In the News  Archive

Adirondack Council: Dedicated funding needed for invasive species fight

Post Star
September 23, 2015

GLENS FALLS- The Adirondack Council is lobbying for $10 million in funding to fight invasive species in the Adirondack Park.

A total of $1 million was allocated from the Environmental Protection Fund to support a park-wide voluntary boat inspection and decontamination program. The effort is also receiving money from local governments and other organizations.

More dedicated funding is needed, according to Executive Director William Janeway.

“That funding needs to be permanent,” he said Monday in a meeting with The Post-Star’s editorial board.

With more funding, more efforts can be put into research, education and grants to local associations to control invasive species, Janeway said. He said local groups need more flexibility in setting up these programs.

“We need to expand the options for more communities to go to mandatory inspections,” he said.

Local communities are wrestling with the decision about whether to have mandatory inspections.

“The problem is the funding, the lack of enthusiasm around some communities,” he said.

More work to be done
Chester Town Supervisor Fred Monroe, reached by telephone, said more funding would allow communities to boost the number of boat-washing stations. This year, there were about 20, and he would like to see that increase to about 30.

More signs are needed to let people know of the program. Also, some communities need to have their water bodies surveyed, according to Monroe, who is also executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.

He said more money also would allow local governments and commissions to expand education through more public service announcements and enforcement efforts such as the tagging system that designates if a boat has been inspected. Lake George already has such a system.

He believes that local government could do the job more efficiently for less money. Their estimates had pegged the cost at about $1.6 million to $2.5 million.

Monroe said it is a very important issue.

“It’s a massive threat to the water quality, and the water quality is what drives tourism, and tourism is what drives the economy,” he said.

State of the Park
Invasive species, threats of clear-cutting and critical needs to upgrade infrastructure are just some of the needs facing the park, according to the council in its State of the Park 2015 report.

Janeway said there is a new optimism as different groups are committed to working together for the good of the Adirondacks. It is about finding a balance.

The number of people at the far extremes of allowing a lot of development or no development is decreasing, according to Janeway. Now, people are talking about how to protect the resource and balance that with economic benefit.

One issue is how much of the park should be opened up to vehicles, Janeway said. One group wants to restrict much of this land to snowmobiles, while another side wants to open it up to all-terrain vehicles.

Most people seem to believe that the answer lies in the middle. They don’t want too much access that will essentially “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” of the Adirondack Park. It could lead to more invasive species being brought in and degrade the attractiveness of the park, which could hurt local communities in the loss of tourism revenue.

It is a fragile collaboration, according to John Sheehan, the council’s director of communications.

“The emotions on the issues are still very much there,” he said.

He praised the leadership from the Governor’s Office, including having celebrities record promotions talking about activities in the Adirondacks and bringing attention to the region.

Infrastructure challenges
Sheehan said the next challenge is going to be making sure these communities have the infrastructure, particularly water and sewer, to support tourism. The local communities’ tax base is not big enough for year-round residents to pay for the multimillion dollar upgrades that are required.

The new state budget will provide for $200 million in funds to support three-year grants for communities to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure. It will cover up to 60 percent of the municipalities’ costs to upgrade drinking water up to $2 million, and 25 percent of the cost of wastewater projects up to $5 million.

Janeway said these grant programs can bridge the gap between what the communities could afford and how much these upgrades would cost.

It is not about getting free wastewater treatments for the year-round residents, according to Sheehan, but rather, it is about not making the local citizens pay more than the average person would for water and sewer in a community of that size.

While roads are more visible and get more attention for dollars, its water and sewer that are key.

Janeway recalled a conversation with a developer trying to build a hotel in Saranac Lake.

“We’re dead in the water if the community doesn’t have the ability to flush the toilets,” Janeway said.

Also, the Adirondack Council is continuing to fight against the Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s plan to store hundreds of out-of-service oil tanker cars on an out-of-service rail line between North River and Tahawus. It was The Post-Star’s coverage that brought the issue to the council’s attention, according to Janeway.

Another issue is that state regulations need updating to nip in the bud what could become a problem with clear-cutting of trees. In less than two years, more than 2,000 acres have been approved for clear-cutting, according to Janeway.

Current regulations allow for no more than 25 acres to be clear-cut at once. There have been a series of 24.9-acre cuts, Janeway said.

The companies have decided that some of this standing mature timber is not very valuable and they are going to take it all out and start anew, according to Sheehan.

Janeway said some of these companies are selling off parcels of land to get some quick cash flow. Some of these restoration projects look good at first glance. However, there needs to be a regional strategy, he said.

“We shouldn’t be doing it here, here and here without looking at what’s the larger plan for the Adirondacks,” he said.

Janeway said state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, has talked about creating incentives for good forestry management to make it profitable for companies not to clear-cut.

Sheehan said another issue is development of houses in remote locations with a 30-acre envelope around them. Large tracts of land are carved up to create roads to get to these houses.

Traffic, noise and outdoor lighting scare away many types of wildlife, according to Sheehan.

Sheehan said the park agency can recommend that developers put the houses in a more compact location, but it cannot require them. Instead, these developments can be laid out more efficiently closer to one another so not as much land is taken up.

Janeway said he is glad a spotlight has been put on the Adirondack Park, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is actively engaged in its issues.

“It enables us to be more effective in our advocacy for the park,” he said. “We can raise more money, get more people involved."

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