Park Commission Seeks Stormwater Improvements

This story appeared in The Post Star.

Prohibiting use of fertilizer within 50 feet of any water body, requiring a minimum 35-foot buffer from streams and requiring residents to reduce stormwater runoff when upgrading their properties are among changes the Lake George Park Commission are considering to improve water quality.

The commission is in the process of revising stormwater regulations for the first time in 20 years. The changes are now in draft form and commission Executive Director David Wick is going around to lakeside communities to get input and feedback from local officials.

One proposal would lower the threshold for the amount of land disturbance that triggers the requirement to mitigate stormwater runoff. Current regulations say development projects that disturb 15,000 square feet of land must offset any increase in runoff from the developed portion of the property. Wick said they want to lower that requirement to 5,000 square feet.

We’re hoping that they will make their project stormwater-neutral,” he said.

Another change would set a minimum 35-foot setback from streams for land disturbance. About 55 percent of the water in Lake George streams in from 114 tributaries, according to a fact sheet from the commission.

The change would require people to obtain a stormwater permit for development and disturbance within 35 feet of the stream bank. Disturbances could not exceed more than 10 percent of the buffer area without a variance. Also, no new impervious areas would be allowed within the setback without a variance. The regulation will not apply to removal of dead and diseased trees.

Another change would reduce the residential setback between stormwater infiltration devices and water resources from 100 feet to 35 feet.

We’re looking to lessen that requirement to 35 feet, which will allow for better flexibility for landowners and designers to work with the land they have,” he said.

Wick said the commission wants to make it easier for homeowners to make stormwater improvements. Stormwater from residential development generally has less effect on water quality than commercial development, according to the commission.

Another proposal would prohibit application of fertilizer within 50 feet of any water body. The concern is that fertilizer running off into a wetland or other water body can accelerate the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which can decrease water quality and clarity and degrade the ecosystem.

The fifth change would require that loggers obtain a stormwater permit for logging and agricultural activities that disturb 5,000 square feet or more. The current regulation requires only a conservation plan.

Wick said the commission wants a better understanding of the clearing and logging that is going on.

Wick said the commission will be meeting with all municipalities and their boards, plus many stakeholder groups in fields such as logging, engineering and development, to get input on the regulations.

Any new regulations on this front would not go into effect until 2019, as we want to gather considerable public input before finalizing our plans,” he said.