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Save The River Appoints Executive Director

August 24th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River announced today that John Peach has been appointed to serve as the executive director and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. Peach had been serving as the interim executive director since mid-June while a search committee received applications from potential candidates. Peach previously served on Save The River’s board of directors for nearly two decades.

“John was the obvious and overwhelming first choice as the new executive director. His years of experience in not-for-profits along with his love of our River made him an easy selection,” said Jeff Garnsey, president of Save The River’s board of directors. “John brings with him the energy to guide our organization as well as hands-on experience to make the tough decisions required by the position.”

“My passion is that Save The River remains strong in our work to protect the Upper St. Lawrence River through advocacy, education, and research,” said Peach. “Now that Plan 2014 has been approved and is in operation, it will allow Save The River to focus on key river issues such as plastics in the River and water column, the very real threat of aquatic invasive species including Asian Carp, pollution from river municipalities, residential sewages, and agriculture run-off, and the threat of diversion of our precious fresh water. Save The River’s In the Schools and On the Water programs placed 950 students and 37 educators out on the River this year for hands-on scientific education. Our Common Tern restoration program in conjunction with Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) saw a record-breaking number of Tern chicks banded. Our Beach Watch water quality analysis of six swimming sites is now its twentieth year, and our shoalmarkers continue to guide River boaters safely around many of the area’s most treacherous shoals.”

John joined Save The River’s board in 2000 and has served in several key roles including as president from 2004-2007, on the executive committee, and most recently as treasurer leading the finance committee. He is an active volunteer in Save The River’s Common Tern Monitoring program and shoal marking program and will continue his work in these programs while serving as executive director. Prior to his retirement several years ago, Peach worked as an international business consultant in fields including arts, oceanographic research, environmental, and pharmaceuticals. He and his wife Pat call Huckleberry Island near Ivy Lea home for a significant portion of the year; their children and grandchildren represent the fifth and sixth generations of family living in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River region.

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Save The River Remembers Ken Deedy

August 16th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River remembers Ken Deedy, Board of Directors Emeriti

Ken Deedy served on the Board of Directors from the mid-80s to 90s, a pivotal time in Save The River’s history as the organization developed dynamic programs engaging River residents and established a stable financial foundation with a permanent home in Clayton. Ken was an earnest and enthusiastic member of Save The River, someone who saw the big picture and was full of ideas for synergistic collaboration.

“I was very fortunate to come to know Ken over the last twenty years. He was one of the most intense individuals I’ve ever met when speaking about protecting our beloved Thousand Islands. Always generous with his time and money, he was usually in the lead on any project that benefited The River,” said John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River. “So it was no surprise to us when we learned that one of Ken’s final acts of generosity was to create the ‘Kenneth Deedy Environmental Internship Fund’ to benefit the work of Save The River, Thousand Islands Land Trust, and Minna Anthony Common Nature Center and ensure that these organizations continue to work together for the common good of The River.”

The Board and staff of Save The River are humbled and inspired by the example set by Ken in his work to protect the St. Lawrence River.

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Save The River Annual Meeting Held New Board Members and Officers Elected

September 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Published by the Daily Courier-Observer on September 2, 2015

Clayton, NY– Thursday, August 27th, Save The River held its Annual Membership meeting.  Among the items acted on was the election of three new Directors who add to the national, geographic, professional and demographic diversity of the now eighteen-member Board of Directors.

“It is great to have Karen Douglass Cooper, Jessica Jock, and Cicely Johnston, each of whom come from previously under-represented regions of the St. Lawrence River, join our Board,” stated Lee Willbanks, Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director. “In addition to broadening our geographic scope to now include all of the Upper St. Lawrence, 2 of the 3 are Canadian, these women bring new personal and professional experience to our efforts to protect and preserve this magnificent River.” Jeff Garnsey, newly elected President of the Board added, “I believe we are entering one of the most important and exciting periods in Save The River’s history. We now have a broader base on both sides of our River than ever before. I am excited to be a part of it.”

Ann Ward, Board Member Emerita, stated “for years we’ve tried to increase the number of Canadian members on our Board to more closely match the truly international nature of our work on the River. This is an excellent start.”

K CooperKaren Douglass Cooper, who for the last seven years has worked exclusively on projects dealing with fresh water protection throughout the upper St. Lawrence River Watershed Region, said “to share in the international scope of protection and conservation work being undertaken by Save The River is both an honour and a privilege. I am very much looking forward to serving with this wonderful team.” Ms. Cooper is the Communications / Community Outreach Officer for the St. Lawrence Institute of Environment Sciences and Coordinator for the Remedial Action Plan for the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC) in Cornwall, Ontario. She has also worked on fresh water protection and public education with South Nation Conservation Authority, the Dundas Environmental Awareness Group and the Raisin ‐ South Nation Drinking Water Source Protection Program.

J Jock

Jessica Jock is a self-professed life‐time river lover. As an Environmental Scientist for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Environment Division in Akwesasne, she has worked 13 years on various River projects related to Superfund cleanups, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Ms. Jock, stated, “I’m honored to have been nominated by my peers, and to have received the support of the membership. I look forward to serving the mission of Save The River and enthusiastically accept the role to promote good river stewardship for the River communities.” She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on River health, served on committees, and collaborated with many resource agencies and non‐profit organizations. She has volunteered and served on the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association, Inc. and Northern TRIBS Swimming, Inc. board of directors.

C JohnstonCicely Johnston was born and raised in the Thousand Islands and is the 5th generation in her family‐owned business, Ed Huck Marine of Rockport, Ontario. According to Ms. Johnston, “I started working at the marina quite young and quickly found I shared a passion for the River with other River Rats, whether they were locals, cottagers or boaters. This connection taught me the importance of a clean, sustainable River not only for recreation but commerce as well.” Ms. Johnston is a fundraiser for Queen’s University, holds a certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University, and is co‐chair of a Queen’s University Senate Committee, and a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, South Eastern Ontario Chapter.

In other business conducted at the meeting, members heard from Executive Director Willbanks about some of the many initiatives, partnerships and accomplishments of Save The River in the preceding year. But he did point out that amid the positives, Plan 2014, the new and much needed water levels plan for the River has not yet been approved, legislation banning microbeads from personal care products is still in limbo in New York and there is still a threat of shipments of Bakken and tar sands crude oil on the River. Willbanks noted, “there are still real and significant threats to the health of the River and the communities that depend on it. Save The River remains the voice for the environment, the communities and all those who share the use of the River. We have to stay vigilant and maintain our ability to be that strong voice.”

In addition to the three new Board members, current Directors Jeff Garnsey, John McGrath, Steve Taylor, and Lauran Throop were re-elected for another three-year term. Elected as officers for the coming year were: Jeff Garnsey, President; Lauran Throop, Vice President; Fred Morey, Treasurer; John Peach, Secretary; and Jack Butts, Member-At-Large. The Directors also approved an amendment to the not-for-profit’s bylaws establishing term limits for Board members, limiting all Directors to no more than two, three year terms.

More information about Save The River’s programs and work to protect the Upper St. Lawrence River can be found at

Jessica Jock Cicely Johnston Karen Cooper

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Save The River Featured in NNY Outdoor Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2015 Issue

June 16th, 2015 | Posted by admin

NNY Outdoors page 1NNY Outdoors Page 2NNY Outdoors Page 3NNY Outdoors Page 4NNY Outdoors Page 5

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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
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Critical Piece of Equipment Lost – Replacement Essential to Effort to Ban Microplastics

July 28th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Microplastics researcher Dr. Sherri Mason, a speaker at Save The River’s Winter Environmental Conference earlier this year, has had an equipment loss that cripples her ability to conduct much needed research on microplastics in the Great Lake and the St. Lawrence River. Her research into this emerging threat has proven pivotal in the basin-wide effort to ban these tiny, toxin accumulating ingredients used in many personal care products.

Dr. Mason and Save The River need your assistance to keep the effort to understand and eliminate the threat of microplastics afloat.

Manta Trawl

Dr. Mason’s microplastic samples are taken using a net called a Manta Trawl. These nets are specially designed to float on the surface of the water, where the majority of the plastics accumulate. Unfortunately, as part of a recent shipboard science expedition, her manta trawl met with an untimely demise. It was sucked under the ship where it became tangled in the motor wheel and sank to the bottom of the Lake Erie.

Dr. Mason and her team cannot continue their ground-breaking work without a manta trawl. Save The River and many other organizations, including the New York State Attorney General, rely on her research in our efforts to ban microplastics.

Her first trawl was purchased in 2012 as part of the first-ever expedition for plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Over the past three summers it has collected samples in all five of the Great Lakes, as well as the St. Lawrence River. These samples have shown that plastic pollution in Lakes Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have some of the highest counts of any place in the world sampled to-date – including the oceans.

Understanding the extent and impact of microplastic pollution and enacting effective bans requires scientific research, and diligent, focused advocacy based on that research.

Save The River is asking for your help to replace Dr. Mason’s Manta Trawl and to ban microplastics from our Lakes and River.

Please make a donation today so Dr. Mason can replace this critical piece of equipment. Each Trawl is made on demand at a cost of $3,500. That is our goal, with any additional money raised to be used in our efforts to secure a basin-wide ban of these harmful products.

Clich here to help buy Dr. Mason a new manta trawl.2014-07-22 Microbeads at Potters Beachsmall

More about Dr. Mason’s work:

Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes

More about our effort to ban microplastics:

ACTION NEEDED – Tell Your State Senator: Get Plastic Microbeads Out of Our Waters!

Save The River Calls for Ban on Microbeads

Push to Protect Waterways from Microplastics Continues

Thank you for your help in keeping this important research afloat and keeping the equally import effort to ban microplastics alive.

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Push to Protect Waterways from Microplastics Continues

July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by admin
Push to Protect Waterways from Microplastics Continues
See more at:

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to add microbeads to their list of Great Lakes contaminants. If added, the EPA would likely address the problem in their upcoming action plan. A move that Save The River is thankful for.

“She has been very good on all issues related to water quality in the Great Lakes and her support shows that there’s a broader interest on the federal level,” said Save The River Executive Director Lee Willbanks.

But the non-profit said that getting the contaminant added to the list is just the first step. They want the state to ban microbeads and microplastics from products. They can be found in everything from face cream, to shampoos, and even on the tips of brushes.

“Because we believe that a bill, in the long run, will be more important,” said Willbanks. “But, both go hand in hand.”

Although the ban was presented to state lawmakers this year, it wasn’t passed before the end of session. Proponents of the bill are hoping it’ll become law when they return. They said the ban is desperately needed because the material is damaging the food chain.

“They accumulate the chemicals that are in the water and then they’re eaten by the fish because they look like small food particles,” said Willbanks.

Those fish are then eaten be larger fish, moving the toxic material upward. Supporters said it’s the reason why they won’t give up their fight.

Published on July 22nd, 2014 by Time Warner Cable News

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The Buffalo News Endorses Plan 2014

July 7th, 2014 | Posted by admin

If there is one thing that the residents and business owners of Western New York should agree on, it is that they have a compelling interest in the health of the Great Lakes. In particular, Lakes Erie and Ontario are engines benefiting the economy, recreation and overall quality of life in this area while also providing a reliable source of water.

That’s why the work of the International Joint Commission is so important and why the agency wants to allow the level of Lake Ontario to fluctuate more than it does now, rising a few inches higher in spring and fall.

The plan deserves broad support – as do some worried residents of Niagara and Orleans counties. Those shoreline property owners are almost alone in opposing this plan, and while their concerns are legitimate and deserve attention, they also shouldn’t be allowed to block a well-considered plan that appears to do a good job of balancing a variety of important interests.

For 13 years, the commission – composed of American and Canadian members – has studied the environmental issues that artificial water levels have created on Lake Ontario since the construction of Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the St. Lawrence River in the 1950s. That project created an inexpensive supply of power and helped make the St. Lawrence Seaway navigable.

But the dam also allowed engineers to control the water level of Lake Ontario, and when those levels were agreed upon, no consideration was given to the effects on the environment, whose influences were poorly, if at all, understood.

But there has been a price. Lower lake levels have harmed wetlands along the shore, for example. Wetlands are natural pollution filters and they also provide habitat to amphibians, birds, mammals and fish. The degrading of those wetlands has damaged the health of the lake and of the creatures that make their homes there.

A better balance is necessary. The environment deserves a place at the table when considering the manipulation of lake levels, as do boating, fishing, shipping, power generation, recreation and, yes, the interests of homeowners along the lake shore.

In fact, according to members of the IJC, of all those interested parties, only homeowners along the southwestern shore of the lake are vocally opposed to what is known as Plan 2014.

Their concern is about the potential for flooding and property erosion, both of which can already occur as lake levels are managed today.

The criticism has been fierce. One group, the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, went so far as to call the IJC’s work “government at its worst.” On its face, that’s not the case, given the amount of time the IJC has spent on this issue, including many public hearings. The fact is that homeowners on this part of the lake, virtually alone among those interested in this issue, believe they are better off with the status quo than with the proposed change that factors in environmental needs.

And, frankly, who can blame them? Their properties were purchased, improved and maintained based on a set of facts that may now be changing. This is a federal issue, ultimately to be agreed upon or rejected by the national governments of the United States and Canada. Those governments – mainly Washington – need to offer some level of protection to those property owners to help them prepare for and cope with the changes envisioned in Plan 2014.

These changes are worth making, to protect the lake that helps to define and improve life in this area. The benefits are such that the plan should be adopted, providing assistance to property owners along the southwestern shoreline and, if necessary, over their objections.

Published by Buffalo News on July 6th on

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Syracuse Post-Standard Endorses Plan 2014

July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by admin

It’s time to approve a new plan that effectively manages water levels on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River, while taking steps to restore the natural health of the waterways.

We endorse Plan 2014, a proposal developed and recently endorsed by the International Joint Commission, a panel of U.S. and Canadian representatives charged with preventing and resolving conflicts concerning shared use of waters on the countries’ borders.

No amount of regulation will satisfy everyone and it’s clear that continuing the status quo is a poor option. Plan 2014 will help restore the ecological balance of the lake and the upper river, while minimizing the negative effects on shoreline residents’ property and municipal infrastructure such as seawalls and breakwaters along the lake’s coast.

The plan is the culmination of 14 years of studies costing more than $20 million, and follows numerous public hearings and more than 5,500 written comments from both sides of the border. It still must be approved by the U.S. and Canadian governments.
The current plan was put in place in the late 1950s to help stabilize the water levels that naturally varied as much as 8 feet during the course of a year – and at times more due to huge storms and ice jams.

The control mechanism of the water levels has been, and will continue to be the Moses-Saunders dam on the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg (Cornwall on the Canadian side), which under the current plan has been used to try and keep the water level variation within a range of about 4 ½ feet annually. However, Mother Nature is unpredictable and that variation has often averaged more like 6.2 feet.

Regardless, the current plan and its absence of naturally occurring highs and lows killed many native plants in the lake’s 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands. The result is congested “cornfields” of cattails with little, or no open water in these wetlands that are supposed to act as “kidneys” for the lake by filtering out pollutants. In addition, wildlife such as ducks, terns and muskrats have decreased and northern pike spawning areas have also disappeared.

Studies have concluded that Plan 2014 would help reverse these trends. Conservation groups and organizations across the board – including bird watchers, anglers, water fowl hunters and trappers — have endorsed it. The Nature Conservancy calls the plan “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the health of Great Lake.”

Opponents, such as a string of municipalities along the lake’s southern shore and the Lake Ontario Restoration Alliance, insist Plan 2014 will have serious consequences for the southern shore and that while the lake’s environment is important, so is its overall economy and land values.Plan 2014 would add about 2 inches to the upper range to what’s in place now, and about 8 inches to the lower range. It would also include “triggers” that would allow the IJC to take emergency action during high water or low water conditions – that is, requiring the dam system to either let more water out, or keep it more back, depending on the circumstances.

The IJC commissioners noted and studies have concluded that Plan 2014 will result in little or no change to the lake’s overall economy, shipping or recreational boating. However, it will likely increase erosion and other coastal damage by an estimated 13 percent for landowners, municipalities and businesses – and that such damage would occur sooner with this new set of regulations.

We sympathize with those who would be negatively affected by Plan 2014. Studies have concluded, though, that coastal damage and flooding will occur under either plan. The biggest impact of Plan 2014, said the studies, would be damage to shoreline protection structures, which could be delayed by building them several inches higher.

Providing financial aid for such work, in addition to possibly helping private property owners affected, is an issue apart from the plan that could be taken up with state, provincial or federal lawmakers from both countries. In addition, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at where homes and other structures can be built along the lake’s shore if damage is inevitable. Tougher restrictions have evolved over the years concerning individuals who choose to build in flood plains along rivers. Why not along Lake Ontario?

Apart from all that, Plan 2014 makes sense because it looks at the big picture, the long-term picture. It’s the right thing to do to make one of the Great Lakes even greater.

We endorse Plan 2014, a proposal developed and recently endorsed by the International Joint Commission, a panel of U.S. and Canadian representatives charged with preventing and resolving conflicts concerning shared use of waters on the countries’ borders.

The plan has been forwarded to the executive branches of both governments. On the U.S. side, the State Department is coordinating an inter-agency review and development of a position. We encourage Secretary of State John Kerry to move the plan forward.

Published by the Syracuse Post- Standard on July 3rd on

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