Is rail car storage violating Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act?

Empty tank cars near the Boreas River. Photo by Brendan Wiltse.

Adirondack Wild and the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice are urging the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) in a letter to use its authority to force the removal of the stored tanker cars in an area of the Park designated as wild and scenic river areas.

The two groups have written a letter to the APA asserting the agency has the legal authority to do so because the storage violates the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act, according to a press release issued January 4.

We found this informational flyer from the APA explaining the act, including designated rivers in the Adirondacks:

P.O. Box 99, Route 96
(518) 8914050
FAX: (518) 891-3938
Many rivers in the state are subject to special protection under
the State’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act. In
the Park, this law is administered by the Agency.
If you are planning to build, subdivide, or in any way change
the present use or appearance of land within the river area* of
any river on the following list, it is likely you will need an
Agency permit.
Ampersand Brook Hudson Raquette
Ausable Independence Red
Black Indian Rock
Blue Mt. Stream Jordan Round Lake Outlet
Bog Kunjamuk Sacandaga
Bouquet Long Pond Outlet St. Regis
Boreas Marion Salmon
Cedar Moose Saranac
Cold Opalescent Schroon
Deer Oswegatchie W. Canada Creek
E. Canada Creek Otter Brook West Stony Creek
Grasse Piseco Outlet
With respect to designated rivers, the law and Agency
• Require an Agency permit for subdivisions, single family
dwellings and most new uses and structures in river areas.
• Prescribe an Agency permit for subdivisions, single family
dwellings and most new uses and structures in river areas.
• Regulate the cutting of trees in the entire river area
(within 1/4 mile of the river), including a prohibition on
cutting within 100 feet of the river. (See pages 3-4.) ____________ * The “river area” is almost always the entire area within ¼ mile of the bank
of the river. For a few rivers, the boundary of the river area is a different
distance from the river.
• Restrict motorboating and other motorized activities.
• Regulate bridge and road building.
• Regulate structures (such as dams) and activities (such as
dredging or filling) that alter a river’s natural flow.
• Allow continuation of lawfully existing, non-conforming uses,
but require permits or variances for expansion or change in use.
• Prohibit certain “non-compatible” uses.
• Prohibit new structures in Wild River areas.
Please call or write the Agency if you have any question whether a
permit is needed and staff will assist you.
The following rivers also are protected as “study rivers” for
possible inclusion under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers
System Act. All development and subdivision within ¼ mile of
navigable portions of a study river, outside Hamlet and Industrial
Use areas, require an Agency permit.
Bouquet (N. Branch) Osgood
The Branch Oswegatchie (Main Branch)
East Stony Creek Pleasant Lake Stream
Grasse (Main Branch) Saranac (North Branch)
Scenic River Areas Recreational River Areas
Minimum Minimum Minimum Minimum
lot structure lot structure
Land Use width setback width setback
Classification (feet) (feet) (feet) (feet)
______ ________ _______ ________
Hamlet 50* 50* 50* 50*
Moderate Intensity 100* 50* 100* 50*
Low Intensity 150 250 150 150
Rural 200 250 200 150
Resource Management 750 250 300 150
Industrial no minimum 250 no minimum 150
* These are the minimum shoreline lot width and setback requirements under the APA
Setbacks are measured horizontally along the shortest line between any
point of the structure (including porches, decks or other structural
attachments) and any point on the shoreline at the mean high water mark.
(The mean high water mark is the average of the high water levels over the
years and is frequently well beyond the bank of the river.) The Agency
will determine the mean high water mark.
All boathouses in scenic and recreational river areas require a permit from
the Agency. (They are prohibited in wild river areas.) For a structure to
qualify as a “boathouse”, it must have direct access to a navigable body of
water, be used for the storage of boats and associated equipment and must
not contain bathroom or kitchen facilities or be designed or used for
lodging or residency.
Docks are prohibited in wild river areas, and require a permit in scenic
river areas. No permit is required for a dock in a recreational river
area; however, the dock must not be wider than 8 feet.
Part 577.6 of the Agency’s regulations provides that in wild river areas
and in scenic and recreational river areas outside hamlet and moderate
intensity use areas, the following standards apply:*
(1) Inside the mean high water mark of the river, or within 100 feet
of the mean high water mark, no trees or other vegetation shall be
harvested, cut, culled, removed, thinned or otherwise disturbed, other
(i) the cutting and removal of up to a maximum of five percent of
the total basal area of timber or other vegetation per acre during any 10-
year period for the purpose of clearing the river or a tributary thereof of
fallen trees, or trees which pose a threat of bank undercutting or erosion,
or for the undertaking of land use and development or subdivision listed in
section 577.4(b) of this Part;
(ii) vegetative cutting upon lands directly associated with any
structure lawfully in existence on April 19, 1976, to the extent necessary
that any existing view of the river from such structure may be preserved;
(iii) the cutting of firewood by the resident of a dwelling within
the river area for personal use in such dwelling, provided that alternative
sites for the cutting of such firewood are not readily available to such
resident; or
(iv) in accordance with the terms of an agency rivers project
* In hamlet and moderate intensity use areas, vegetative cutting is regulated
by the APA Act. The clearcutting of more than 25 acres (or more than 3 acres in a
wetland) requires a permit. Shoreline cutting is also restricted.
(2) Between 100 feet from the mean high water mark of the river and
the exterior boundary of the river area:
(i) The cutting and removal of trees and other vegetation shall be
permitted for the undertaking of rivers projects, land use and development
or subdivision listed in section 577.4(b) of this Part, or activities
pursuant to a rivers system land management plan.
(ii) Forest management shall conform to recognized silvicultural
systems as defined in Terminology of Forest Science, Technology, Practice
and Products (Washington: Society of American Foresters, 1971) appropriate
to the site, shall be in accordance with the terms of Timber Harvesting
Guidelines for New York (New York Section of the Society of American
Foresters, June 1975).
(iii) If an even-aged stand of commercial timber species is
present, one recognized regeneration cutting that removes the main crown
canopy of such stand shall be permitted upon not more than one third of the
total area of the stand within the river area during any 10-year period if
undertaken as part of a plan to regenerate the stand.
(iv) In no event, however, shall more than 15 contiguous acres in
the same ownership be clearcut, nor shall more than 50 percent of the basal
area of timber in any tract of 30 contiguous acres in the same ownership be
cut during any 10-year period.
(3) No trees shall be felled into or across the river where
avoidable, and logging debris which may enter the river shall be removed.
Any logging debris which may enter the area inside the mean high water mark
of the river or within 100 feet of such mean high water mark shall be
removed, or shall be lopped, for hardwoods, in such fashion that no such
debris measures higher than four feet from ground level, and for conifers,
in accordance with section 9-1113 of the Environmental Conservation Law.
(4) No new landings shall be established inside the mean high water
mark of the river or within 200 feet of the mean high water mark.
Adequate provisions shall be made after timber harvesting to stabilize soil
on all landings, skid trails and wood roads in the river area.
(5) No new sand and gravel extractions associated with forest
management shall be located inside the mean high water mark of the river or
within 200 feet of the mean high water mark. Such extractions shall be
invisible from the river.
(6) All timber harvesting operations shall be subject to article 15
(Water Resources) of the Environmental Conservation Law, governing, among
other things, disturbances, modification and crossing of rivers and
streams. In addition, skidding of logs or trees across rivers shall not be
permitted, except where no feasible alternative exists and a permit
therefor has been obtained pursuant to such article.
(7) Logging equipment shall not be stored within 100 feet of the
river, or abandoned within the river area.
(8) Wood roads shall be located so as to be invisible from wild rivers
and to minimize their visibility from scenic and recreational rivers.


About Tracy Ormsbee

Tracy Ormsbee is publisher of the Adirondack Explorer. When she’s not working – and it’s not black fly season – you can find her outdoors hiking, running, paddle boarding or reading a book on an Adirondack chair somewhere.

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