Two recent New York State Supreme Court decisions impacting other Adirondack water bodies may have far-reaching implications on two Upper Saranac Lake projects: the expansion of the former Hickock’s Marina and additional development and clearing in the Deerwood subdivision on the northern end of the lake.
The first ruling stated that the state Adirondack Park Agency (APA) should have held a public hearing with an administrative law judge before issuing a permit for herbicide use in Lake George. The judgment determined that the criteria to hold a public hearing should be in part determined by “the degree of public interest in the project, as evident by communication from the general public, governmental officials or private organizations.”
Although the permit submission to the APA from the Upper Saranac Marina to expand on Lower Fish Creek Pond is still incomplete, the project has drawn considerable resistance. Over 100 comments from area residents and watershed users opposing the expansion were submitted to the Town of Santa Clara prior to the town approving their permit. Only one letter, submitted by the applicant, was in favor. The marina has now initiated the permit process for the expansion with the APA.
Despite the official APA comment period for the Lower Fish Creek Pond Marina not yet being open, numerous letters of disapproval have already been submitted. Concerns include the excessive size of the expansion, loss of character to the waterway, and environmental concerns that included wave action, shoreline degradation, and overuse of the pond. Based on the Lake George ruling there is justification for a judicial hearing prior to an approval for expansion of the Upper Saranac Marina.
In a second ruling, an appellate court judgment invalidated an APA permit and declared the APA wrongfully applied its wetlands regulations when approving a permit for a marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake. The decision focused on how the agency reviews wetlands ratings when it evaluates sites seeking a permit. APA spokesperson Keith McKeever acknowledged that the ruling “will affect numerous shoreline properties around the park.”
In 2022, the APA amended a pre-existing permit allowing for an on-site septic system for Lot 9 on Upper Saranac Lake in the Deerwood subdivision — an APA categorized “2” wetland. The Deerwood subdivision, on the north end of the lake, is a 25-acre wooded wetland complex with a pond and streams that empty into USL. Owners of the lot proposed a five-bedroom home, with a garage apartment and an on-site septic treatment system within 100 feet of the wetland.
A recent independent evaluation conducted by a wetland ecologist rated the wetland as the most sensitive and unique, a category “1” fen. According to the ecologist the fen is home to rare plants and is a peat-forming wetland relying on groundwater input. It required thousands of years to develop and cannot easily be restored if destroyed. While a permit for the septic and construction has been granted, additional proposals for clearing the wetland may now be more heavily scrutinized due to this Lower Saranac Lake ruling.