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Wind Development in the River Valley Needs Comprehensive Review

January 19th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Save The River’s mission is to always be concerned about the health of the St. Lawrence River and to seek policies and actions to protect it. We believe there is a direct connection between the health of the River and the health of the creatures who swim, fish, drink and stop over in its waters and the health of the communities that line its shores. If one is threatened, all are in danger.

We base our efforts to preserve, protect and restore the River on research. It was research that informed our fight to stop winter navigation. And it was years of research that supported our successful advocacy for a new water levels plan.

Now, with the River valley facing wind energy development on an unprecedented scale, research into the potential impacts is desperately needed.

Save The River does not oppose energy from wind or other non-carbon sources. We believe the clear threats to the River from traditional methods of energy production – coal, oil, gas – make it imperative that we shift to renewable energy sources and conservation measures. Appropriately sized and sited wind projects are a necessary part of a sustainable energy future.

HOWEVER, we do believe the scope, scale, number and geographic spread of industrial wind projects proposed in the River region in both New York and the province of Ontario dwarfs the current ability of residents, local governments and state agencies to understand the potential impacts of so many turbines in such a biologically diverse and ecologically sensitive area. The state and local officials who will decide if one, two or more of these projects get built require far more research specific to the area and the species and resources to be impacted than they now have or are likely to see presented in individual permit applications.

Decision-makers do not have an adequate base of knowledge on which to permit even one of the currently proposed industrial wind projectsBut they can!

Fortunately, even though the several projects proposed are individually owned and will be individually permitted, there is a mechanism in New York State law that can put the research needed into the hands of the public and decision-makers – a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”).

Since 2010 Save The River has called for a comprehensive, region‐wide, cross‐border assessment of the cumulative environmental impacts of the many projects proposed in the River valley.

A GEIS will give the Article 10 Siting Boards and the town, village and county boards and the residents they represent the information they need to make informed decisions on the range of environmental and cultural impacts that are very likely to be compounded by multiple projects.

And you can help make this happen!

As these projects move forward in the application process it is important that the agency heads in Albany hear from all of us who want to make sure that solutions to problems like climate change are balanced, and based on reasoning and research. The Governor’s goal of sourcing 50% of the state’s energy needs from alternative sources by 2030 is a necessary step, but it is important that we make certain the state is not trading one set of negative impacts for another.

Contact the heads of the Public Service Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation and tell them a Generic Environmental Impact Statement that includes all the industrial wind projects being proposed for the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence Valley must be prepared prior to any project being permitted.

Save The River’s letter is here.

Contact:

Basil Segos, Commissioner
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1010
phone:  (518) 402-8545
– or – email the Commissioner
Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission
Empire State Plaza
Agency Building 3
Albany, NY 12223-1350
phone:  (518) 474-6530
email: secretary@dps.ny.gov


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Save The River Submits to Comments to Public Service Commission on Wind Projects

September 14th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

from Save The River’s submission to the New York State Department of Public Service:

“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a report based on radar generated data stating, ‘Our data demonstrate that the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario are important for migrating birds and bats. We have identified behaviors that concentrate migrants along the shoreline, demonstrated that these behaviors occur regularly throughout the season, and established that migrants are flying at altitudes that place them at risk of collision with current or future wind energy development in the area. The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012).’ (emphasis added)

Based on the Fish and Wildlife Service report the American Bird Conservancy concluded, “this new radar study suggests that the minimum should be extended even farther, perhaps as far as 10 miles.”

“The implications of this study for the likely impacts on migratory birds and bats of the three industrial wind projects currently proposed and proceeding now, all of which are well within 10 miles of Lake Ontario or St. Lawrence River shoreline, must be taken into account by every level of government agency – from local municipal, to state and federal – with permitting or oversight authority. In particular the New York State Departments of Public Service and Environmental Conservation which have shared responsibility, under Article 10, for the permitting and siting of industrial wind projects, must exercise their statutory authority and require the developers of these three projects undertake a joint, credible effort to apply the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service report to the impacts of their projects on migratory birds and bats.

“Eagerness either for profits or quick solutions to the uncertainty of carbon-induced climate change cannot replace science or the development of sound environmental solutions that are protective of the ecosystem as a whole. Since 2010 Save The River has called for a moratorium on industrial wind projects in the environmentally significant and sensitive area that is the St. Lawrence River valley until a cumulative environmental assessment of the impacts of such projects has been conducted. In 2013 we objected to an industrial wind project proceeding to the application phase of the Article 10 process for the same reason. As recently as April, we reiterated this position.

Click the following for the full text of:

Save The River’s September 14, 2016 letter to the New York State Public Service Commission on the Horse Creek Wind Farm.

Save The River’s “Position on Industrial Wind Development in the St. Lawrence River Valley”

US Fish & Wildlife Service’s “Great Lakes Avian Radar Technical Report; Niagara, Genesee, Wayne and Jefferson Counties, New York, Spring 2013 Season”

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Industrial Wind Development Needs to Avoid Shoreline Areas

August 17th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

“The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our [US Fish and Wildlife Service] study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guideline.” (from the “Great Lakes Avian Radar Technical Report; Niagara, Genesee, Wayne and Jefferson Counties, New York, Spring Season [just released])

This study must be taken into account by every level of government agency – from local municipal, to state and federal – that has any permitting or oversight authority at all. And, in particular the New York State Departments of Public Service and Environmental Conservation which have shared, sole responsibility, under Article 10, for the permitting and siting of industrial wind projects.

The United State Fish and Wildlife Service, after years of study, using radar generated data, issued a report this July Eagle on the St. Lawrence Riverstating, “Our data demonstrate that the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario are important for migrating birds and bats. We have identified behaviors that concentrate migrants along the shoreline, demonstrated that these behaviors occur regularly throughout the season, and established that migrants are flying at altitudes that place them at risk of collision with current or future wind energy development in the area. The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012).

Per Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of the American Bird Conservancy Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program, “The study provides fresh and compelling evidence that wind-energy development does not belong on the shores of the Great Lakes, as ABC, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and other conservation groups have argued. It confirms what we have long known: In the absence of proven methods to reduce bird collisions with turbines, wind-energy development must be sited in areas where there are fewer birds and bats to minimize harm to these ecologically important animals.”

ABC continued “The FWS currently recommends that no wind turbines be built within three miles of the Great Lakes’ shorelines, while The Nature Conservancy recommends five miles. However, this new radar study suggests that the minimum should be extended even farther, perhaps as far as 10 miles. Unfortunately, the wind industry is eager to build in these sensitive areas.”

We couldn’t agree more.

more information at:
USFWS
American Bird Conservancy

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Audubon on Wind Development

March 18th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
from Audubon (edited for emphasis): The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends all new wind developments consider several factors before choosing a location.
Among these AVOID:
– bird migration routes;
– places where raptors’ prey congregates, and
– water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands.
The full piece is worth a read: http://ow.ly/ZFhkS
Isn’t the St. Lawrence River valley, a place:
– ON the Atlantic Flyway, a MAJOR bird migration route;
– WHERE raptors’ prey congregates, and
– a WATER-FILLED landscape that encourages birds to flock?
Save The River’s position: http://ow.ly/ZFlS0
photo credit: Heidi Blackwell

photo credit: Heidi Blackwell

from Audubon (edited for emphasis):

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends all new wind developments consider several factors before choosing a location.

Among these AVOID:
– bird migration routes;
– places where raptors’ prey congregates, and
– water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands.

The full Audubon piece “Will Wind Energy Ever Be Safe for Birds?” is worth a read.

Isn’t the St. Lawrence River valley, a place:
– ON the Atlantic Flyway, a MAJOR bird migration route;
– WHERE raptors’ prey congregates, and
– a WATER-FILLED landscape that encourages birds to flock?

Save The River’s position on industrial wind development in the St. Lawrence River valley

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Save The River’s Position on Industrial Wind Development in the St. Lawrence River Valley

March 14th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Position on Industrial Wind (as of 2016-03-14).

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Protect the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River from radioactive material

March 3rd, 2016 | Posted by admin

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper has joined over 100 groups to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from radioactive material.

The Lakes and River are at risk because of the high concentrations of nuclear industry, combined with the fact that these radioactive materials are currently not being monitored in a comprehensive way. Today more than 100 organizations from around the Great Lakes are calling on the Canadian and American governments to list radionuclides as a “chemical of mutual concern” under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

“A healthy St. Lawrence River is essential to our area”, said Lee Willbanks, ED/RK, “and there is no question that radionuclides are a threat to it. We don’t know enough about the comprehensive levels and impacts of these compounds, and this designation will help us learn more and better protect our freshwater.”

GL Nuclear Hot Spots

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Save The River Applauds Federal Legislation that would Ban Crude Oil Shipments on the Great Lakes

September 24th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Save The River Applauds Federal Legislation that would Ban Crude Oil Shipments on the Great Lakes, Assess Pipeline Risks and Improve Spill Response Plans

WASHINGTON, DC – Save The River is applauding the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act which would ban the shipping of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.  U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (MI) introduced the legislation today which in addition to banning crude oil in vessels, requires a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review of hazardous pipelines in the region. This legislation would also compel an assessment of oil spill response and cleanup plans, require ice cover be part of worst-case scenarios in response plans and increase public information about pipelines for local communities.

“We have suffered a major oil spill on the St. Lawrence River, and our communities will never forget”, said Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and executive director of Save The River. “As pressures increase to bring crude oil cargoes to the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, we will vigorously support this legislation and we encourage our representatives to do so as well. Shipping on the St. Lawrence River has long been an all-risk and no-reward proposition, and crude oil on ships would greatly increase that risk to our environment, our economy and our communities.”

Save The River has been fighting to protect the vulnerable and fragile natural and human environment on the St. Lawrence River for its entire 37 year history, with a recent focus on the threat of new crude oil cargoes on the River. Last winter Save The River’s annual environmental conference featured an extensive examination of crude oil shipments, and possible impacts to the River. Earlier this month, Save The River brought these very concerns before a committee of the Jefferson County Legislature for consideration.

Currently, Willbanks is in Washington D.C. for meetings with Representative Stefanik and other members of the New York congressional delegation. While there he will urge support for the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, along with other River protection issues such as Plan 2014.

The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act will protect the Great Lakes from oil spills by:

·         Banning the shipment of crude oil on tanker vessels and barges on the Great Lakes. Earlier this month, the State of Michigan and Enbridge reached an agreement not to transport heavy crude oil under the current configurations of Line 5. As we rapidly explore alternatives to Line 5, and as energy transportation increases in the U.S., this bill makes clear that shipping crude oil on the Great Lakes is an unacceptable transportation option. There is currently no crude oil transported by vessel on the Great Lakes, and this bill keeps it that way.

·         Mandating federal studies on pipeline risks in the Great Lakes, including alternatives to Line 5. The bill mandates analysis by the Department of Transportation and the National Academies on the risks associated with pipelines that run through the Great Lakes and other waterways in the region. The studies must deliver a report to Congress with safety recommendations related to reducing spill risks, including an assessment of alternatives to Line 5 and a comprehensive map of pipelines crossing waterways in the Great Lakes basin.

·         Improving oil spill response plans. The legislation requires the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to independently assess the current status of oil spill response and cleanup activities and techniques. It would also amend current law to require response plans that address icy conditions, when waters affected by a spill are covered in whole or in part by ice. During the past two winters, maximum ice coverage in the Great Lakes has been well above normal levels. The Coast Guard has stated it does not have the technology or capacity for worst-case discharge cleanup under solid ice, and that its response activities are not adequate in ice-choked waters.

·         Increasing public information and transparency about pipeline risks. Corporate information on pipeline operating standards, inspection reports and other information related to safety is often kept secret, or difficult to access and understand. The bill ensures residents are notified about pipelines near their property and compels operators to maintain publicly available information.

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AG: Microbeads pass through water treatment sites nationwide

April 28th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Published: Monday April 27, 2015 by the Watertown Daily Times

A new study of dozens of water treatment facilities across New York indicate micro­beads, minuscule plastics found in many grooming products, are slipping through safeguards and entering area waterways.

Of the 34 treatment sites tested, 25 — or 74 percent — were found to be discharging microbeads.

The study, commissioned in late 2014 by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, was released Monday.

“Today’s report confirms that from Lake Erie to the Long Island Sound, microbeads … are finding their way into waters across New York State,” he said in a statement.

In Northern New York, water samples in Potsdam and Westport turned up microbeads, while samples in Chateaugay and Lake Placid did not.

Groups such as Save the River have said microbeads have made their way up Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River.

The plastics can connect with longstanding industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls and poison small organisms like zooplankton, which leads to negative effects across food chains.

Mr. Schneiderman has pushed the state Legislature to ban products containing the items, noting last year that 19 tons of the microbeads are washed into waterways in New York annually.

The plastics can affect the environment for centuries, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Items in which the plastics can be found include toothpaste, soap and facial cleansers. Consumers can determine if their products have microbeads by looking for ingredients such as polyethylene or polypropylene.

The plastics are used as an alternative to natural abrasives like ground walnut shells and sea salt.

Multiple companies, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have already committed to phasing out the products within the next few years.

On Wednesday, a bill banning the plastics in New York passed the state Assembly.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand also introduced legislation last year to address microbeads, but the bill was unsuccessful.

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River Organizations Object to US Fish and Wildlife Eagle Taking Rule Change

February 20th, 2014 | Posted by Kate

Save The River has joined with the Thousand Islands Land Trust and the Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative to oppose to a recent rulemaking change that could be a threat to Bald Eagles in the Thousand Islands Region. This week the organizations sent a letter to register opposition to the Department of Interior’s decision to issue permits for up to thirty years to developers of renewable energy projects to “take” (injure, kill or otherwise disturb) bald and golden eagles.

The letter states: “The Upper St. Lawrence River valley is a home and critical seasonal foraging habitat for a variety of winter raptors, including a growing number of over-wintering bald eagles…. The Department’s thirty year permit provision will likely become a “license to kill” these majestic and iconic birds.”

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Save The River comments on the latest Cape Vincent Wind Project filing

April 19th, 2013 | Posted by Lee

Given our mission, we are keenly aware of the need to find and implement effective solutions to a changing climate and support efforts to shift energy production to renewable, appropriately scaled and sited sources. Because of this, we have viewed the proliferation of commercial, industrial wind projects and the increasing number of turbines within each project proposed to be located in the upper St. Lawrence River region with concern.

Consistent with our mission of protecting the environmental integrity of the St. Lawrence River and the species, human and animal, that depend on it, we are adamantly opposed to the CVWP Project moving to the application phase under Article 10 until a comprehensive, cumulative assessment of bird and bat mortality is conducted which includes all projects which have been proposed in the River region. This assessment should be bi-national and coordinated among the several federal, state and provincial governments that have the authority, jurisdiction and agencies with requisite expertise to conduct such an assessment. Allowing pre-construction studies (supplemented by totally useless post-construction studies) undertaken piecemeal and by project proponents is a woefully inadequate way to address the issues alluded to in CVWP’s own documents.

Save The River believes that the people of Cape Vincent, the River region and New York State deserve and should demand new, comprehensive, cumulative studies of potental bird and bat mortality in order to better determine the true nature of the potential threat to this critical flyway.

Full text of the letter here.

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