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Binational Local Support for Plan 2014 Continues

November 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Resolutions in support of Plan 2014 have recently been passed by St. Lawrence County, New York, Gananoque, Ontario, and Mallorytown, Ontario.

View the Resolutions

Local governments continue to pass resolutions in support of Plan 2014.

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15 River communities from the U.S. and Canada have now gone on record supporting this modern water levels plan.

Communities previously passing resolutions are:

  • Jefferson County
  • Town of Clayton
  • Town of Cape Vincent
  • Town of Morristown
  • Town of Potsdam
  • Town of Hammond
  • Town of Alexandria
  • Town of Massena
  • Town of Lisbon
  • Village of Clayton
  • Village of Cape Vincent
  • City of Ogdensburg.
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Great Lakes racing to prepare for a new kind of oil spill-WBEZ Radio Chicago

September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District is in charge of protecting the maritime interests of the Great Lakes. Those interests include industries like shipping, fishing, and tourism that create billions of dollars in revenue for the Great Lakes basin each year. And so, the agency is always thinking about oil spills. It conducts dozens of tabletop and real world preparation exercises every year to prepare.

But the oil spill game is changing.The explosion in tar sands production in western Canada means increasing amounts of crude oil is making its way to the American Midwest. Imports of crude oil to the Midwest reached a record high earlier this month, according to the Energy Information Association. Tar sands bitumen is different than traditional crude oil. It’s heavier and it sinks in freshwater. And that has caught the attention of the people in charge of cleaning up oil spills, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The Midwest and the Great Lakes lie at a virtual crossroads of production and transportation and distribution. And because those things carry inherent risk. we’re faced with some tough questions about how to deal with that,” says Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District.

“From my perspective, clearly one of the most important things that are going to happen in the next decade is how we handle this issue of heavy oil. We need to get it right,” he told a crowd last week in Detroit at the International Spill Control Organization’s annual forum. ISCO has been around for decades, but this was the first time its annual forum focused exclusively on responding to heavy, Group V oils that can sink in water.

The reason why has a lot to do with what happened four years ago in the small town of Marshall, Michigan. On July 26, 2010, a 30-inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners LLP burst and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek. From there, it made its way to the Kalamazoo River where it traveled over 35 miles downstream, coating birds, turtles, and other wildlife with oil.

Cleaning up the river took longer than anyone expected. That’s because tar sands oil is too thick to move through a pipeline on its own–imagine a kind of shiny, black peanut butter. It’s thinned out with other chemicals to get it flowing. But when the mixture is exposed to air, those chemicals gradually evaporate over a period of several days or weeks. At the Kalamazoo River, that left behind over a million gallons of heavy, sticky goo at the river bottom. Crews are finally wrapping up the dredging process four years and nearly $1 billion later.

“I can’t speak for a lot of the other players, but I know for us the EPA response and the Enbridge response to the Kalamazoo, I think opened a lot of people’s eyes in that the threat is real from heavy oils and what they can do to the environment,” says Jerry Popiel, incident management advisor for the Coast Guard’s 9th District.

Popiel says there aren’t any vessels carrying tar sands crude oil on the Great Lakes right now, but at least one company–Calumet Specialty Products Partners in Indianapolis–has expressed interest in the idea. And that has Popiel thinking about the challenges of responding to a such a spill in the Great Lakes.

“It’s one thing when you have 10 feet of water, 5 feet of water, or maybe 30 feet of water. Well, okay there are tethers and things and divers you might potentially use for there. That’s one set of problems. If it happens in Lake Superior in 800 feet of water, that’s a different set of problems,” he says.

Right now, those are problems without good solutions. The Coast Guard’s trying to change that, and so is a whole industry that’s grown up to respond to oil spills. In 2011, the Coast Guard awarded $2.5 million to three companies. They were asked to develop technologies that could better detect and recover sinking oils.

Some of those technologies were on display at last week’s forum, including one fromAlion Science and Technology called the Seagoing Adaptable Heavy Oil Recovery System or the SEAHORSE. The SEAHORSE looks more like a giant carburetor than a dainty ocean creature. But Al Arsenault, an engineer with the company, says it’s safer and more effective than traditional methods.

“The scenarios in the past have used divers. It’s a dirty job, it’s a very dangerous job to send divers down when this product is on the water column, on the surface, and on the bottom. It sticks to you like peanut butter,” Arsenault explains.

The SEAHORSE doesn’t use any divers. Instead, its trio of remotely operated vehicles scans the seafloor for oil and pumps it back up to the surface. SEAHORSE and other new technologies let responders reach spills hundreds of feet under water and can detect and recover oil at the same time. The Coast Guard says these new technologies are promising, but they aren’t widely available and can be costly to build.

Emergency responders in our region may still have some time to sort out those problems. It isn’t clear yet that Great Lakes shipping is going to be a good option for moving tar sands oil. For one thing, the lakes are frozen over for several months every year.

“The other big issue is competition. Shipping oil on the Great Lakes will make sense if it’s less expensive than shipping it by rail,” says Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Port Association.

Fisher says a lot would have to change before tankers full of tar sands crude oil set sail on the Great Lakes. It would require the oil industry to make long-term commitments with shipping companies to entice them to make investments in new ships and shoreside loading facilities.

Still, environmentalists say economic pressures are building.

Several refineries in the region, including one just south of Chicago in Whiting, Indiana, have been upgraded to process tar sands oil. Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, says shipping by vessel on the lakes also opens up a route for transport to refineries on the East Coast.

Welch says right now, a lot of the decisions that could set the scene for shipping this kind of oil on the Great Lakes are happening at a state or local level. And he says that patchwork approach could have consequences for the entire region.

“A spill could happen anywhere, not just in the state where the initial dock is built to allow for this shipment,” says Welch.

The dock he’s referring to is owned by Elkhorn Industries in Superior, Wisconsin. The company reapplied for a permit to upgrade the dock in August after its first application was rejected by the state earlier this year. It’s considered a first step in the project proposed by Calumet Specialty Products, though Elkhorn says they don’t have concrete plans to partner with the company yet.

But the possibility that it could worries Welch, who says existing spill response preparation measures are inadequate when it comes to responding to a spill of tar sands oil.

There are increasing efforts to beef up those measures. Emergency responders like the Coast Guard and EPA are starting to include heavy oil spills in their preparation exercises. And the spill response industry continues to develop new and better technology for dealing with heavy oil spills.

But Welch says we shouldn’t accept the shipment of tar sands oil on the Great Lakes as inevitable, even as we work out the regulatory kinks.

“It’s vital that our Great Lakes region and community has a discussion as to whether the Great Lakes should become this thoroughfare for tar sands crude oil shipping. Are we prepared to accept that risk?”

That’s not a question, Welch says, for industry or government, but for each of the 34 million people who call the Great Lakes basin home.

Published by WBEZ Radio Chicago on September 15, 2014 on www.wbez.org.

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Save The River Executive Director Attends Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference

September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

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.

stop aquatic hitchhikers

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

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Jack Butts, Sunnyside Island Voted to Save The River Board New Officers Elected

August 25th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Butts J

Clayton, NY (August 25, 2014) – Save The River held its Annual Membership Meeting August 21. At that meeting John (Jack) H. Butts III became the newest addition to the Save The River Board of Directors.  Jack, President and CEO of Rosco Terminal Tackle, Rome, New York, comes from a long line of River Rats; he spent his early childhood on Butts Island near Ivy Lea where he learned his love for the River.  He now calls Sunnyside Island home, where he lives with his wife Rita.  Jack is active with various other organizations on both sides of the River.

Along with Jack, five current board members returned to the board of directors for another three-year term – Skip Behrhorst, Fred Morey, John Peach, Roger Peinkofer, and Liz Raisbeck.

Save The River also elected officers for the coming year. Bill Grater, Grater Architects and a long time Save The River Board member will continue as Board President. Jeff Garnsey, Classic Island Tours, was elected Vice President. Fred Morey is returning as Treasurer, Clif Schneider Secretary and Lauran Throop as Member-At-Large.

For a list of current Save The River Board member’s click here.

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Save The River Honors Exceptional Volunteers

August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

[Clayton, New York] The Save The River staff and board honored its cadre of over 500 volunteers on Thursday, August 7th at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party held at the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority’s Rift Camp.

Volunteer of the year

This year Juliane Flora was honored as Volunteer of the Year.  This award is given each year to a volunteer who has consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty in their volunteer efforts.   Ms. Flora has been a devoted volunteer for over 20 years who most recently worked with Save The River to author and publish Haas, The Great Blue Heron, a children’s book for teachers and students participating in the Save The River In the Schools education program.

“Publishing a book was a new project for Save The River. At times it seemed the challenge would prove too much, but Juliane went way beyond just providing the story. She, like most of our volunteers, brought her dedication and talents to bear and inspired us all to see it through to the end. The result is magnificent, and a great addition to Save The River’s “storied” history,” stated Lee Willbanks executive director of Save The River.

Haas

Ms. Flora is credited with gifting her story to Save The River, where in turn proceeds from future sale of the book will directly support Save The River’s

ability to educate students about the need for River protection. Publication of the book was made possible by a grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Council.

Mr. Willbanks and Board President Bill Grader pointed out that volunteers who share their time and talents make it possible for the small staff of five to expand their capacity as a strong and effective voice for the protection and restoration of the River.

“The commitment of our volunteers is inspiring to the staff. It shows strong support in the community for the vital work of protecting the St. Lawrence River,” said Willbanks.

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Jefferson County, Town of Clayton Pass Resolutions Endorsing Plan 2014

August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY— The Jefferson County Board of Legislators and the Clayton Town Board have unanimously passed resolutions in support of Plan 2014 at their August and July meetings respectively. Plan 2014 is a new approach to water level management in Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River and is an issue of fundamental importance to the economy and quality of life throughout the Great Lakes region. These resolutions come on the heels of a support letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by 41 environmental, sportsmen, higher education and conservation organizations including Save The River.

The support of Jefferson County and the Town of Clayton are especially important because of the recognition of the impact a healthy Lake Ontario, which borders Jefferson County to the west, and St. Lawrence River, bordering the county to the north and on which the Town of Clayton is located, will have on their tourism, recreation-based economies. Earlier this summer the International Joint Commission (IJC), which oversees regulation of water levels, referred Plan 2014 to the federal governments in the United States and Canada.

“Support for a modern water levels plan has always been strong along the St. Lawrence River. Our citizens, community and business leaders and visitors understand the strong connection between a healthy environment and a healthy economy,” said Lee Willbanks, Save The River’s executive director, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. “ Jefferson County and the Town of Clayton have made their intentions clear. Plan 2014 must be approved without delay.”

Orleans legislator Phil Reed brought Jefferson County’s resolution to the floor saying, “after 10 years and $20 million, the impacts and benefits including increased hydropower have been thoroughly studied and it’s time for action. Over the last 60 years our habitat has taken a hit, and this will go a long way to fixing not only the fisheries but the tourism economy that relies on them.”

“Tourism is the keystone of the economic survival of the region bordering the St. Lawrence River,” stated Clayton Town Supervisor Justin Taylor, “and a healthy St. Lawrence River is the keystone to a healthy tourism industry. River residents and municipalities must stand together to support this important Plan.”

Other county legislators, including Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent, and Jeremiah J. Maxon, R-Adams, voiced their support for the plan before the board passed the resolution, noting the positive impacts of the Plan on the Lake and River and thus the region’s economy. Legislator Docteur made it clear the time has come for the Plan to be implemented.

Plan 2014 is intended to restore fish populations, wetland function and wildlife, by allowing more natural fluctuations in water levels while avoiding extreme high and low levels. The plan is the result of a 10-year, $20 million process sponsored by the IJC, which includes representatives from the U.S. and Canada. It will restore the plant and animal diversity of coastal wetlands and increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing, proponents of the plan say.

Plan 2014 represents an innovative approach to water level regulation in Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River, working with nature as a partner, rather than an adversary. The plan was formulated over the course of ten years with the input of more than 180 stakeholder representatives, experts, and scientists from government agencies, academia, NGO’s and industry in New York, Ontario, and Quebec.

To learn more about Plan 2014 click here.

Article published by the Thousand Islands Sun on August 13th, 2014.

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Save The River Reports on Week 5 of Beach Watch Program

August 7th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY (August 7, 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 all samples passed in Week 5. 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 glimpse of the water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. Sampling dates for this year are July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, and August 25.

As in previous years, Save The River will be testing for e. coli bacteria in all of our swimming locations and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. Save The River The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save the River offices, website and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the T.I. Sun.

For more information please contact the Save The River office at (315)-686-2010 or visit www.savetheriver.org.

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Save The River’s Summer Raffle!

August 5th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

This summer Save The River is raffling off a beautiful Great-Blue Heron that was hand-carved and painted by George Textor. George is a self taught carver and painter. He has been carving and painting shore birds since the 1970’s. He has crafted this heron from western red cedar, with a base made from Alaska cedar and head feather made from pounded brass. Acrylic paints were applied to give it vibrant color. George is a summer resident of the Thousand Islands and a member of Save The River’s Board of Directors. Thank you George for your generous donation!

Raffle Pic to Post

Click Here to get to a printable entry form. Just fill out all the contact information and return it with your payment to:

Save The River
409 Riverside Drive
Clayton, NY 13624

We will fill out the tickets so you too can be entered to win this exclusive, hand carved Great-Blue Heron and support Save The River.

Drawing to be held on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

Good luck and Thank You for Supporting Save The River!

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Save The River Reports on Week 4 of Beach Watch Program

July 31st, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY (July 31, 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 all samples passed in Week 4.

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 glimpse of the water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. Sampling dates for this year are July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, and August 25.

As in previous years, Save The River will be testing for e. coli bacteria in all of our swimming locations and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. Save The River The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save the River offices, website and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the T.I. Sun.

Additionally, Save The River is currently looking for volunteers to help with the Beach Watch Program at Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, NY. Water samples would need to be taken Monday morning and brought to the Save The River office in Clayton by 9:30am. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Save The River.

For more information please contact the Save The River office at (315)-686-2010 or visit www.savetheriver.org.

Watertown Daily Times Endorses Plan 2014

July 31st, 2014 | Posted by Lee

Members of the International Joint Commission have completed their long-awaited proposal for revitalizing Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, unanimously endorsed it and have sent it to the U.S. and Canadian governments for approval.

The IJC’s Plan 2014 is a practical measure to make these waterways healthier and prepare for climate change. The idea is to regulate 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 executive summary said. “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.”

Plan 2014 would improve the ecological quality of the waterways and restore fish populations. The IJC has revised its proposal over the years to restore the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and members believe that Plan 2014 is the best way to move forward.

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 IJC’s proposal has been met with concerted opposition by residents of coastal properties along the southern lakeshore, who are concerned about potential flooding should water levels fluctuate in a wider range. What these opponents seem to forget is that they built houses very close to the water’s edge, based on provisions in the IJC’s Plan 1958-D and Plan 1958-DD.

Many of these residents believe the environmental benefits have been exaggerated, arguing that the real goal here is to generate more power at the hydroelectric dam and, thus, increase profits. IJC officials agree that altering the water levels will increase the output at the dam.

But they’ve collected data for years on the effects of changing the water levels, and the science is solidly in their favor. Doing nothing will allow damage to shoreline sand dunes, wetland spawning grounds for native fish and homes for millions of shore birds that has been underway for more than 50 years to continue. That helps no one including those who built too close to the high water line.

Just as the IJC does not have the authority to unilaterally implement Plan 2014, it also has no way of mandating flood mitigation. That would be up to either New York state or the U.S. government. Both governmental entities should act on Plan 2014 soon, and flood mitigation should be part of the solution.

This environmentally positive plan provides the state with a continuous flow of cash from increased power generation at Massena to underwrite specific, justified flood mitigation issues for those property owners who live in the lakeside suburbs of Rochester and along Ontario’s southern shore.

Published by Watertown Daily Times on July 31st on watertowndailytimes.com
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