State appeals ruling that voided Lake George permit as it considers Lake Luzerne plan
By Zachary Matson
While a plan to use an aquatic herbicide in Lake George instigated a permit-vacating lawsuit, a line of communities across the park is forming to use the same chemical in their own battles against invasive Eurasian watermilfoil.
The Town of Lake Luzerne has a complete application with the Adirondack Park Agency up for public comment this month. It is expected to be discussed at the agency’s May meeting.
A handful of other communities are moving toward finalizing formal permit requests, and yet more have discussed plans to pursue use of the herbicide or are watching with interest how the agency treats the latest applications.
After decades of combating milfoil with costly hand harvesting and other strategies, lake association and municipal leaders hope ProcellaCOR EC, which has been used at other lakes across the Northeast, can offer a more affordable path to controlling the invasive plant choking many Adirondack waterways.
State lawyers on Monday initiated an appeal of a March decision by Warren County Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller that ruled the APA had erred in granting a ProcellaCOR use permit to the Lake George Park Commission last year without holding an adjudicatory hearing. An agency spokesperson said it planned to review other permit applications based on the specifics of each lake.
“The agency will continue to review ProcellaCOR applications consistent with its existing regulatory review process and based on the specific facts of each proposal,” APA spokesperson Keith McKeever said in a statement.
Jim Niles, a Lake Luzerne town board member, said the community developed the herbicide plan for over a year and determined the benefits outweighed even unknown risks.
“We can’t even find a risk, but we aren’t naive enough to think there won’t be any,” Niles said. “The last thing I want to do as a board member or human is make the wrong decision here.”
Niles said the town last year spent $52,000 paying a contractor to pull the plant by hand but only made a dent in the overall infestation across the 111-acre lake in the southeastern corner of the park. He said APA staff had indicated the case resulting in canceling the Lake George herbicide permit was specific to that lake.
“Staff people at APA are telling us that ruling was focused on Lake George,” Niles said.
The Luzerne plan, which would apply the chemical in seven areas totaling 32 acres throughout much of the lake’s near-shore waters, had garnered local support and no opposition as of Friday, according to public comments posted on the APA website. The herbicide could negatively impact native watermilfoil species as well as white and yellow waterlily, according the application materials.
Some commenters noted the previous use of a different aquatic herbicide on the lake about a decade ago, saying it had killed much of the milfoil where it was deployed.
Gil Paddock, owner of an RV campground on Deer River Flow in Duane in Franklin County, said the Horseshoe Pond-Deer River Flow Association planned to submit an APA application to use ProcellaCOR at Horseshoe Pond. The association and residents there have been battling invasive milfoil for around 20 years and have found less grant funding to support those efforts in recent years, Paddock said. He said using ProcellaCOR was a more financially sustainable approach.
“We are now down to garage sales and bake sales to raise the funding to do it,” he said.
Eric Siy, president of the Lake George Association, which strongly opposed the park commission’s herbicide plan and sued over the APA’s permit approval, said the LGA was focused on Lake George.
“If any other Lake Association wants to experiment with ProcellaCOR, that is their prerogative, but we will stand fast to oppose the use of the aquatic herbicide in Lake George until all outstanding issues have been resolved,” Siy said. “There are simply far too many unanswered scientific questions regarding the potential adverse impacts on the lake’s water, plants and organisms to move forward at this time.”
In the Lake George case, the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks had also pushed for APA to hold an adjudicatory hearing to gather more evidence about the proposal.
Adirondack Council spokesperson John Sheehan said he was disappointed the state planned to appeal the decision and reiterated concern about the potential long-term consequences of the herbicide.
He said the widespread interest in the herbicide across the park underscored why the council had called on APA to conduct an adjudicatory hearing in Lake George and indicated the council would press that position in the Lake Luzerne proposal.
“This is not an emergency,” Sheehan said of the milfoil infestations. “It’s a slow motion problem that needs to be carefully thought out and that is all we are asking for.”
The park commission and other state officials have countered that extensive state and federal approval processes had already found that ProcellaCOR could be used safely. There was little public opposition when the herbicide was first used in the park on Minerva Lake in 2020, which that community reported as a success.
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