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Save The River Hosts International Joint Commissioners

June 28th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

On Friday, June 28, 2019 Save The River hosted three of the six new commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC) this morning, including both the U.S. and Canadian section chairs. The meeting began with Save The River Board president Captain Jeff Garnsey taking the commissioners and staff for a boat tour departing from Clayton’s village docks to show the commissioners the village waterfront and how businesses are coping with the high water. Moving upriver the tour paused to float in Grindstone Island’s Flynn Bay where Jeff, a fifth-generation fishing guide, explained that the bay is one of the area’s most important northern pike and muskellunge hatcheries and the return of more natural water levels, supported by Plan 2014, will reduce the dense mat of cattails that have choked the bay’s shorelines and prevented these prized sport fish from reaching their historical breeding grounds.

Jeff’s knowledge was supplemented by Tom Brown, Rob Campany, and Tony David all of whom are members of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB). 

Upon returning to shore, we met in our conference room where I began the roundtable discussion by reading Save The River’s opening remarks (click here to read). Congresswoman Elise Stefanik then addressed the group by phone to voice her longtime support of Plan 2014, the importance of fact-based assessments in the adaptive management process, and the need to address property owners concerns.

The group discussed the importance of the adaptive management component of Plan 2014, the need to listen to property owner’s concerns, the value of providing readily accessible education about the true causes of high water levels, and the vital importance of working together to build more resilient communities. 

In attendance at the meeting were: Jeff Garnsey – Save The River’s Board President and owner of Classic Island Cruises, myself, Jane Corwin – U.S. Section Chair of the IJC, Pierre Béland – Canadian Section Chair of the IJC, Lance Yohe – U.S. Commissioner of the IJC, Wayne Jenkinson – Senior Engineer Adviser of the IJC, Paul Allen – Programs and Communication for the IJC, Frank Bevacqua – Public Information Officer for the IJC, Tom Brown – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Rob Campany – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Phil Reed – Jefferson County Legislator, Rick Gregware – Save The River Board Director and owner of Northern Marine, Inc., Ann Ward – Save The River Board Director, Norma Zimmer – Mayor of the Village of Clayton, Tony David – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Eric Mower – Eric Mower + Associates, Jim Howe – Executive Director of the Central and Western NY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Bobby Cantwell – Jefferson County Legislator, Patricia Shulenburg – Program Manager of Save The River, and Margaret Hummel – Outreach Coordinator of Save The River. 

I have a great deal of empathy for everyone suffering from the effects of the high water. As I have previously shared, my family’s property is taking a beating with our boathouse significantly underwater – I wear boots to and from the boat every day. But we must recognize that this is a long term situation with the Great Lakes being at or near record high levels and experiencing record or above average precipitation caused by climate change. We all need to think about how we can make both our personal and municipal properties more resilient using environmentally sound methods whenever possible.

Thank you to our members for your support of Save The River, and the River. Let’s do everything we can to support our local businesses this year. 

I hope to see you soon on the River.

-John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River 


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2019 Historic High Water Levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario

June 17th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

A message from John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper: 

This statement from our partners at The Nature Conservancy parallels Save The River’s position on the current water levels plan. Plan 2014 replaced the outdated Plan 1958D, which was drawn up when environmental science was in its infancy. For the first time, the water level regulations plan gave a voice to the environment, recreational boating, and provided for adaptive management to review and make recommended changes to the plan as time goes on.

Since it became apparent earlier this spring that the River was facing another extremely high water year, Save The River has been working with legislators and regulators to help our members and River residents have a better understanding of the causes. We hosted a boat tour and roundtable discussion with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, River residents, local business owners and elected officials. We also spent a morning showing Government Accounting Office officials the environmental benefits and shoreline mitigation efforts that will result from more natural water level fluctuations.

This year’s high water has been caused by record or near record water levels in all of the Great Lakes coupled with above average rainfall in the Great Lakes and Ottawa River Basins. The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board acted responsibly by discharging the fourth highest recorded average outflows of water from the Moses- Saunders Dam from December 2018 through March 2019. However, once the flooding of the Ottawa River began to flood Montreal and displace thousands of families from their homes, the only responsible course of action for the Board was to slow the flow of water through the dam. To exacerbate Montreal’s flooded conditions with increased outflows would have been morally unacceptable to all residents on both sides of the border.

The historic high water is frustrating to all of us living and working on the River. I believe that we would all be better served to work together to help communities and residents understand and plan to adapt to future extreme water levels, rather than political posturing to curry favor with voters and shoreline residents.

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Senate Protects St. Lawrence River & Great Lakes

April 26th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Senate Votes to Protect the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes: Defeats Vessel Incidental Discharge Act

Last Wednesday, after a tremendous outpouring of opposition led by Save The River members and many others across the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence region, the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 (S.1129). This bill contained a harmful provision, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), that would have weakened rules protecting clean water and shift the oversight of ballast water discharge from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the U.S. Coast Guard.

If S.1129 with the VIDA amendment had passed, the health of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes would have been put in serious jeopardy with the threat of new aquatic invasive species introduced via ballast water discharges. Learn more here.

Your calls and emails were enormously important in defeating this harmful legislation. Thank you!

Join us in thanking the Great Lakes region Senators who voted to block this bill from going forward; call the Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121 or send a message of thanks via social media (sample message below):

Thank you [insert your Senator(s)] for voting to protect our #StLawrenceRiver, #GreatLakes & #CleanWater by opposing VIDA! This bad bill would have weakened #invasivespecies protections. @SaveTheRiver member.

Senators to thank:

Minnesota – @AmyKlobuchar and @SenTinaSmith

Wisconsin – @SenatorBaldwin

Illinois – @SenatorDurbin (Sen. Duckworth did not vote either way)

Michigan – @SenStabenow and @SenGaryPeters

Ohio – @SenSherrodBrown

New York – @SenGillibrand and @SenSchumer

Since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, ocean-going freighters carrying contaminated ballast water have introduced 100+ aquatic invasive species to the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels, round gobies, and the fish-killing VHS virus have caused irreparable environmental and economic damage to the River and the entire Great Lakes regions.

For 40 years Save The River has been the voice for the St. Lawrence. We will always stand to protect the health of the River but we can’t do it without your support.
Stand with us as the voice for the St. Lawrence River by becoming a member or making a donation today.


A copy of our latest annual report may be obtained upon request at 409 Riverside Dr, Clayton, NY 13624 or from the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, 28 Liberty Street, 19th Flr, New York, NY 10005

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Clean Water Safeguards Eliminated in Must-Pass Budget Bills

March 13th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River will always stand in opposition to attacks on our nation’s most vital resource: clean water. We joined 115+ groups around the country urging our senators and congresspeople to oppose damaging ideological riders in spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2018:

Outdoor recreation is a way of life in New York, especially here on the St. Lawrence River. We can’t afford to eliminate conservation safeguards that protect our waters & wildlife. The dirty water riders attached to the upcoming federal budget vote will do just that.

The dirty water riders attached to the upcoming budget vote will undermine protections for drinking water that 1 in 3 Americans depend on, eliminate conservation safeguards that protect our waters & wildlife, and cut the public out of the decision making process.

Raise your voices to New York’s congressional leaders: ask them to reject all policy riders attacking safeguards for the St. Lawrence River and all streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and other waters that our families, communities, and economy depend on. Call them at (202) 224-3121.

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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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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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