Water quality sparks lake debate

LAKE GEORGE The clash between environmentalists and developers has reared its ugly head again, when a proposal for new rules was announced last week. The Lake George Park Commission hired Saratoga Associates a year ago to help draft new land use rules to protect streams and trees. The proposal was unveiled last Tuesday when the LGPC got its first look at the proposal. The new rules would ban tree cutting up to 100 feet from many streams that feed into the lake and limit tree removal on construction sites. Both would essentially reduce land around the lake that is available for building. Many new high-end homes that now enjoy expansive lake views would eventually lose them as tree removal would be limited. Steven Mikulencak, and engineer with Saratoga Associates, said that having no-touch zones around the lake is critical. He said that these zones would filter stormwater before it reaches the lake, a step needed to reverse Lake Georges worsening water quality. LGLC Chairman Bruce Young said that the proposed rules were only a start for discussion at a commission meeting last week. Landowners and tourist businesses in Bolton and Lake George said the proposal was close to theft of land by regulation. Environmentalists feel that tighter controls are needed to protect the lake. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said the last time steps were taken to protect streams and trees was in 1961 when the LGPC was created, and a new set was overdue. He also feels that the proposed rules dont go far enough, citing New Jersey rules that have a 300 foot buffer around streams. The issue of development around the lake has been a bone of contention for decades. In 1987, recognizing a growing threat, the Lake George Watershed Conference was created. Composed of 25 representatives from state, county and municipal governments, as well as lake associations, the conference was asked to come up with a plan. A 2001 update found problems with development and water quality remained and in 2004, another update contained recommendations such as an annual limit on algae-feeding nutrients and mapping to identify tainted stormwater. David Decker, executive director of the conference, said despite stormwater projects, the problem is far from over. He said that there is currently not a single entity to monitor development trends around the lake. He said that the conference is not against growth, but about smart growth, ensuring that the lake continues to have the ability to clean itself. Decker said that fixing stormwater mistakes is more expensive than preventing them. The conference's flagship project is the former Gaslight Village property in Lake George village, which is hopefully going to be converted into a man-made filter for pollution from West Brook. A partnership between environmental groups, Warren County and the town and village of Lake George has pledged the $4.1 price tag, and another $5 is needed to build bends in West Brook to slow its process, so settling beds can catch sediment. Other conservation projects are in the plan for the property. Decker would like to see stricter rules to protect the lake, like banning lawn fertilizer and highway salt in the lake basin. He said there is no reason to have fertilizer in the watershed when it is absolutely accelerating the decline of the lake.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment