New York voters approved both Adirondack propositions Tuesday, a relief for Raquette Lake land owners and an Essex County mining company.
In Proposition 5, an Adirondack mineral company asked the state to let it expand its Essex County pit mine onto 200 acres of state-owned land in exchange for 1,500 acres elsewhere.
NYCO Minerals Inc. says it will restore the 200 acres and return it to the state in about 10 years, after it mines the wollastonite, a mineral used in ceramics, plastics and paints. The company will also give the state at least $1 million worth of land to add to the Forest Preserve.
Brett Lawson, superintendent at NYCO Minerals’ Lewis mine, points in June toward a 200-acre parcel of state-owned land, above and behind the rock wall, where the company wants to mine wollastonite. Also pictured, from left, are NYCO employees Dawn Revette and Brian Shutts.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
This old Adirondack Park Agency map illustrates where contested parcels are in Raquette Lake. Voters cleared those titles Tuesday by passing Proposal 4, an amendment to the state Constitution.
Proposition 4 will give up the state's claim to the property of 216 private and public landowners in the Hamilton County hamlet of Raquette Lake. The landowners have been vexed with disputed property titles since the 1800s, when a series of clerical errors left it unclear if the state or the landowners had title.
Under Proposition 4, the state will release its claim to the parcels in return for undeveloped land elsewhere, with the landowners paying fees to cover the new acquisition. The parcels include private homes, businesses, a school, firehouse, waste transfer station and marina.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to ask the state Legislature target the historic Marion River Carry for acquisition. It's part of a canoe route that connects Raquette Lake and Blue Mountain Lake in the central Adirondacks.
Proposition 5 had strong support locally, where the company employs about 100 people, but it split environmental groups. Proposition 4 saw near-unanimous support.
Protect supported Proposition 4 and thanked New Yorkers for voting for it.
The Adirondack Council supported the mining proposition, saying the 1,500 acres are worth far more ecologically and recreationally than the 200 acres. It also supported Proposition 4.
"We are grateful that the voters approved these two Constitutional Amendments authorizing land swaps involving the 'forever wild' Adirondack Forest Preserve," council Executive Director Willie Janeway said in a press release. "It shows that voters value the environmental and economic benefits of the state's 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. They share our vision of an Adirondack Park that works best when its wild character is protected and its small towns and hamlets are vibrant and alive."
The Sierra Club and Protect the Adirondacks said the mining proposition would set a bad precedent, arguing that it would weaken the forever wild clause of the state Constitution. Protect issued a press release this morning thanking all the voters in New York who voted against it, and saying it was the most closely contested proposition in decades and calling it a split decision "in practical terms."
State Sen. Betty Little, a proponent of both amendments, issued a statement today saying she was gratified and happy they both passed.
"Amending the state Constitution is not an easy process, by design, and both amendments reflected a very thorough and balanced approach that will help our economy and result in better recreational access important to tourism and protective of the environment," said Little, a Republican from Queensbury.
"Yesterday's approvals were the culmination of great team work among many local, state, environmental and business leaders and partners, so credit goes to many but especially to those in Raquette Lake and the towns of Lewis and Willsboro who had so much at stake and persevered."