Proposed Stormwater Regulations Changes
Lake George provides a range of human uses and benefits. The lake is a water supply for communities, resorts and residents. The lake is used extensively for contact recreation. The lake supports an abundant population of fish and fishing is a popular recreational pursuit and economic gain for the region. The attractive qualities of the lake are a magnet for tourism and support an extensive regional vacation economy. Boating and other water based recreation support an extensive marine industry, as well.
About the Stormwater Problem
In its undeveloped condition, the lake’s land basin, soil and natural vegetation absorb and buffer precipitation and dry fall and the contaminants in atmospheric deposition. When land is developed for human purposes, some or all of the land's buffering and absorption properties are lost forever. The impacts of the permanent loss of natural land in the basin due to human development are exacerbated by other factors. Contaminants accumulate on impervious surfaces during dry periods. This coating may include: atmospheric dry fall containing plant nutrients; pet waste; litter and putrescible waste; automobile drippings and emissions; and road de-icing materials such as chlorides and sand. Much of this material is set loose and carried away by runoff events. Development tends to concentrate this runoff in stormsewer systems and convey the concentrated contaminants off site and quickly to the lake.
Stormwater runoff flowing to Lake George has been extensively studied and found to contain grease, oil, lead, suspended soils, chlorides, plant nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria. Lake water quality is significantly reduced near stormwater outfalls following storm events.
Sedimentation is a major aspect of improper stormwater management which results in a distinct set of problems. Eroded soil and road sand are altering the character of the near shore areas of the lake. Major deltas have formed with alarming speed at stream mouths and storm sewer outfalls. The deposited silts and sands may overlay rock and gravel substrate and thereby create habitat which is excellent for Eurasian Watermilfoil, an invasive aquatic plant which is the subject of management efforts due to its negative environmental impacts. Commercial and recreational navigation and boat berthing are affected both by deposits themselves and by the opportunistic macrophytes which invade these disturbed areas. Costs to remove deposits and weeds are high even when possible.
Stormwater runoff increases following development in terms of volume of water and in terms of the peak flow rates of runoff water released from a particular storm. The greater volume and rate of runoff have the potential to increase downstream flooding by over taxing conveyances designed for pre-development conditions. Whether they are natural channels such as streams or man-made courses such as pipes and culverts, down-gradient stormwater conduits have a finite capacity. Land development which contributes to increased runoff may contribute to the frequency and severity of high water conditions at the lower levels of the lake's land basin. These conditions can also result in overburdening and physical damage to existing stream channels and stormwater control devices.
Human activities generally increase the flow of surface runoff from a particular site because of the increase in imperviousness of surfaces created and loss of vegetative cover. This also has the effect of reducing direct recharge of groundwater from precipitation and snow melt. Large projects and cumulative development have the potential to reduce overall groundwater levels and may also reduce the base flow of streams and water level of wetlands which rely on emerging groundwater. These effects could be particularly significant during dry periods. The reduction of base flows in streams negatively impacts organisms in the stream and amphibians and land animals that rely on streams or are connected via the food web.
About the Commission's Stormwater Program
The Commission’s Stormwater Management Program is intended to be a comprehensive program of planning, intergovernmental action and regulations aimed at reducing the present effects of stormwater runoff and ensuring that all future development incorporates optimum stormwater management.
Proper stormwater control measures have the potential to significantly reduce runoff and the amount of harmful materials in runoff. When incorporated into comprehensive programs of land use control, stormwater control measures can substantially mitigate the long term impacts from runoff which would otherwise occur.
Section 43-0112 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) conveys broad responsibility to the Commission to preserve and protect the lake’s superior water quality. The Commission is required to develop stormwater management regulations, in consultation with each municipality in the Park, subject to the approval of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The regulations guide preparation of Stormwater Management Plans (SMPs) and Stormwater Regulatory Programs (SRPs).
The Commission’s stormwater management regulations enacted as required by Article 43, are designed to prevent any increase in stormwater runoff from any development in order to reduce flooding, siltation and streambank erosion. They are also designed to prevent any increase in pollution caused by stormwater runoff from development which would otherwise degrade the quality of water in Lake George and its tributaries and render it unfit for human consumption, interfere with water-based recreation or adversely affect aquatic life.
Local stormwater regulatory programs have been approved by the Commission for the Towns of Queensbury, Lake George, Bolton and the Village of Lake George. These programs are based upon and are in substantial conformance with the model stormwater management ordinance which was incorporated into the Commission’s program. The Commission has assumed jurisdiction and now administers the regulations in the towns of Fort Ann, Dresden, Putnam, Ticonderoga and Hague and continues to provide technical assistance to communities in administering local programs.
Stormwater Management Program Permit
The goal of this program is the protection of water quality. Control of Stormwater runoff after construction and erosion during construction is required for new development projects.
Towns have the option to adopt local ordinances and administer the permit program themselves or to have the Commission administer the program. In the Towns of Putnam, Hague, Dresden, Fort Ann and Ticonderoga the regulatory program is administered by the Commission. Bolton, Lake George, the Village of Lake George and Queensbury administer the program themselves.
A permit must be obtained prior to commencing:
1. Projects involving the creation of more than 1000 square feet of impervious surface. Impervious surfaces include buildings, pavement, blacktop, macadam, packed earth and crushed stone.
2. Land clearing, grading or filling involving more than 5000 square feet.
3. Build, alter, modify or fail to maintain a stormwater control measure.
It is a violation of the Lake George Park Commission Stormwater Management regulations to maintain a condition which, due to a human disturbance of land, vegetative cover, or soil, results in the erosion of soil into any water body.
Stormwater Management Guide for Minor Projects
This manual's purpose is to inform and assist property owners in meeting stormwater management requirements when beginning building or land clearing and grading projects. Property owners are encouraged to consult with the Program Administrator before commencing or contracting for any project.
A self-help guide, the manual presents an introduction to the stormwater program, defines jurisdictional projects, and discusses project application materials and procedures. It includes Best Management Practices (BMPs - actions and practices that can be used to reduce the flow rates and constituent concentrations in urban run off) and design suggestions with information sheets and work sheets intended to aid the property owner in planning the site improvement.
The guide is organized as a informational booklet with inserts pertaining to specific stormwater control devices. Accordingly the downloadable files are arranged the same way. The booklet may be downloaded as well as any number of the control device information sheets. Please note some of these are fairly large files and may take quite a while to download over a slow internet connection. As always copies of this manual can also be requested by contacting the Commission.
This presentation provides background information on existing water quality, regulatory controls, and modifications being considered for the future.