DEC offers compromise in float plane access controversy

RAY BROOK - A pending compromise between the state Department of Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency may have commercial float planes landing on Lows Lake again soon.

Considered a positive development in both tourism and waterway access in the Adirondacks, the DEC proposal includes a four-year extension to a policy allowing float plane access to the lake.

The measure, however, would set restrictions on when and where commercial planes can land.

Spanning the border between Hamilton and St. Lawrence counties, Lows Lake is a popular, remote Adirondack fishing and canoeing destination.

In October 2008, the DEC proposed extending float plane access into Lows Lake for a 10-year period, but the APA rejected the measure, citing the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

With the rejection of the original DEC proposal, float plane access to the lake was effectively terminated, causing vocal opposition on the part of float plane operators and local politicians.

"The agency has been looking for ways to deal with the float plane issue on Lows Lake for several months," APA Spokesman Keith McKeever said Wednesday. "The agency board found that the original 10-year proposal was not compliant with the master plan - we then asked them for a compliant proposal."

The current DEC plan would extend access to Lows Lake until Dec. 31, 2012, although the original APA management plan called for a cessation of float plane access in 2008.

According to the current proposal, permits would be required of pilots to land on the lake. Further, landings would only be permitted in the portion of the lake adjacent with the town of Colton. Everything west of Colton would be designated as a wilderness area, restricting access by any motorized vehicle.

Local officials have argued that the lake does not constitute a wilderness area because it is man-made and hosts such institutions as a Boy Scout camp.

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