosphere Reserve, and encourage the world to invest in climate and ecological research here? Why not assure localities of the full taxation of the public’s Forest Preserve by placing such a commitment within the Constitution itself? If, in the environmental resilience it gives us, and in its component parts “forever wild” is indispensable as policy, why not develop ideas to investigate and stop any degradation? Why not buttress it, and offer incentives for state and localities to expand upon forever wild in other parts of the state?
One answer may be that there are always strong temptations, matched by lack of awareness and understanding, which can result in great damage in order to achieve short-term ends, even in the Adirondacks and Catskills, much more so everywhere else. Hydraulic fracturing for gas, on the scale contemplated (several thousand permits per year), will forestall the re-wilding of watersheds across a million or more acres of the state. The spidering of roads, trucking, lighting and drilling from the Marcellus shale formations will industrialize a good bit of the state’s rural landscapes, damaging what are now pretty intact forested uplands, wetlands, streams. Were the values of these landscapes monetized, and their nature benefits calculated, the cost-benefit analysis of hydraulic fracturing might be weighted heavily on the cost side of the equation.
Another example where the governor’s high standards are not yet being applied is his Adirondack Park Agency, which should be setting the highest standard for review of development, as well as promotion of applied “smart growth.” Instead, the Agency may be poised to deliver a permit for the worst kind of speculative, sprawling subdivision in its history – the Adirondack Club and Resort – which has failed to properly value its forests, watersheds, water quality, and wildlife, and which greatly overestimated its real estate, tax and sales projections – in a Park which the statutes say must be protected for future generations, and must avoid unnecessary environmental impacts.
Many Governors, and their Lieutenant Governors, in depressed and good economic times, have embraced the idea that managing forest land for ecological integrity is their highest and best use. These leaders have done so despite the ever-present siren song of short-sighted exploitation. Consider these words of Lt. Governor Frank Moore, c. 1951, during an address at the Buffalo convention of the New York State Conservation Council:
“Over the years the greatest enemy of the Adirondacks has been man himself. For almost a century the fight has continued to protect them from the despoiler…The people of the state unquestionably need more water power, but the place to get this…is from the Niagara and St. Lawrence, not by destroying the virgin forests of our great Preserve; not by destroying the Adirondack sponge which is providing our greatest water reservoir. In the solution of our water supply problems in this State we may find our greatest asset to be the Forest Preserve.”
The same could be said today by Governor Cuomo or Lt. Governor Duffy concerning carbon storage and sequestration, stormwater management, water quality to urban and rural areas, and educational, recreational and tourism benefits, among many others. Your honors, it’s a year to go beyond lip service, and embrace our wild watersheds.
Photos: Elk Lake and the High Peaks beyond; Article 14, Sect. 1, NYS Constitution.
A significant part of climate is precipitation, and fundamental to any discussion on the impact that global warming is having on a region’s climate would have to include possible changes to the rain and snowfall patterns. While unusually prolonged periods of precipitation can turn a backcountry camping trip into a nightmare, discourage golfers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts, and frustrate anyone trying to put a new roof on his/her home, or a coat of stain on the deck, too much rainfall, especially concentrated over a short span of time, can wreak havoc with the environment. » Continue Reading.
It was immensely satisfying to watch EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announce today that power-plant mercury emissions will be reduced 90 percent.
We in the Adirondacks have waited more than two decades for this. You would think limiting a toxin such as mercury, which harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, would not be subject to protracted debate. But coal- and oil-fired power plants resisted the regulation shamelessly for decades. » Continue Reading.
Lake George received the best reading on a measurement for clarity among 98 New York lakes in 2011, the Lake George Association (LGA) has announced. “If you want clear water in New York State, Gull Bay on Lake George is the place to be” said Nancy Mueller, the manager of the NYS Federation of Lake Associations, Inc., the organization sponsoring New York’s Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP), in conjunction with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. On Lake George, the program has been coordinated by the Lake George Association for the past eight years. » Continue Reading.
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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