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Monday, May 21, 2018

Controversial road work near Long Lake almost done

This section of Route 30 north of Long Lake is slated to reopen by this weekend. Photo by Mike Lynch

Work on a controversial road project along state Route 30 between Tupper Lake and Long Lake is scheduled to wrap up by the end of the week, reopening the busy road.

The State Department of Transportation closed a section of the road eight miles north of Long Lake several weeks ago in order to replace a culvert. A DOT spokesman said an announcement about the road reopening is scheduled for Wednesday and the road could open again Thursday. DOT said from the beginning the road would be open by this weekend. 

The project raised the concern of wildlife advocates, who were concerned that the road closure created a detour through sensitive wildlife habitat. DOT has been rerouting traffic, including tractor-trailer trucks, through Sabattis Circle Road. Wildlife advocate organizations had asked DOT to keep the vehicle traffic on Route 30, by allowing one lane to remain open.

The detour was opposed by the New York Ornithological Association, Audubon New York, Northern New York Audubon, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Sabattis Circle Road is the entranceway to the William C. Whitney Wilderness, an area that contains habitat used breeding birds in the spring and other wildlife throughout the year.

“These boreal wetland communities, such as sub‐boreal spruce flats and acidic basin fens and swamps, contain some of the rarest birds in the state,” wrote WCS biologist Michale Glennon in a letter to the DOT.

Sabattis Circle Road

Sabattis Circle Road is used to access the William C. Whitney Wilderness. Photo by Mike Lynch

The groups were also concerned that the work was done in the spring, when birds breed. This is also a popular time for birders to visit the Adirondacks.

“In addition to being a good location to bird, the road itself is used by American Woodcock during the breeding season to display, which involves them spending time directly on the road during dawn and dusk in the spring,” wrote Jilian Liner, director of bird conservation for Audubon New York. “Increased traffic along this road during the time of year when they undertake this behavior will introduce a greater risk of collisions with cars.”

Joan Collins, Conservation Committee Chair and Vice-President of Northern New York Audubon, wrote a letter to the DOT that said the detour went through “a site which hosts many at-risk species including American Black Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Palm Warbler, and Canada Warbler. In addition, Red and White-winged Crossbills are currently nesting all along this road – bringing in visitors from all over the east coast of the U.S. and much needed tourism for the area. These irruptive finches spend a great deal of time picking up grit in the roadway, which is essential for digesting cone seeds. They are frequently killed by vehicles since they rarely fly out of the road in time.”

 

Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer. His favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing.

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