In & About the Park
State Budget Extender Includes Adirondack Projects
For more information:
John F. Sheehan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 4, 2017
State Budget Extender Includes Adirondack Projects
Money Flows for Clean Water, Environmental Protection & Communities
ALBANY, N.Y. – The NYS Budget extender bill approved by the Legislature today authorizes $2.5 billion dollars in new funding for major clean water projects statewide and $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund. Both of these programs should help the environment and communities of the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council said today.
“This budget marks the second consecutive year with $300 million in appropriations for the state Environmental Protect Fund, which will support land acquisition, farmland protection, state land stewardship, local community Smart Growth grants, Climate Smart Communities initiatives, parks and clean water projects,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “The additional $2.5 billion in Clean Water funding -- over perhaps five years -- will provide a huge boost in available grants to communities for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and will help address impacts of road salt.”
“We applaud the Governor, the Senate and the Assembly for their leadership and commitment to clean water, clean air, wildlife and communities, in the Adirondacks and across the state,” said Janeway. “Congress should take their clue from this, not the Trump administration budget proposal. All parties should ensure that in the final budget investments in the future of the Adirondacks are a priority.”
Janeway noted that the individual categories of eligible projects for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and the clean water grants are expected to be subject to further negotiations.
For example, the EPF passed by both houses today was the Governor’s proposal from January and didn’t reflect either house’s negotiations since that time. The Governor’s, Senate’s and Assembly EPF proposals all contained $300 million, but all three had different spending priorities.
The Clean Water grants program was broken into numerous categories, with significant funding for programs that would aid the Adirondack Park and the rest of rural New York, including $1 billion for water infrastructure grants designed to close the gap between the cost of a project and the amount a community can actually afford, Janeway said.
This is especially important in the Adirondack Park, which fuels the state’s economy by attracting 10 million annual visitors to small communities whose taxpayers struggle to handle the costs of multi-million-dollar clean-water system upgrades, he noted.
Other highlights of the clean water funding include:
- $245 million for Water Quality Improvement Projects (reduce polluted runoff, improve water quality and restore habitat in New York's waterbodies);
- $25 million for road salt management projects;
- $110 million for source water protection projects (purchase of lands and waters); and,
- $75 million for septic system and cesspool upgrades (also provides for replacement).
“When the budget is completed more details will be available and a more detailed reaction will be possible,” Janeway explained.
In addition, Janeway praised the Governor’s plan to enhance Exit 29 by making it recreational, transportation and commerce hub for the southern approaches to the High Peaks Wilderness Area, surrounding communities and a variety of trails.
“This would complement Wilderness protection for the nearby Boreas Ponds,” said Janeway. This is proposed as part of a more than $70 million “New York Works” appropriation. Important details of New York works projects may be determined in subsequent budget negotiations.
However, the budget extender bill – designed to keep the state operating during a period of uncertainty over the 2017-18 federal budget -- didn’t include some other items that are a priority for the health of the Adirondack Park’s environment and economy. Janeway said those priorities include:
Staffing & Stewardship – Staffing at state agencies that manage the Adirondack Park’s public lands and waters are down 25 percent, and many advocates are calling for targeted restorations; and,
Forest Conservation – An update is needed for the timberland tax-abatement program (sections 480 and 480a of the state property tax code) to provide greater incentives for sustainable, private forestry practices.
“There remains an unmet need for better natural resource stewardship of existing state lands and waters in the Adirondack Park, especially in the eastern High Peaks and other high-use areas of the park,” Janeway stated. “The state agencies that care for the park need more staff, or partners with more staff, to accomplish this important task.”
The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant, local communities.
The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.