ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN)- Lack of broadband coverage, funding for research/programs, as well as lack of appointments to the Adirondack Park Agency Board and the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force are all highlighted in a recently released report from the Adirondack Council.
The report rounds up state and local actions that do or do not help protect the Adirondacks forest, waterways, and other environments. It also tackles some challenges for people living in the Adirondacks like broadband coverage and cell phone service.
No appointments to the Road Salt Reduction Task Force
The Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act signed by Andrew Cuomo last December created a task force and pilot program that would find ways to reduce the amount of road salt entering waterways throughout the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Council said more than nine months later there are still vacant seats.
“The task force will recommend a salt-reduction pilot program to test proven alternative measures Park-wide,” the report said. The bill gives the task force three years (until 2024) to gather data.
Senator Daphne Jordan (R), who co-sponsored the bill, said she was disappointed the task force has been unable to move forward under Cuomo’s administration and was optimistic Governor Kathy Hochul would make the final appointments needed.
“I’m hopeful that Governor Hochul’s administration will be different and move forward in a timely fashion in filling unfilled Road Salt Task Force Executive Branch appointments and ensure that it actually meets as required by statute because this issue is critically important to the Adirondacks and our local communities,” she said.
Despite the state passing legislation that internet providers have to offer a $15 a month service to low-income households, the report criticizes the lack of state action to increase internet access in rural areas, citing the need for infrastructure funding.
Cell phone coverage
There is currently no estimate on how much it would cost to close the gaps in cell phone service within the Adirondack Park nor is there a plan in place to address the issue, says the Adirondack Council.
Failure to expand environmental agencies
The Adirondack Council said the state has not increased funding, staffing, or oversight for the Department of Environmental Conservation and has not taken any action to strengthen the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) with tools that would help with conservation. They also called out Andrew Cuomo for failing to appoint new members or a chair to the APA.
Failed legislation opportunities
Because no money was budgeted for a climate change study on the Adirondack waterways and ecosystems, the Adirondack Council said an opportunity to gather scientific information that would further help preservation and conservation efforts was lost. They said another opportunity was lost when the legislature failed to pass a bill that would have protected nearly one million additional acres of state wetlands.
Similar to Sen. Jordan, the Adirondack Council is also hopeful Gov. Hochul will pay more attention to the preservation and needs of the Adirondack Park. “Hochul has been attentive to Adirondack issues, frequently visiting the Park and participating in local events and celebrations. She has attended several of the Adirondack Council’s awards ceremonies and social gatherings, including recording a special greeting for those who attended the Council’s 2021 Virtual Forever Wild Day Celebration in July. Hochul told Council members, ‘the Adirondacks are God’s favorite place on Earth.'”