by Mart Allen

APA, DEC, Attorney General Ignored Creek Crossing Degradation

November 13, 2001

 

Last week’s column ended with me seeking an answer to a question: Did the Adirondack League Club have a permit from the Adirondack Park Agency for a controversial crossing on the West Canada Creek?

A series of photos appears in this week’s Express depicting the crossing. As you view them, please bear one thing in mind. No one with the possible exception of the Federal government in time of war or dire need can authorize such activity.

As a forester with over 45 years of experience, it is much more onerous to me since there is absolutely no need or reason to cause the degradation to the soil or water they portray. There is an even more troubling fact in this whole scenario. All four entities involved were put on notice ahead of time that a serious problem had presented itself. They allowed a bad situation to be further acerbated with an arrogance that would put Mussolini to shame by blundering ahead anyway. The top echelon of all four groups has to accept direct responsibility for what can only be described as a mess.

As you view the photographs, correlate them to comments that have been presented thus far. Picture in your mind the barriers of black plastic visible all along the highway construction and other construction sites and compare them with the scenes in the photos.

Bear in mind also that all four groups laud praise upon themselves with a constant stream of self-aggrandizement as being committed to good stewardship. They profess to taking the high road while rolling around in the mud where the public cannot see them. One would be paying them a compliment if he called them disingenuous.

On Memorial Day, May 29, 2000, I finally got my answer to the question I had been asking for two years. The answer was "It’s all taken care of".

It was apparent the ALC deigned to answer my question directly. Since I had a right as a member and a citizen to ask, I was left with only one alternative to get an honest answer. On May 30, 2000 I went directly to Ray Brook Park Agency headquarters for my answer.

An Agency representative gave me an answer and a copy of the ALC application for the permit filed months after the crossing in the fall of ’98. In it the Agency determined that it was non-jurisdictional.

Bear in mind, the determination was made months after they, the DEC and the Attorney General’s Office abdicated their responsibility to the law and the people they represent. Three of the five parties concerned did not do what was right, so that left only the ALC and myself. I soon learned how the last two reacted.

Shortly after I provided the pictures of the crossing to the Forestry Committee I received a call from a member of the ALC Board of Trustees. He wanted to meet with me to discuss the river crossing. We met and the gist of the meeting was how upset the Board was with me for going to the APA for the answer to my questions on whether the Club had a permit from them for crossing.

On July 17, 2000, a letter was drafted to the ALC membership and posted on the three mail lodge bulletin boards. It was not mailed to all 399 or so members, as is customary with such a missive. It was a two-page letter which in its entirety is too verbose to air here in its complete state. I submit excerpts of it that will give the reader an idea of what the Club’s view of the situation is. Bear in mind, the date of the letter is fully 52 days after the Club was notified that there was a problem and 48 days after the Park Agency notification.

The excerpts are as follows: "We have not been formally notified by the Agency. However I firmly believe that this forestry activity was conducted properly and legally, and that any complaint is groundless. The complaint is a direct attack on a forestry program which is not only being conducted professionally, but truly serving all three objects of the Club: conserving the Adirondack forest, and its fish and game; conducting scientific forestry, and contributing to the maintenance of the preserve for the benefit of its members."

"During its use last winter, the operation was visited at least twice by the DEC and was documented by them as a model on how to ‘do it right’"

"Mart Allen thus took pictures of the crossing at its worst, just before the remedial effort. Still the site is not exceptional and would be considered normal under most situations"

"We are, and should be, proud of our forestry program, and stand behind it and the staff who carry it out."

That was the initial reaction to my charges from the Club Forestry Committee and I had yet to hear from the Board of Trustees and learn what their reaction might be. At this point I would estimate that fewer than 30 members of the nearly 400 had seen the photos or knew of a potential problem.

The Board is the ruling body of the ALC. It comprises 15 members and its powers are absolute. On June 3, two members of the Board flew into the site to see first-hand the results of the logging activity. One member was an attorney and the other a music-recording executive with little or knowledge of what the ramifications of the work there on the environment or residual forest stand might be. The latter submitted a report to the Club President on August 8, 2000, excerpts of which follow:

"As we traveled we crossed about six small brooks, tributaries to the West Canada. In every case there were logs in the creek bed. One crossing was a small marsh, with cattails, pools and grasses. It appeared to me that there was an old logging road beneath the new one, which was muddy, and which seems to have been augmented from a back-hoe hole about 50 feet up the road. The marsh was therefore divided between upper and lower areas by the road, and the rain had forced a rivulet through the new layer of mud. I imagine that in a lower water table the transfer between the marsh areas would be through seepage."

"To get to the bottom of this matter, in a constructive, forward-moving fashion, the only thought I have to offer is to ask a recognized expert in the area to look at the situation, by going there, on a confidential basis, then make comments and recommendations to the Board. I would very much like to know how (Cornell’s fisheries expert) will view this as well."

"To my eyes, the aspect of this operation that impacts the watershed is in disarray (as well as Rock Pond Road which is another matter).

"I move to table the discussion around Mart until that has happened, at the least."

I will leave you at this point and take up where this ends next week.

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