RAY BROOK - Although slated earlier as a priority, the Adirondack Park Agency postponed making a decision last week regarding a proposed policy that would ban float-plane access beginning in 2013 to the popular Hamilton County fishing destination Lows Lake.
Park Agency officials said this week discussion of the measure has been postponed until the upcoming April agency meeting due to ongoing negotiations with local municipalities and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"We decided to hold off because the DEC has not completed an environmental impact statement," Park Agency Acting Executive Director Jim Connelly said. "The DEC has an opportunity to change the proposed amendments in response to the multitude of public comment regarding the issue."
Last month, the two agencies held public hearings in Ray Brook and Warrensburg. Dozens of comments were voiced from citizens on either side of the issue.
Local government officials argue that the proposed changes to the Bog River Flow Land Use Plan will devastate local communities which rely on wilderness tourism as a revenue source and represent yet another attack on the livelihood of Adirondack residents.
Tom Helms of Helms Aero Service said recently that an estimated $250,000 is brought into Hamilton County annually due to his business. If adopted, the land-use changes would devastate the two remaining float-plane operators in the Park, Helms said.
Helms' business is operated out of Long Lake and Payne's Aero Service is located in Inlet.
Both carriers said that Lows Lake is one of their most popular destinations among their patrons.
Park Agency officials said that the previously stated goal of the local land-use plan is to phase out motorized vehicular operation on and around Lows Lake, while designating it a wilderness preserve.
Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe said that designating the lake as a wilderness area would be flawed because its existence hinges on the presence of two man-made dams.
Although only alluded to by Park Agency officials, Long Lake Supervisor Gregg Wallace said Wednesday that the town is in active negotiations with the DEC.
"These proposed changes are nothing but an interpretation of a document that requires a lot of assumptions," Wallace said. "How can such a thing be considered a regulation?"
Wallace declined further comment, but said that it is fair to assume the 2013 sun set date is a primary issue being discussed.
Previously, the DEC had proposed extending float-plane access to Lows Lake for 10 more years, but the Park Agency concluded that the plan was not in line with the land-use master plan.
The current proposal includes drastic restrictions on float-plane operations on the lake until halting operation for good in 2013.
The issue was initiated after several lawsuits by environmental organizations who argued that the land-use plan requires the permanent removal of motorized vehicles from Lows Lake.