Chapter Chair Report
Public Hearing Reveals Broad Support for the Big Cedar Swamp
On April 5, 2017, Warren County held a public hearing on its proposal to extend a runway at the Warren County Airport further into the Big
Cedar Swamp in Queensbury. If approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), New York State DEC, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
this project would destroy over 10 acres of wetlands, and many more acres of other types of wildlife habitat. The wetlands at risk of being
bulldozed include part of one of the few marl fens in the world. Marl fen habitat is ranked as Globally Rare, and 8% to 10% of it is found
in the Big Cedar Swamp. In addition to the marl fen, the wetland complex also includes extensive areas of rare northern white cedar swamp and
several hundred more acres of other types of Class I wetlands. The Glens Falls-Saratoga Chapter of ADK, Southern Adirondack Audubon Society,
and other members of the Big Cedar Swamp Coalition have been advocating for the protection of this unique natural resource for more than three decades.
The County’s environmental assessment report (EA) for the project is grossly deficient. No hydrogeological study of the project’s impacts on the
nearby part of the marl fen which will not be bulldozed has been performed. The EA laughably claims that impacts on wildlife will be mitigated
because “there are 782 acres of adjacent forested wetland areas that wildlife can migrate [to]”. Also, it contains no actual proposals to
compensate for the runway’s impacts on wetlands, just vague concepts such as creating new wetlands elsewhere in the county.
Attendance at the hearing has been estimated at between 150 and 200. Of the over 30 people who spoke, about 25 were opposed to the project,
and the great majority of the others present supported them. John Caffry spoke on behalf of the Chapter and the Big Cedar Swamp Coalition.
Over the last three-plus decades, wetlands protection has become a grassroots issue in this area - none of the numerous other people who supported
this goal at the hearing mentioned any affiliation with the Coalition. Other speakers expressed concerns about the cost of the project, the lack
of a proven need for it, noise impacts, and the effects of stormwater runoff on their nearby properties. One local resident likened the airport
to a “yacht club” for pilots. In addition, several current and former local officials spoke out against the project. The only people speaking
in favor of the project were a group of 5 local pilots and the Town Supervisor of Queensbury, who claimed, without any real supporting evidence,
that the project would create economic development.
The County’s EA can be found at http://www.warrencountyny.gov/airport/draft_ea.php [reports on the marl fen are in Appendix Q]. The next step in
the process will be for the FAA to decide whether or not to require a full environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA). By the time this story is published, the public comment period on that question will have closed. However, Chapter members who
live in Warren County can still make their voices heard by contacting their representative on the County Board of Supervisors and asking them to vote
to end the County’s support for the project. The full list of Supervisors is available at http://www.warrencountyny.gov/gov/bos.php .