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Crowd debates stream setback proposals

LAKE GEORGE - Modern-day philosophers contend that everything is subject to interpretation - and apparently the justifications for a proposed set of environmental regulations pertaining to feeder streams around Lake George are no different.

Tuesday, dozens of people aired their disparate beliefs at two public hearings on the pending controversial regulations proposed by the state's Lake George Park Commission.

Mountains of data have been compiled regarding the effects of vegetative clearing near streams which feed large bodies of water, but still local officials and property owners continue to refute the claim that a decline in water quality in Lake George is directly associated with vegetative clearing and structural development on or near feeder streams.

"You can find a study to support or refute anything you like," Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender said Wednesday. "The tough part is wading through all the data and coming to a viable conclusion."

Last month, the Lake George Park Commission, a state regulatory agency, issued its findings that vegetative clearing and development near streams cause silt buildup and algae-forming phosphorus runoff into Lake George.

In response, the Commission has proposed a controversial 200-foot zone of undisturbed plant growth, which agency officials, environmentalists and scientists argue will significantly reduce silt deposition and algae, which reduce free oxygen in the water and threaten aquatic wildlife.

Over the last two weeks, most towns in Warren County - and the county itself - have unanimously passed resolutions in opposition to the proposed regulations, arguing that the scientific data is sketchy at best. Further, the municipalities argue that the regulations were redundant and cumbersome, would slash property values and devastate the tax base, and they constitute an unconstitutional "taking" of private property.

Those wishing to clear vegetation and build structures within the defined setback area would be required to seek yet another permit from a state regulatory agency - in this case the Park Commission.

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