Press-Republican

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April 20, 2013

Essex County emergency radio project almost delayed by rare bird

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County’s $15 million radio project was almost delayed because of the rare Bicknell’s thrush that nests atop four of the mountains slated for use.

Work on Little Whiteface Mountain was going to be held off so the Adirondack Park Agency could OK an amendment to the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Whiteface Mountain Intensive Use Area.

But the APA and DEC have now decided construction can proceed without the amendment, APA spokesman Keith McKeever said late Thursday.

“We have an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the DEC … for projects like this. The APA and DEC determined both structures (there now) are consistent with the UMP. They (Essex County) can start construction Monday if they want.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also pledged to assist them so the project can proceed, county officials said.

There are preexisting radio towers on Little Whiteface, Gore, Blue and Morris mountains, where the county wants to put antennas, and the Adirondack Park Agency initially wanted the county to do a study to ensure that using gasoline-powered construction equipment to install equipment at those sites wouldn’t impact the mating season of the Bicknell’s thrush.

The study will now be done by DEC staff, McKeever said.

DEC WILL DO STUDY

The Essex County Board of Supervisors went into special session earlier this week to approve spending up to $10,000 to hire an independent environmental specialist for the thrush study, but the DEC has now agreed to have its staff perform the work at no cost to the county.

Supervisors believe the written report will confirm that construction activities will have no impact on the breeding and nesting season of the bird.

The study is essential to that part of the radio project, County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

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