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ADIRONDACK WILD EXCLUSIVE

Court Maintains Temporary Restraining Order on DEC Snowmobile Bridge Construction
By Dave Gibson, Managing Partner Adirondack Wild

New York Supreme Court hearing room, Lake George, Warren County. Photo by Ken Rimany

Adirondack Wild is determined to block the State of New York from violating our environmental laws protective of Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers.

In late July, Warren County Supreme Court’s Judge Robert Muller declined the State’s request that the Court lift a temporary restraining order it granted to Adirondack Wild et. al. which prevents NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from starting construction of a 140 ft. steel snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River north of Indian Lake. The restraining order remains in place for now.

Truly scenic Cedar River at the point where DEC has issued itself a permit to construct a 140 ft. long steel truss bridge. Photo by Dave Gibson.

Furthermore, his Court also declined for now the State’s demand that if the TRO is not lifted, that Adirondack Wild et. al. be ordered to pay a bond of over $120,000 to compensate the State for being temporarily blocked from violating the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act!

To recap, Adirondack Wild et. al. filed our petition with the Court in January, arguing that the DEC’s issuance of a permit and variance to itself to construct this motorized bridge and snowmobile corridor in a Scenic River area violated the River Act’s prohibition on public motorized use in a Scenic River area.

Truly scenic Cedar River at the point where DEC has issued itself a permit to construct a 140 ft. long steel truss bridge. Photo by Dave Gibson.

Furthermore, we argued that DEC had also violated its Environmental Quality Review Act because DEC had failed to conduct a site-specific environmental impact analysis of the many negative impacts the bridge’s construction and motorized corridor could have on this beautiful, tranquil and ecologically significant river six miles inside the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Judge Muller heard the oral arguments and read the accompanying affidavits, including that of our Vice chair and Counsel, Chris Amato, in May.

Subsequently, DEC indicated to the Court its plan by mid-June to immediately move heavy construction equipment six miles to the Cedar River, cut trees, and pour cement for the bridge’s abutments.
Given this emergency, Chris Amato filed for a temporary restraining order against DEC.

At a hearing in mid-June, the Judge issued a ruling that respondents, DEC, “are temporarily restrained from undertaking any construction, tree removal, grading, filing, drilling, disturbing the bed or banks, or any other site preparation activities, including the operation of motor vehicles for the purpose of construction or establishing a snowmobile trail within that part of the Scenic river area of the Cedar River; and constructing or establishing a bridge over that portion of the Cedar River.”

The Judge went on: “Here, there is no question that immediate and irreparable damage will result if respondent (DEC) are permitted to proceed…Trees will be cut down and vegetation removed in a Scenic river corridor – precisely what petitioners (Adirondack Wild) sought to prevent…Here, the motion papers establish prima facie that respondents (DEC) may be acting unlawfully in constructing the Cedar River bridge.”

Adirondack Wild et. al. counsel Chris Amato has filed with the Court a request for a more permanent injunction against the construction. The State has argued against it.  Judge Muller will eventually rule on that request.

Also, his Court will consider Chris’s additional argument that the construction be permanently barred because of a recent higher court decision in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.

Wild Forest Path to the Cedar River. Photo by Dave Gibson

In July, the Appellate Division, Third Department in Albany ordered that the DEC’s sweeping snowmobile community connector trail construction since 2012, which has so far resulted in the accumulated cutting of over 25,000 trees of all sizes throughout the Adirondack Park, violated Article XIV’s (NYS Constitution) prohibition on the removal of trees beyond a reasonable degree.

Here, the Cedar River snowmobile bridge project relies upon the cutting of an additional 7,000 trees in the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest in order for snowmobiles to reach Newcomb via this particular route.
Amato is asking Warren County Supreme Court to acknowledge that the higher court has barred this additional tree cutting and therefore effectively renders the bridge project moot. This additional argument will be heard by the Court in late August.

Finally, Judge Muller has already written that he is considering a stay on the bridge construction project on the basis of yet another connected court case. In September, Adirondack Wild et. al. will appear before our highest court, the NYS Court of Appeals, to argue that DEC’s decision to authorize a motorized corridor in a sector of the upper Hudson River designated as Wild also severely violates the Rivers Act.

The Act states that Wild River corridors are to be managed as wilderness, where public motorized uses are strictly prohibited. This part of the Hudson River corridor lies south of the Cedar River. If the highest court rules in our favor, then no motor vehicles will be allowed to reach the Cedar River, rendering the Cedar River bridge construction moot.

Judge Muller is considering a stay while he awaits a future ruling from the Court of Appeals.
We will keep our readers informed of future court rulings.

We owe a great debt of thanks to Adirondack Wild’s Counsel Chris Amato, who is donating his legal time and expertise.

Adirondack Wild is determined that our state environmental agencies stop evading the laws they are responsible to uphold in order to facilitate expanded motorized uses in the Forest Preserve.

Snowmobiling on existing designated, legal trails continues. For instance, snowmobiles currently use an existing trail between Indian Lake and Newcomb. That existing trail includes a legal bridge crossing of the Cedar River (where the river is designated Recreational, meaning existing motorized uses can continue) and a snowmobile trail easement created by The Nature Conservancy a decade ago.


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COMMENT Archives
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2019


08/26/19 The Roots of The Conflict Over Snowmobile Connectors read more >
08/07/19 Court Maintains Temporary Restraining Order on DEC Snowmobile Bridge Construction read more >
05/27/19 A Rudderless and Weakened APA in Ray Brook read more >
04/24/19 Enforcing Article XIV read more >
01/10/19 Four Mile Snowmobile Trail Through Wilderness? read more >

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The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

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ADIRONDACK PARK REGIONAL
Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
pbrinkley@frontiernet.net
Terry Jandreau, Chair
terry.jandreau@yahoo.com
 
Christopher Amato
Vice Chair & Counsel

camato@adirondackwild.org
David H. Gibson, Partner
dgibson@adirondackwild.org
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