Non-shoreowners rely on Saranac Lake Marina
To the editor:
On Sept. 14, 2020, the Adirondack Park Agency issued a determination granting a variance and wetland permit with conditions, authorizing Saranac Lake Marina to renovate and expand its marina, located in a hamlet area on Lower Saranac Lake. The agency found that the conditions imposed would minimize the project’s impact on the environment. In fact, the agency found that the project as approved would actually improve the environment by the removal of existing boathouses along the shore, implementation of SLM’s stormwater prevention and wastewater treatment plans, and removal of milfoil from Ampersand Bay. Finally, the agency noted that the applicant could reconstruct those boathouses and add additional uncovered boat slips without this variance and permit, if it desired, as the agency would lack jurisdiction in this hamlet area. It stated that such permissible but unregulated construction would result in adverse impacts to water quality, wetlands and the shoreline.
Just before the statute of limitations expired, Thomas Jorling sued to annul this determination. This is a classic not-in-my-backyard lawsuit. Mr. Jorling recently built a summer home on Lower Saranac. He now seeks to shut down a marina on that lake that has provided a vital public service for 97 years. I became familiar with such NIMBY suits when I served as an assistant attorney general in the New York attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau. This one is particularly disappointing.
Mr. Jorling’s main argument is that SLM’s project is illegal because no private docks or boat slips may be allowed on lakes in the Forest Preserve. This argument is directly contrary to recent controlling appellate case law, holding that riparian owners in the Adirondack Park have title to the beds of lakes like Lower Saranac. Further, if accepted by the court, this broad argument would also mean that every private dock and boathouse on Lower Saranac Lake, and in the entire Forest Preserve, would be illegal and subject to removal, unless they predated the 1895 constitutional forever-wild clause. I hope Mr. Jorling plans to remove his own dock, in support of his erroneous argument. He should urge all his lakeshore neighbors to remove their docks and boathouses as well.
Lower Saranac is not a private lake for the few. Mr. Jorling and other lakeshore owners have no need for this marina, as they have their private docks and boathouses. But thousands of boaters, here and elsewhere, who cannot afford lakefront property have depended on SLM for their boating access to the Saranacs since Harry Duso first opened his marina in 1924. In fact, members of my family have had boats at Crescent Bay since that time. We, like many others, lack the ability to tow and launch our boat at the state boat launch. SLM is our only means of access, for it is the only full-service marina on the Saranacs. Should this determination be annulled and SLM decide not to go forward with uncovered boat slips, its loss would be immeasurable.
Saranac Lake Marina has undergone exhaustive environmental reviews by the town of Harrietstown Planning Board and the APA for seven years. Throughout that time, opponents have endeavored to delay the project by various means. It is past time to bring this to an end.
Peter G. Crary