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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
“Response plans and organization are not capable of responding to heavy oil spills” according to Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard’s District 9, which includes the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.
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.” Noting that 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 the heavier oils that may soon be shipped on the River and Great Lakes.
The Coast Guard and local first responders must be given the tools and resources necessary to develop appropriate action plans and the equipment and training to effectively implement them in the face of massive amounts of “extreme” energy waiting to get to overseas markets. Alexandria Bay coated by the NEPCO spill, 1976
Kurt Hansen, a project manager at the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center at New London, Conn. quoted in a recent Detroit Free Press Article, stated “‘Once the [heavy] oil goes below the surface, that sets a whole new set of problems. You’re going to have to figure out if it’s coming back up in tiny little droplets, because that’s going to need one set of recovery response and surveillance. Or, if it goes to the bottom in a clump, that’s going to need another set of response. And if it mixes with the silt and sand and dirt at the bottom, that’s going to need even a third set of response and information that you need.”
Another major oil spill will spell environmental and economic disaster for the St. Lawrence River and the communities that depend on its well being, severely damaging the fishing and recreational boating and killing off wildlife.
Its 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.
Read the full article from the Detroit Free Press.
For more information on this and other pressing issues in the Great Lakes region click here.
Lee Willbanks, Save The River Executive Director and Upper St.Lawrence Riverkeeper attended the 10th Annual Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week as a presenter and participant. Mr. Willbanks was part of a panel examining the impact of aquatic invasive species on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and the pathways by which they have been introduced.
Following his presentation, which focused on the role the Saint Lawrence Seaway played in bringing at least 56 invasive species to the River and Lakes, he was interviewed by Detroit Public Television on the same subject. Also presenting with Mr. Willbanks was Lindsay Chadderton, Aquatic Invasive Species Director, at Lakes.The Nature Conservancy, and Rudi Strickler, PhD, Shaw Distinguished Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The panel was moderated by Nate Drag, Watershed Project Coordinator in New York, Alliance for the Great Lakes.
For Mr. Willbanks’ interview with Detroit Public Television go to: http://ow.ly/BwUP4
More than 350 Great Lakes advocates attended the conference that has been held annually since 2005. In addition to the panel on invasive species, there were presentations on controlling harmful algal blooms in Western Lake Erie and elsewhere in the region, the implications of increased crude oil shipping on the Great Lakes, how small plastic pollution is threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem and what’s being done to curb the problem, and mapping the value of the Great Lakes to communities around the region to better target restoration investments.
The Great Lakes Coalition, which Save The River has been an active member of for many years, consists of more than 115 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations; zoos, aquariums, and museums representing millions of people who share a common goal: restoring and protecting North America’s greatest freshwater resources, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
For more information about the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition go to: www.healthylakes.org
The St. Lawrence River connects the Great Lakes to the rest of the world. It is estimated that since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 at least 65% of the invasive species introduced to the Great Lakes have come from ocean going ships entering via the River. Save The River and the Great Lakes Coalition both are working to control and prevent the spread of invasive species.
For more information about Save The River go to: www.savetheriver.org
The next Riverkeeper Volunteer Training will be held in the Massena area on Wednesday, September 24th at 6:00pm at the NYSDEC St. Lawrence Habitat Project office located at 1003 County Route 39, Chase Mills, NY 13621.
As the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, Save The River is the primary voice and advocate for the health of the River and the right to clean water from the River’s beginning in the vicinity of Cape Vincent to the Massena / Cornwall area. To cover an area that large it relies on volunteers to be its eyes and ears on the water.
Riverkeeper volunteers will be trained to assess potential pollution problems and to effectively report these problems to the appropriate agencies. Volunteers will receive training to recognize wildlife die-offs, invasive species and subtle changes in the River that indicate negative and positive impacts to this fragile and already stressed ecosystem. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn more about the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area and Save The River.
Since Save The River began its Riverkeeper Monitoring Program in 2008, over 750 volunteers have been trained and now use the skills they have acquired to monitor the River.
Attending this hour-long training session is all that is needed to become a Riverkeeper volunteer. All volunteers will be given Save The River’s Riverkeeper Identification Guide as an on-the-water guidebook and a free t-shirt. This training is free and open to the public.
Since 1978 Save The River has been the leading grassroots advocacy organization working to protect the St. Lawrence River by campaigning to stop aquatic invasive species, fighting winter navigation, and promoting an environmentally friendly water levels plan. Save The River also organizes the water restoration and monitoring programs that track River health and identify pollution problems. Save The River is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance™
Interested volunteers should contact Save The River, 315-686-2010 or e-mail Kate Breheny, Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summer, Save The River volunteers monitored water quality at six popular swimming areas along the St. Lawrence River for unsafe levels of E.coli. during a nine week period from July to August. Water quality at every beach was good all summer long this year. Water samples were collected and tested at Wilson Bay in Cape Vincent, Frink Dock in Clayton, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Lake of the Isles near Wellesley Island, Round Island near Clayton, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Each week, Save The River shared the results in the T.I. Sun and on social media.
Several organizations and volunteers provided key support to the Beach Watch program this summer. Ben Lauraine, a Save The River intern, Jean and Ron Daly, Brandon Hollis, Mary and Tom Mitchell, Maria Purcell, John Slocum, Bill Taddeo and Dick Withington took samples every week and delivered them to the Save The River office. The Thousand Islands Land Trust provided staff support for sampling at Potter’s Beach. Each week, samples were held at T.I. Reality in Clayton before being taken to and analyzed by Converse Laboratories in Watertown, a state certified facility. Without the support of these volunteers and organizations, Save The River would not be able to conduct such an extensive water sampling program which has provided up-to-date water quality information to the river community since 1999.
Test results were compared to New York State Department of Health standards for beach swimming water quality. Water at swimming beaches is deemed unhealthy if there are 235 colony-forming units (CFU’s) or higher of E.coli bacteria per 100 milliliters of sample water. None of the samples taken this summer for the Beach Watch program exceeded this guideline.
Exposure to high levels of E.coli bacteria can cause serious health problems. The elderly and young children are especially susceptible. Symptoms of infection include: chills, fever, diarrhea and cramping. To stay safe, be sure to never swallow swimming water and always wash hands after swimming and before eating.
Scientific studies have also indicated that the presence of Cladophora, a type of green algae that occurs naturally in the River and throughout the Great Lakes region, can harbor unsafe levels of bacteria. Swimmers should always look for the presence of Cladophora algae before swimming at most locations on the River.
Click here to read the 2014 Beach Watch Fact sheet with sampling results. Be sure to check up on your favorite swimming spots once Beach Watch resumes next summer. Results are always available at the Save The River office in Clayton, its website and the smart phone app SwimGuide.
To get involved with Beach Watch 2015, call Save The River at (315) 686-2010 or e-mail email@example.com.
Save The River has published an illustrated children’s book, Haas The Great Blue Heron. It is the tale of a father heron anxiously awaiting the arrival of his chick. This beautifully illustrated book is a wonderful introduction to the Great Blue Heron and its habitat, the St. Lawrence River.
Save The River Volunteer Juliane Flora authored Haas for teachers and students participating in its In the Schools education program that teaches students in area schools about the River’s ecology and need for protection. Each year over 500 K-12 students receive classroom instruction and many of them also get hands-on experience with a field trip to the River.
Haas The Great Blue Heron is currently available at smile.amazon.com.
A limited number of quantities are also available at Save The River’s office. Proceeds from the sale of Haas will directly support Save The River’s In the Schools program.
Publication of Haas The Great Blue Heron was made possible by a grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Council.
For further information please contact Kate Breheny, Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clayton, NY (August 25, 2014) - Save The River’s Beach Watch Program is in the process of monitoring popular summer swimming locations on the river from July 7th through August 25th . Save The River reports that all beach water samples taken on August 25th passed and the beaches are safe for swimming.
For the 2014 sampling season, Save The River volunteers are collecting water quality samples at six swimming areas along the river: Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Frink Dock in Clayton, Round Island in Clayton, Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Save The River’s unique program provides a snapshot of water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. This is the last sampling date for this year.
As in previous years, Save The River is testing for E. coli in all of our swimming spots and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save The River office, website, and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the TI Sun.
For more information please call the Save The River offices at (315)-686-2010. Additional information can also be found at www.savetheriver.org.