The New York State Council of Trout Unlimited weighed in this week on the work being done in Adirondack rivers and streams.
In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the group claims some work crews are doing more harm than good by not following state Department of Environmental Conservation emergency guidelines.
The Sept. 27 letter states that Trout Unlimited was initially relieved to read the DEC's emergency flood response guidelines after Tropical Storm Irene hit the region on Aug. 28; however, the organization has grown concerned since then because some work is "proceeding in a manner inconsistent with these guidelines."
Critics of the restoration work done in Adirondack rivers and streams since Tropical Storm Irene have pointed to John’s Brook in Keene Valley, seen Tuesday, as an example of how not to repair a waterway. They say the brook’s now-uniform channel will make flooding worse for people downstream and not provide enough habitat for aquatic life.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Crews clear stones from the AuSable River below AuSable Forks on Tuesday. The stones, deposited during Tropical Storm Irene, could cause ice jams, according to local officials.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
The organization is concerned that such work is harming natural habitat and could exacerbate future flooding events.
"Aesthetic, recreational and economic values are lost wherever channels are degraded," the letter says. "Subsequent flood impacts are not controlled; channel maintenance costs skyrocket and post flood repairs of previously altered channels ... are overwhelming."
The letter was signed by Elma resident Dee Maciejewski, chairman of the group's statewide council, and Queensbury resident John Braico, who is secretary and resource management vice president.
"We're bulldozing and excavating in a method that won't do any good and will just result in more flooding problems at the next high-water event," Bill Wellman, Region 5 vice president of Trout Unlimited's New York State Council, told the Enterprise Friday. "There's a mad rush to get stuff out of streams. Some of it is justified. If you've got something that's going to imperil a building, a life, a roadway, something has to be done and the TU guys understand that. However, there's a tendency to take that authority a little too far."
Trout Unlimited had previously contacted state officials on Sept. 23 as a member of an alliance asking for heavy machinery work to be halted in Adirondack rivers and streams. The alliance said that before any more such work is done, there should be a meeting to address it that includes members of the state Adirondack Park Agency, Department of Transportation, DEC and other stakeholder groups.
In recent weeks, the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, the AuSable River Association, and numerous citizens and businesses have expressed concern about the stream and river work.
Local officials have defended it, saying it has been necessary to protect the public at large from future flooding events.
Work crews have until Oct. 8, when environmental permitting requirements go back into effect. The governor suspended them on Aug. 30 to speed rebuilding after the storm.
DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis, when asked if there were cases in which crews working in Adirondack waterways violated DEC guidelines, said, "While most of the emergency repair work in streams has been critical to protect life and property following the flooding events, there are cases where repair work may have exceeded emergency authorization guidelines."
She added, "DEC staff is working collaboratively with the DOT, APA and local governments to inspect work performed under emergency authorizations to ensure no unnecessary harm is done and to make certain the environment and property will continue to be protected during future storm events."
When asked specifically about John's Brook, she said it was being inspected. She also said no decisions have been made about whether to extend the emergency authorization deadline.
Braico told the Enterprise in an email that "neither emergency DEC guidelines nor DEC general permitting requirements have been followed or enforced." He said the public is beyond needing emergency conditions at this point, and it's time for local, state and federal agencies and various groups "to work together to meet common objectives that help us recover from the flood disaster, help the environment heal, and offer true reduction in flood risk by dealing with flood energies and all other aspects of flood response in currently accepted means.
"To do otherwise risks squandering limited money, leaving the populace at greater risk of future flood damage, and leaves the streams despoiled for many decades. None of this is an acceptable 'cost,' none of it is justifiable."
Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.