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APA process may complicate flood recovery

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The National Weather Service says some parts of the North Country will see more than four inches of rain before this latest storm passes. That's pushing Lake Champlain's waters back toward record-high levels. The Ausable and Raquette rivers also surged over the weekend. Most of the region is once again under flood warnings or watches.

For homeowners, businesses and local governments, recovering from the disaster will be tough. For communities inside the Adirondack Park blue line, rebuilding could be complicated by the need for project reviews and permits from the Adirondack Park Agency. Brian Mann has our story.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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At last week’s Park Agency meeting in Ray Brook, deputy director of regulatory programs Rick Weber gave a kind of slide show of the sweeping damage across the Adirondacks.

 The photographs showed homes and structures perched on the edge of mudslides.

“This is Camp Dudley and you can see that a cabin colony here is at peril of falling into the lake.  This is a very large slump area.”

Another slide showed a glut of water pouring into the reservoir in Wilmington.

“What it did in the process was essentially fill in the reservoir with rock and organic debris to the extent that they need to go in and actually dredge that area.  And so we’ve authorized that.”

Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, Weber says the APA is offering emergency clearance to begin clean-up projects that have to be done immediately.

“If someone calls in and has a request to do something immediately to protect life and property, we provide that authorization.”

But APA commissioner Frank Mezzano questioned whether Park residents and local governments could find themselves caught up in the Park’s regulatory process as they begin the long-term clean-up from the massive floods.

“The procedure for the homeowner I think is I think potentially to have to come to the Park Agency for a permit," he noted.

The Park Agency’s senior attorney John Banta confirmed that many of these recovery projects – on shorelines, near wetlands and in other sensitive areas – will face APA review.

“We should just be clear that the long-term follow-up activity that isn’t urgent should go through a normal jurisdictional determination.  If it’s jurisdictional, it will require authorization.”

The APA’s Rick Weber says the state is monitoring flood-response projects that have been given emergency clearance, and many of those will be reviewed to see if other permits are needed.

“We been tracking these events and keeping track of the authorizations that we have been providing and the consultation that we have been working on with the DEC.  We will probably be following this up with our compliance staff just to be sure that there is follow-through with each of these.”

That means some families and businesses that have to rebuild in the Park could face delays of up to three months as the APA  reviews their projects.  

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