The Santa Clara Planning Board approved the expansion of the Upper Saranac Lake Marina at its July 22 meeting. The Special Use Permit will allow the former Hickok’s Marina to increase its dock slips to accommodate 94 boats and extend 200 feet into Lower Fish Creek Pond. A seven-page resolution justified the granting of the Special Use Permit by referring to standards for Commercial Marinas as defined by the Town of Santa Land Use Code. Commercial marina regulations were adopted by the town in 2021.
The approved Special Use Permit, specific to the USL Marina, drew resistance from nearby residents on Lower Fish Creek Pond. Despite the submission of over 100 comments opposing the expansion, the Planning Board unanimously approved the permit. Only one letter, submitted by the applicant, was in favor.
Residents of Lower Fish Creek Pond organized a campaign that publicized the Marina’s plans. Concerns included 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. Outreach included local television and print media. Neighbors further contended that the proposed covered docks would reduce usable space on the water, introduce new hazards, and increase traffic in a bottleneck between a popular state campground and the midsection of Upper Saranac.
The granting of the permit concluded over a year’s worth of work by the town. The Santa Clara Town Board initially adopted a moratorium on commercial development that provided the town time to develop and enact new regulations governing marinas. The town hired a professional planning services company to work with the special committee made up of the town’s Variance and Planning board members to guide and develop these draft regulations. Public comments were welcome throughout the process.
The Planning Board did add conditions to the permit that included:
- Limiting hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Prohibiting renting and mooring of personal watercraft
- Prohibiting overnight boater occupancy
- Two permitted oversized docks are to only be used for vintage/antique wooden boats
- Allowing no more than 20% of the dock slips for rental boats exceeding 20 feet
The project will still require state Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation permits. There will be additional opportunities for public comment during each state agency’s project review.
The Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) actively participated and provided input to better protect water quality, focusing on aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prevention, pollution control, and environmental impacts
This marina expansion, along with a similar marina expansion on Lower Saranac Lake proposed by the same owner, will likely increase attention on the questions concerning the state’s responsibility to study the carrying capacity of Adirondack lakes — an assessment of the impacts of boat traffic and use — in order to quantify what would constitute overuse.
USF embraces an evaluation of the carrying capacity of our water bodies to withstand various watercraft uses and boater traffic prior to permitting the expansion of or allowing for new marinas; an assessment would measure the impacts from use, boat size, noise, speeds, wakes, and wave action.
While USF supports active and viable marinas in the watershed, we feel it’s in the best interest of water quality to ensure that marinas operate with care for natural resources and that there is a comprehensive environmental review to prevent any potential negative impacts.