RAY BROOK - The state Adirondack Park Agency has approved plans for a new ski patrol building at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center.
The project is contained in an amendment to the Whiteface Mountain Unit Management Plan, which the agency board adopted unanimously at its meeting Thursday.
APA Planning Director Jim Connolly said the new ski patrol building will replace an existing one on the summit of Little Whiteface. The building will also house emergency radio communications equipment for Essex County and state police, he said.
"The new structure, the design and exterior, is much nicer than what was there before, and there's a tower to hold the communications equipment," Connolly said.
Connolly said there are no significant visibility concerns with the project; the building can be seen from the top of Whiteface "and not very well viewed from anywhere else," he said.
The previous ski patrol building has already been torn down, and a foundation has been poured for the new building, Connolly said.
Officials from both the APA and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs Whiteface, say steps have been taken to minimize impact of the construction activity on the Bicknell's thrush, a rare migratory songbird that breeds at the mountain's higher elevations in the spring and early summer.
Connolly said the construction work is being done in an already disturbed area, and no tree cutting is planned as part of the project.
Surveys for the birds were conducted in the area in May and early June by state Department of Environmental Conservation staff. They determined "that the potential impact of the construction activity will not have a population-level impact on the Bicknell's thrush in the Adirondacks," APA Regulatory Programs Director Rick Weber told the agency board earlier Thursday.
"There may be some impact, yes, but in the grand scheme of things, the conclusion they're making is it will not have a population-level affect on the species," he said.
"Our staff will continue to look at the site, but I think right now there's no great alarm," said DEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegemann.
Connolly said the UMP has an increased focus on ORDA-run educational programs about Bicknell's thrush. One thing proposed in the plan is how to raise money to study the rare birds further and preserve their habitat.
Construction of the building will take place over the next few months, Connolly said. Several other projects, that were originally in the amendment to the plan, were removed and will take place at a later date, he said.
This is the third amendment to the Whiteface UMP, which was first created in 1987. It was previously updated in 1996 and 2004.