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Long-awaited stormwater regulations finally released

Long-awaited stormwater regulations finally released

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LAKE GEORGE — Residents who own property within 50 feet of any water body or wetland in Lake George Park will no longer be permitted to fertilize their lawn under new stormwater regulations proposed by the Lake George Park Commission that were made public for the first time this week.

The ban on fertilizer is just one of a handful of proposals drafted by the Park Commission two years ago to protect the water quality of Lake George following an extensive review of the current regulations that were first adopted in 1990 and updated in 1998.

“We started in 2017 coming up with certain ideas on what we wanted to look at for the stormwater regulations, where improvements can be made, which hadn’t really been done at the time in about 20 years,” Dave Wick, executive director of the Park Commission, said.

The regulations were drafted following months of public input in 2018 and sent to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, where they underwent a vigorous two-year review process.

State approval was finally given this month, and the proposed regulations were made public for the first time on Wednesday in the state register. A public hearing on the proposals will be held at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George on Sept. 22 before the regulations are formally adopted.

In addition to the ban on fertilizer, the regulations call for reducing the setback requirements for infiltration devices, better regulations of the logging industry and a requirement to retrofit properties when making improvements to reduce stormwater runoff.

Stormwater runoff is one of the biggest threats to the lake’s water quality, and the proposed regulations are an important step in combating pollutants and preventing invasive algal blooms, said Walt Lender, the executive director the the Lake George Association, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the lake’s water quality.

“Stormwater is clearly the biggest threat to the water quality of Lake George, so anything that we can do to curtail stormwater from getting into the lake untreated is very helpful,” he said.

Retrofitting properties

Under current regulations, property improvement projects, like a new garage building, are broken down into two classifications — minor and major — based on the amount of land being disturbed.

Minor projects are between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet in size, while major projects are those that exceed 15,000 square feet.

Both classifications require a permit from the Park Commission to proceed, but major projects require property owners to address stormwater runoff on their current project and retrofit their existing property to address the issue as well.

The new regulations will require those applying for a minor project permit to retrofit their properties to handle up to at least half-an-inch of precipitation.

“It’s an attempt to do better on the remainder of those properties that are developed out there on the basin,” Wick said.

Wick said the proposal is aimed at tackling long-term stormwater runoff, since the regulation would only apply to property owners looking to make upgrades.

“We’re not looking at this as a one-year fix, five-year fix or even a 10-year fix,” Wick said. “We’re looking at this as a long-term improvement.”

Timber harvesting

Logging activities that create 5,000 square feet or more of disturbance are already regulated by the Park Commission, but conservation and erosion control plans are only required to be submitted to the County Soil and Water Conservation District and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

In addition, the town and village of Lake George, Queensbury and Bolton also require logging plans to attain planning board approval before they can begin. A majority of municipalities along the basin, however, do not.

That creates a disconnect which often leaves the Park Commission — which has jurisdiction over stormwater regulations — in the dark, Wick said.

“The problem is there’s a disconnect between our agency and those other agencies, so people don’t really know much about it,” Wick said.

Under the proposal, all logging projects must now submit a conservation and erosion plan to the Park Commission at least 15 days prior to the start of the project.

New setback regulations and fertilizer ban

In addition, the proposed regulations also seek to reduce the setback requirement for stormwater infiltration devices to be installed from 100 feet to 35 feet for residential properties.

Many who look to install such devices on their property often have to receive a special variance in order to do so. The reduced setback better fits with the lake’s shoreline and will allow residents more leeway to address runoff.

The 100-foot setback for infiltration devices would still apply in areas of high traffic, such as roadways.

But fertilizer would no longer be permitted to used on any property within 50 feet of a body of water or wetland within the Lake George Park under the new regulations.

Currently, only the towns of Queensbury and Lake George have laws prohibiting the use of fertilizers near waterways.

Eliminating the use of fertilizer around the Lake George basin is key to preserving the lake’s water quality and preventing harmful algal blooms, Wick said.

“Just having people understand that fertilizing near water bodies and wetlands is just not a good thing to do for the long-term integrity of the lake,” he said.

Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.

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