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UPDATED: Poor Response to 2014 Candidate Questionnaire

October 29th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Save The River sent a short questionnaire on a variety of environmental issues to candidates for the 21st Congressional District, the 47th & 48th New York State Senate Districts and the 116th Assembly District. We do this to further voter education about the candidates positions on these important issues. Unfortunately, despite providing generous time for response only 2 of 8 candidates have responded to date. They are Aaron Woolf, candidate for the 21st Congressional District and Russell Finley running for the 116th Assembly District. The table below summarizes their responses.

Click here to view the questionnaire.

Updated Candidate Chart Pic


Click here to see Aaron Woolf’s response.

Click here to see Russell Finley’s response.

Click here to see Assemblywoman Addie Russell’s response.

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Save The River Writes Secretary Kerry, Urges Speedy Adoption of Plan 2014

October 28th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY— Save The River recently sent United States Department of State Secretary John Kerry a letter urging him to support Plan 2014. With the letter, Save the River included twelve recently-passed municipal resolutions from communities along the St. Lawrence River supporting Plan 2014, which join over 15,000 expressions of citizen support for the science-based approach to water level management.

“Responsibility for the speedy passage of Plan 2014 rests in the hands of Secretary Kerry as his is the only signature necessary in United States for Plan 2014’s enactment. We call on him to do the right thing and finish the job the International Joint Commission started.”

Earlier this summer the International Joint Commission, which oversees regulation of water levels, referred Plan 2014 to the federal governments in the United States and Canada. Approval of the Department of State, which oversees border issues with Canada, is the final step before Plan 2014 can be enacted. No other signatures or approvals in the United States are necessary at this time.

In the letter to Secretary Kerry, Save The River outlines the St. Lawrence River’s importance, the current regulation plan’s harmful legacy, the promise of Plan 2014 and Save The River’s role advocating for Plan 2014.

“For the St. Lawrence River region these adverse impacts are felt not just as an environmental loss but, as real economic losses as tourism declines and associated businesses close. All too frequently visitors and residents who are negatively impacted by these changes choose to go elsewhere; sometimes for good. In fact, the River region now has some of the highest unemployment in the State.”

While the plan does not require the approval of any United States agency, state or commission other than the Department of State, Save The River included twelve municipal resolutions in support of Plan 2014. These resolutions come from: Jefferson County; the towns of Clayton, Cape Vincent, Morristown, Potsdam, Hammond, Alexandria, Massena and Lisbon; the villages of Clayton, and Cape Vincent; and, City of Ogdensburg.

View Save The River’s letter to Secretary Kerry.

Municipal Resolutions

Jefferson County
City of Ogdensburg
Town of Alexandria Bay
Town of Cape Vincent
Town of Clayton
Town of Hammond
Town of Lisbon
Town of Massena
Town of Morristown
Town of Potsdam
Village of Cape Vincent
Village of Clayton

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October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Save The River sent a short questionnaire (shown below) on a variety of environmental issues to candidates for office in the 21st Congressional District, the 47th & 48th New York State Senate Districts and the 116th Assembly District:

21st Congressional District Candidates: Matt Funiciello, Elise Stefanik, & Aaron Woolf

47th NYS Senate District Candidate: Senator Joseph Griffo

48th NYS Senate District Candidate: Senator Patty Ritchie

116th NYS Assembly District Candidates: John Byrne, Russell Finley & Assemblywoman Addie Russell

We asked for their responses by October 20th and will post them Tuesday October 21st.


1. Modern Water Levels Plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River

After more than a decade of study and consultation with stakeholders the International Joint Commission unanimously voted to refer a modern water levels plan (Plan 2014) for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to the U.S. and Canadian federal governments for their approval. Plan 2014, which will replace a 50-year-old plan (1958D), has clear benefits for wetland and species restoration and for recreational boating, hunting, fishing, and hydroelectric production.

Do you support Plan 2014, and will you work for its speedy implementation?

2.Microplastic / Microbead Pollution -

Many consumer products sold in the United States and around the world contain microplastic particles as abrasives and exfoliants. In most cases, these microplastic particles are intended to be washed down the drain after use, where most, if not all, pass through sewage treatment facilities into the receiving body of water. Recent studies found microplastics, including polyethylene microbeads, in high concentrations in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

Do you support a ban on microbeads in personal care products?

3. Invasive Species Control

The damage done to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species is well documented as costing millions of dollars annually due to a range of impacts from clogging intake and discharge pipes for municipal drinking and wastewater systems and industrial facilities, to recreational boating and fishing.

a. Ballast Water -

The U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency have finally adopted regulations designed to prevent the introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species in the River and Great Lakes, however some lawmakers have proposed blocking or weakening these rules.

Will you support and work to ensure stringent ballast regulations on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River

b. Asian Carp

Many studies have shown that the only effective way to stop the spread of Asian Carp (silver and bighead) into the Great Lakes and eventually the River is the hydrological (physical) separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Do you support physical separation as a way to prevent invasive carp introductions to the Great Lakes and, eventually, the St. Lawrence River?

4. Safe Shipment of Hazardous Liquid Bulk Cargoes

The transport of highly volatile liquid bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River is a new and emerging threat to the safety of the watershed. The U.S. Coast Guard has admitted that it does not have the equipment or plans to deal with a spill of “heavy” oils such as those being extracted in the U.S. Midwest or Canadian tar sands should one occur.

Do you support rules and regulations that will restrict the movement of such cargo on the River or through its watershed unless and until adequate safety and response measures are in place?

5. Climate Change

Climate variability and change are driven by global-scale changes in the earth’s climate system, but impacts will be felt and difficult choices will need to be made locally in order to manage and mitigate the impacts to the St. Lawrence River and its watershed. Already sudden and intense weather events are occurring with increasing frequency, often with high costs in terms of infrastructure and human impacts.

Will you advocate for programs assist local governments in their efforts to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate variability and change?

6. Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)

EPF programs provide communities the ability to use natural solutions to help reduce risk and plan growth in a way that improves sustainability and resilience in the face of more frequent extreme weather events. EPF programs create jobs, lower costs to taxpayers and protect clean water and other valuable community resources. The fund once stood at $255 million but was cut deeply during the recession, falling as low as $134 million. In last year’s budget the EPF was increased to $162 million.

Do you support restoring the Environmental Protection Fund to its pre-recession level of $255 million in order to addresses significant environmental, land protection and conservation needs throughout the state?

7. Additional Information

Feel free to add any additional thoughts you want to convey to our members and followers.

Plan 2014 best way to preserve waterways

October 14th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Following efforts by Monroe County and Wayne County officials to stand in the way of Plan 2014, the Watertown Daily Times published a superb editorial outlining an approach to mitigate erosion, “Proceed with Plan 2014: Proposal can sensibly regulate waterways, mitigate flooding,” on September 23.

Save the River supports the position taken by the paper. And we join the river community to say how pleased we are that our local governments have said yes to Plan 2014’s balanced approach of returning benefits to the environment and our economy while only slightly reducing the benefits lakeshore property owners have received year after year.

We thought readers would want to know that over the past two months 12 legislative bodies have unanimously passed resolutions in support of Plan 2014 as it is a sound economic and environmental approach to the problems experienced under the current plan, 1958D.

These legislative bodies represent the people of Jefferson County; the towns of Clayton, Cape Vincent, Morristown, Potsdam, Hammond, Alexandria, Massena and Lisbon; the villages of Clayton, and Cape Vincent; and the city of Ogdensburg.

Our local leaders present a refreshing alternative to their peers elsewhere in the state who are focused on stalling approval and implementation of this modern plan even though it offers all shoreline communities their best opportunity to deal with the negative impacts of the current plan.

The paper’s editorial recommends the state fund shoreline projects with new revenue derived from the increased hydropower Plan 2014 will create. This is a solution that communities looking to solve current problems should say yes to so that everyone who lives, works or plays on the river and Lake Ontario can receive benefits from the new plan.

As the approval of Plan 2014 moves forward, Save the River will work as we always have to ensure river communities and wetland restoration efforts receive an appropriate share of the benefits it provides. Concerned representatives from other areas should do the same for their communities.

Letter to the Editor by Lee Willbanks
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper / Executive Director

Published by the Watertown Daily Times on October 13th, 2014.

Click here to see the print article.

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Everybody Must Care! Support Plan 2014!

October 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

PSA re Plan 2014_Page_1

PSA re Plan 2014_Page_2

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Statement from Living Waters Rally 2014

October 9th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

[OTTAWA, ONTARIO] This past weekend, 110 delegates – representing recreational, indigenous, cottage association, faith, philanthropic, environmental, business, academic, and arts and culture groups from across Canada – including Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper came together in Ottawa to discuss the future of Canada’s freshwaters at the Living Waters Rally 2014.

The organizations participating in the conference, organized by Canada’s Freshwater Alliance, issued an invitation for many more people and organizations to be come engaged in the protection and restoration of Canada’s freshwater.

Throughout Canada waters are suffering. Lakes are choked by algae blooms. Rivers are overflowing their banks, with others dangerously close to drying up. Drinking water supplies are compromised. Struggling fish populations are often unfit for consumption.

The St. Lawrence River, despite its surface appearance suffers from a multitude of challenges as well. It has fish consumption advisories for much of its length, has some of the highest concentrations of microplastic and microbead pollution of any freshwater in North America. It still has hot spots of legacy pollutants from now defunct industries and it is in the crosshairs of numerous proposals to ship heavy oil on the River and through its watershed.

Save The River, recognizing the multi-national nature of the St. Lawrence River, and the fact that it represents thousands of members and followers from both shores joined in the call to build and strengthen the water movement in Canada to ensure that all waters are in good health and swimmable, drinkable and fishable.

Healthy, living waters are essential to the health and prosperity of our communities and the survival of all species. Canada is blessed to still have some of the world’s most pristine waters and thus has a global obligation to protect them and to restore those waters that are suffering—before its too late.

All people deserve to know the health of their waters. They particularly deserve and need to know of waters that are at risk. Canada needs regular, independent assessment of and public reporting on the health of its waters.

Protecting and restoring the health of Canadian waters including those shared with the United States requires leadership. Canada needs a legal and policy framework that sets a high standard of accountability and transparency.

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“Not prepared” is not acceptable when it comes to heavy oil shipments.

September 30th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

The Coast Guard is not prepared for a “heavy” oil spill on the St. Lawrence River. According to Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard’s District 9, which includes the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, “response plans and organization are not capable of responding to heavy oil spills.”

“Heavy” oil is what is being extracted in massive amounts from the Canadian tar sands and the Bakken field in the U.S. and which has already been responsible for numerous, disastrous land-based spills as producers look for any route possible to get it to overseas markets.

A recent Detroit Free Press article highlighted the findings of a June 2013 Coast Guard report that was “frank on the limitations in dealing with heavy oil that sinks below the surface and makes traditional skimming recovery methods ineffective.” The report states “current methods are inadequate to find and recover submerged oil, with responders having to reinvent the techniques on each occasion,” and “responses to recent higher profile submerged oil spills have shown responders have almost no capability in detection and recovery.”

We on the River know all too well what it means when agencies that are supposed to be prepared aren’t and events occur which exceed training and resources. Oil and water didn’t mix 38 years ago when the NEPCO 140 spilled 300,000 gallons of oil on the St. Lawrence River and they won’t today. But even the disastrous spill of ‘76 would pale in comparison to a spill of heavy oil that may soon be shipped on the River and Great Lakes.

Another major oil spill will spell environmental and economic disaster for the St. Lawrence River and the communities that depend on its well being, fouling drinking water systems, killing off wildlife, severely damaging species dependent on the River and devastating its recreational uses.

This is a lesson the River community hasn’t forgotten and we must make sure our elected officials, decision makers, shippers, the Coast Guard, the Seaway and energy executives don’t either. Before Bakken crude, tar sands oil or other extreme energy moves on the St. Lawrence River there must be a thorough and rigorous examination of the potential impacts and extensive public involvement.

It shouldn’t have to be said but sadly it must, not one drop of heavy oil should be put on a ship or in a rail car on or near the St. Lawrence River until response plans have been developed and tested and the Coast Guard and local first responders have the equipment and training to effectively implement them.

Letter to the Editor by Lee Willbanks
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper / Executive Director

Published by the Thousand Islands Sun on September 24th, 2014

Click here to see the print article.

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Vote for the River. Vote for Plan 2014. UPDATED

September 26th, 2014 | Posted by Lee
And the Results Are In!
Overwhelming Support for Plan 2014.
WDT Poll of on-line readers
from Friday, September 26, 2014:
Vote for the River.
Support Plan 2014 today.

Go to the Watertown Daily Times homepage and SCROLL DOWN to vote to support Plan 2014.

WDT Plan 2014 Poll

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Watertown Daily Times nails it:”Proceed with Plan 2014″

September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Proceed with Plan 2014: Proposal can sensibly regulate waterways, mitigate flooding

Despite the irrefutable scientific research that the status quo is diminishing the quality of the ecosystems of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River, public officials representing southern lake waterfront communities want nothing to change.

The International Joint Commission has urged the U.S. and Canadian governments to adopt its Plan 2014. This would make these waterways healthier and prepare for climate change by regulating the extreme high and low water levels and follow their natural, seasonal flows.

“After years of intensive analysis and extensive consultation with governments, experts, Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River interests, and the public, the IJC concludes that a new approach to regulating the flows and levels of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, Plan 2014, should be implemented as soon as possible,” according to the executive summary of Plan 2014. “The IJC finds that the regulation of water levels and flows in the St. Lawrence River in accordance with the 1952 and 1956 Orders of Approval has damaged ecosystems along the coast of Lake Ontario and upper St. Lawrence River over the last 50 years or more. The effects of the regulation of water flows and lake levels on ecosystems were not fully understood or considered when the existing Order of Approval and regulation plan were developed. However, robust coastal ecosystems are now recognized as essential in both countries, and the IJC finds that the effects on ecosystems should now be considered along with effects to other interests and uses.”

People living in coastal properties along the southern lakeshore, however, believe that Plan 2014 would increase the potential for flooding. The Monroe County Legislature and Wayne County Board of Supervisors have passed resolutions opposing the IJC’s proposal. Some state legislators from these regions have called on U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to thwart efforts to carry out the plan.

Under most circumstances, the IJC may enact its own Orders of Approval. But the flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are moderated through the release of water at the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam in Massena and Cornwall. Since the applications to operate the dams were made by the U.S. and Canadian governments, they are the entities that must approve Plan 2014 for it to be implemented.

The problem with the call by south shore partisans to block Plan 2014 is there are no accompanying recommendations to reverse the damage done to the ecosystems over the past several decades. Keeping things the way they are will only ensure that the health of these waterways continues to deteriorate.

It’s imperative that the U.S. and Canadian governments implement Plan 2014. And in doing so, there is a way to deal with possible riparian damage.

Regulating the waterways as called for in Plan 2014 will ramp up output of the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam and, thus, increase New York Power Authority revenues by millions of dollars a year. The state should enact legislation requiring that a sufficient portion of those new dollars generated from the increased flow in the St. Lawrence should be set aside to support appropriate mitigation.

If the IJC proposal is adopted, concerns for the ecosystems as well as coastal properties will be addressed. But doing nothing will only force more drastic action in the future when the environment and the vibrancy of the lake and river to support nature and humankind will have deteriorated even more.

Published Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by the Watertown Daily Times

View Print Article

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A Bass is Too Valuable to Catch Only Once…

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Save The River’s Bass Catch and Release Program

Save The River, the Upper St. Lawrence River’s environmental organization which has run a successful Muskellunge Release program since 1987, was challenged a couple of years ago by two of its donors to develop a similar Bass Catch and Release(C&R) Program.

Those of us in the office and on the Board of Save The River were amazed to learn that the 1000 Islands was one of the few major fishing areas of North America not to have a formal bass C&R program in operation. The 1000 Islands section of the River has historically been recognized as one of the best bass fisheries in North America; recent changes in the River environment, such as the introduction and spread of Quagga and Zebra Mussels; the explosion of Round Goby; Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS): and the resurgence of Double crested Cormorants, have negatively affected bass populations.

The introduction of zebra and quagga mussels, Round goby, and VHS have all been tracked to ballast water from salt water vessels transiting the St Lawrence Seaway. New York State Department of Environmental Conservatin (NYSDEC) noted that 14 of the 15 highest ranking year classes of bass originated before 1989, while survival of the most recent year classes is among the lowest in their 35 year data. Zebra and quagga mussels are very efficient filter organisms and the resulting clear water in the River has changed the ecosystem and fish habitats in a negative way. Gobies, while providing a plentiful supply of food for bass, pike, and walleye, also are voracious foragers of bass nests. They have been documented darting into eat bass eggs, within seconds of the bass leaving (or being pulled off by an early season fisherman) the nest. VHS, a virus, was responsible for the killing of hundreds of mature Muskie several years ago.

While overall numbers of adult smallmouth bass have declined, the size of individuals has increased due to a shift in bass diets toward more abundant benthic food sources such as Gobies and Crayfish. Larger, younger individuals have resulted in younger fish becoming vulnerable to fishing earlier, creating the illusion that the bass population in the River remains healthy. Additionally, as the number of anglers has increased a greater proportion of the population is vulnerable to fishing than ever.

Catch and Release fishing has become a globally accepted practice to ensure plentiful game fish populations. More than 1000 muskies have been caught and released since SaveThe River, working with the Thousand Islands Biological Station, first partnered with anglers, guides and researchers in an effort to stabilize and promote growth of the species. Returning large adult Muskies to the River has helped strengthen the population. Fishermen returning limit size (54”) Muskie to the River receive a Michael Ringer Muskie print as a reward for successfully releasing the large fish.

Releasing a larger proportion of bass caught by anglers is an approach that can be used to reduce mortality of adult fish and allow more bass to survive. The bass population in the River will benefit if anglers restrict their take of fish to only those, which they will consume that day, while releasing the rest. A shore dinner of fresh cooked St Lawrence River bass remains one of the signature dining experiences of the 1000 Islands. Fishermen are being encouraged to release the larger bass since they are the most prolific breeders in the fishery.

Techniques recommended for C&R

Save The River launched its Bass Catch and Release program this June, at the start of the bass season. In conjunction with Ed Huck Marine in Rockport, a weekly winner of a special Catch and Release sweatshirt is selected from photos submitted electronically, to Save The River.

The highly sought after sweatshirts are supplemented by special t-shirts that are available for $25 at Save The River’s Clayton office. Facebook, Twitter, and Save The River’s website are also used to recognize anglers participating in C&R. Participants in Save The River’s Bass Catch and Release program are encouraged to join Save The River and help support the many programs benefitting the health of the River.

Information gathered about the bass caught and released will be provided to the Thousand islands Biological Station (TIBS). They have always been part of the Muskie release program and currently monitor bass, focusing on recruitment of young of the year nesting, disease and adult monitoring during the spring.

Catch yes, but eat fresh and release the rest…

Prepared by Ohio Division of Wildlife Staff.

Ohio Division of Wildlife studies found survival of released sport fish averaged 82%, but could drop to 25% if not handled properly.

Anyone interested in learning more about Save The River’s Bass Catch and Release Program can check-out its website, on Facebook , or call 315-686-2010.

By John Peach, Huckleberry Island, Ivy Lea                  Published by on  September 13, 2014

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