RAY BROOK — Statewide approval that allows NYCO Minerals to test mine on state land requires changes to Adirondack Park regulations.
Last November, voters in New York approved a measure granting NYCO permission to test for wollastonite on Lot 8, a 200-acre parcel of state land beside the company’s existing mine in the Town of Lewis.
If enough is found, NYCO will swap 1,500 private acres for the 200-acre parcel of state land in Jay Mountain Wilderness Area.
Called Proposition 5, the measure was approved 1,276,595 to 1,122,055 votes, a margin of 53.22 to 46.78 percent.
The process to amend the State Constitution requires a Temporary Revocable Permit for mining from the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
And that means DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency have to allow changes to the existing Jay Mountain Wilderness Unit Management Plan.
Both procedures were put in motion this month. And both are in the midst of a public-comment session.
A group of Adirondack preservationists has raised questions through attorneys at Earthjustice about the constitutional amendment and its implications for land protections in the Adirondack Park.
“Lot 8 is located within the Jay Mountain Wilderness, and even the DEC admits that the site remains State Forest Preserve land during step one,” Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg said in a letter questioning the process.
“The constitutional amendment means that Lot 8 does not have to be kept ‘forever wild,’ but before the state can allow drilling, it must comply with statutes and regulations that remain fully in force.”
A draft version of the Temporary Revocable Permit outlines a three-phase test-drilling process.
NYCO Minerals will not proceed with testing if any phase does not prove positive for substantive amounts of wollastonite.
To set terms for the permit, DEC conducted a forest inventory on Lot 8, according to DEC Region 5 Natural Resource Manager Thomas Martin, who recently presented permit specifics to APA commissioners.
He said the Natural Heritage Program also inventoried the forest on Lot 8 and found no old-growth trees.
In all, Martin said, 1,254 trees could be cut and that some 7.5 acres would be affected by test drilling.
The three-phase test-drilling approach limits impact on natural resources, Martin said.
Phase 1 has eight test sites, with up to 530 trees allowed to be cut; Phase 2 has five sites and a cutting limit of 209 trees; and Phase 3 has eight sites with a limit of 515.
All trees that can be cut were marked by DEC, and the felled timber will be left onsite.
“If Phase 1 tells NYCO all they need to know, they may or may not move onto Phase 2, which will determine whether they move onto Phase 3,” Martin explained to the APA.
LIMITS VEHICLE ACCESS
Throughout testing, the land remains part of the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve.
Since Wilderness regulation in the Adirondack Park does not allow use of motorized vehicles on state land, the Temporary Revocable Permit limits access by vehicles to travel corridors to and from drill-pad sites, Martin said.
“And motor-vehicle use is limited to activities approved in the work plan.”
The work plan is specific to where test drilling takes place, with each site marked and numbered on a map. Drill-pad construction would unfold one phase at a time.
The drill tests would begin near the current NYCO mine and move east to west.
Public access to Lot 8 will be restricted for safety reasons.
UNIT PLAN AMENDMENT
Test mining via Temporary Revocable Permit also requires amendment to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan.
A draft version of the Unit Plan amendment was also presented recently to APA for three specific reasons:
–To recognize that the constitutional amendment approved by the voters “implicitly repeals “the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan guidelines for Wilderness that would prohibit NYCO mineral-sampling operations.
–To make the Unit Management Plan consistent with the constitutional amendment.
–To note that detailed conditions governing the mineral sampling will be set forth in a Temporary Revocable Permit issued by DEC.
In announcing the amendment to the Jay Wilderness Area Unit plan, DEC explained how the land-swap approval process would also unfold in phases:
During the first phase, “Lot 8 will remain part of the State Forest Preserve, subject to Article XIV (Forever Wild). However, for the limited purpose of the sampling operations, the amendment suspends Article XIV directives that Forest Preserve lands must be ‘forever kept as wild forest lands’ and that timber situated on the lands will not be ‘removed, sold or destroyed,'” DEC said in a news release.
“This will allow for the creation of corridors and areas required for transportation of equipment, development of drill pads and the use of mechanized mineral sampling equipment.”
The second phase, conveying Lot 8 to NYCO, will take place after the state has appraised the value of Lot 8, DEC said.
Public comment periods for both draft land-use plans extend through May 2. The APA will revisit both agreements at the May meeting.
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TO LEARN MORE Find the draft version of the DEC’s Temporary Revocable Permit at: http://tinyurl.com/m7q5fov Download special terms and conditions for test mining operations at: http://tinyurl.com/mqfnpqp Comment on the permit: By mail: Kris Alberga, NYS DEC — Region 5 Office, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977 Email: email@example.com. Download the proposed amendment to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan: http://tinyurl.com/mnwcq5a Send public comments on the Draft Unit Management Plan amendments: By mail: Peter Frank, Bureau Chief, NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233