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Water levels slightly lower than this time last year.

March 28th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are currently slightly lower than they were at this time last year.

Last year the Lake and River went on to set record highs in May, June and July due to a succession of unprecedented, intense rainfall events throughout their watersheds. This lead many property owners and politicians to intensely criticize the newly enacted Plan 2014 and the International Joint Commission (IJC) for not doing more to alleviate the problems high water caused.

In contrast, at this time in 2012 the levels were higher, higher even than last year, but as the region experienced an unusually dry spring and summer, levels on the Lake and River went down and stayed lower than average for the rest of the year. This lead many property owners and politicians to intensely criticize the (IJC) for not doing more to alleviate the problems low water caused.

What was missed by the critics in 2017 and 2012 and in every extreme water level year (high or low) since 1958 is the fact that no management plan will give us the tools to fine tune the levels of waterbodies as vast a Great Lake or to control the outcome of natural events – rain, snow, wind – that influence them.

The only constants across the years, other than the criticism of the water levels plan in place at that time, are the variability of the weather and the challenges of accurately predicting it long term. One other notable constant – the reminder that we need to plan carefully how we utilize the shoreline of these vast, dynamic waterbodies.

The editorial board of the Watertown Daily Times​ has a good take on the current management of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River levels in a Sunday editorial.

The editorial board acknowledges that, while it is still too early to predict where the water level will be this summer, there is no doubt that the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) in . . “following the recommended practices of Plan 2014 in overseeing outflows this winter . . .have allowed for a more orderly discharge of water in a manner that ensures safety.” The ILOSLRB has done this while achieving the goal of the Plan of “Improving the health of these waterways and creating an environment more suitable to wildlife will benefit all of us.,” as the editorial points out.

On a lake and river so clearly affected by intense and highly variable weather it sounds like they are doing a difficult job well.

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2018 Run for the River™ 5K/10K Registration is Now Open!

March 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Registration is now open for Save the River’s 16th annual Run for the River™ 5K/10K; this year’s race will be held on Saturday, July 28th.

Click for full details

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Director’s Waypoints, Winter Conference Edition

February 20th, 2018 | Posted by Lee Willbanks

Go to this edition of Director’s Waypoints

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Now Accepting Applications for 2018 Seasonal Interns

February 13th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River is now accepting applications for two seasonal (mid-May through Labor Day) paid internship positions. Save The River interns have the opportunity to work closely with staff and volunteers while gaining invaluable experience at the region’s leading environmental advocacy nonprofit organization. Read the complete seasonal internship position description here.

Save The River interns manage a diverse workload with primary responsibilities that include working in the storefront managing merchandise sales and promoting public education, representing Save The River at community events, and implementing fieldwork projects including Beach Watch and Common Tern Monitoring programs.

Ideal candidates will be enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate environmental or related program, have familiarity with the St. Lawrence River and community, and flexibility to work weekends and some nights.

To apply: send resume, cover letter, and contact information for at least one professional and one personal reference to Save The River, 409 Riverside Drive, Clayton, New York 13624, or email full application package to In order to expedite the internal sorting and reviewing process, please write your name (Last, First) and Summer Internship as the subject line of your email.

The deadline to apply is March 16, 2018. 

Save The River staff and interns band a chick as part of the Common Tern Monitoring program.

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US Chair of IJC to Speak at Winter Environmental Conference

January 16th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Commissioner Lana Pollack, United States Section Chair of the International Joint Commission (IJC), will be the headline speaker at our upcoming 29th annual Winter Environmental Conference, Saturday, February 3. Commissioner Pollack will speak about a topic of intense and ongoing interest to the River community – Plan 2014 after one year of extreme climate conditions.

In the year since Plan 2014 went into effect, Commissioner Pollack has travelled the region speaking about the proper relation between the Plan, weather conditions, and this past year’s high water. She has been quoted as saying, “We’d love a perfect plan where everybody is protected, but nature has not allowed us to do that,” pointing out that the IJC is required to balance the interest of shippers, dam operators, recreational boaters, upstream and downstream residents, and the environment.

In addition to presenting, Commissioner Pollack will be accepting Save The River’s “Friend of the River™” Award on behalf of the other Commissioners and the staff and boards of the IJC for their for “unwavering support of initiatives and policies that support a healthy St. Lawrence River”.

Prior to the IJC, Commissioner Pollack served in the Michigan State Senate from 1983-1994 where she was a leading advocate for women, children and the environment. From 1996-2008 she was president of the Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of 70 environmental organizations working to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s environment. Ms. Pollack has been a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, taught at the University of Michigan and an elected trustee of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. In 2002, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Other presentations will focus on the environmental improvement efforts being made by shippers, terminals and ports, the condition of the River as habitat, and the general state of fish and birds that depend on the River being healthy.

Click here for Conference registration form or call 315-686-2010 to register. $50 registration fee includes morning coffee, lunch, and light hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail reception (cash bar).

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Thank You!

January 11th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Watertown Daily Times editorial makes the point. Breaking ice to get ships to locks they can’t get through once they’re there just doesn’t make sense.

   Watertown Daily Times, January 11, 2018

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Seaway Closing Update

January 9th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

from the Seaway:
















We look forward to the opportunity for a discussion of the time and manner of selecting and modifying the opening and closing dates of the Seaway. Particularly in light of increasing variability in weather on the Lake and River.

We appreciate the fact that the challenging and dangerous nature of some incidents requires extreme effort and resources. And it is always our fervent hope that any and all incidents end with no injury and no environmental harm. But as we made clear with respect to the Federal Biscay, we believe the public must get timely updates from official sources about the nature of any incident and the steps being take to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion.

We are glad the 2017 Seaway season can come to a close with the ships cleared, the crews, responders and Seaway personnel safe and the River laying up while we all wait for spring.

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Federal Biscay Now Freed from Snell Lock

January 6th, 2018 | Posted by Lee
Statement from the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation on the Federal Biscay being freed from the Snell Lock earlier today.
Per the Seaway an update will be issued when the five ships awaiting transit downbound have exited the Upper River.
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With Ship Still Stuck, Silence from the Seaway – Updated

January 5th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Since Tuesday, the Federal Biscay, a 650+ long bulk carrier, has been stuck in the Snell Lock near Massena, the last U.S. lock on the St. Lawrence River. Up River four more ships wait for it to be cleared.

As they sit surrounded by persistent severe cold, more ice is forming on the River, raising the reasonable question of whether and when the Federal Biscay will be freed, allowing it and the other ships to exit the Upper St. Lawrence. Until then, the Seaway, which was supposed to close December 31st, remains open.

Based on the one statement the Seaway has issued it appears this prolonged delay resulted from the ship being allowed to enter the lock with significant ice present on its hull and in the lock.

In the vacuum created by the Seaway’s silence all we have to go on are tweets and social media posts by followers and watchers of shipping on the River. Other than a reported “No further updates” from the Seaway, the press has had to rely on these “sources” as well.

This, in a word, is unacceptable.

We understand that an incident like this requires an “all hands on deck” approach. But with no official updates on the Seaway’s plans and actions, the public is left to imagine the potential harm that can result from ships with full holds and presumably large quantities of fuel stopped for an indeterminate time in a freezing river? The public is left to wonder what measures are being taken to protect the environment and the health of those nearby and involved in the operation to release the ship? What plans are being made in case it cannot be released until the spring thaw?

Given the Seaway’s legal responsibility as “Captain of the Port” over the River and its enormous moral responsibility to do its part to protect the health of the River as a “shared user”, silence about its actions in response to an incident of this magnitude is a dereliction of its duty to the rest of us who share the River and rely on it remaining healthy and safe. It is reasonable to expect transparency and accountability from a public agency with such tremendous responsibility for and potential impact on our River. It is incumbent on us to demand transparency and accountability when it is not forthcoming.

It may well be that there is nothing to worry about from this incident. Perhaps only environmentally benign measures will be necessary and in a few days all five ships will be on their way.

But then what? We will still be left wondering how the decisions of when to open and close the Seaway are made? How did this incident happen? Why wasn’t the Seaway better prepared to deal with it when it did? How can it be prevented from happening again? Will there be a public inquiry?

We need to hear from the Seaway.

Lee Willbanks, Upper St.Lawrence Riverkeeper


Shortly after our original post the Seaway issued this statement:










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Another Incident on the Seaway – Updated

January 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Lee

The shipping season is not ending well for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Sudden deep freeze and rapid onset of ice has presented challenges.

The Federal Biscay is stuck in the Snell Lock down bound with several other ships waiting her clearance. Including the recently grounded and re-floated Pacific Huron.

from the Maritime Bulletin


from the Seaway:













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