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Challenging Conditions on the River

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Conditions on the River Demand Attention, Courtesy and Knowledge When Boating

The River is very high right now and may be for the next few weeks.

Many of our neighbors, as well as many of us, have docks, boathouses and shoreline that are under water or threatened by the high water. It is also the case that the high water has brought more debris than usual into the River and many of its tributaries.

If you are on the water:

Pay Attention – there may be more debris than usual, either floating or partially submerged.

Be Courteous – slow down well before you approach a dock and much further from shore than you normally would. Any wake you throw is potentially going to cause damage to someone’s property.

Be Knowledgeable – for your safety and that of your passengers and others, know the water where you are boating. Shoals that are normally marked by this time each year, are likely not yet marked due to the difficulties our volunteers are having getting on the water. Also previously visible hazards may now be submerged. If you have any questions – get a chart and use it.

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High Water Level Cause? Answer from South Shore

April 29th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

A week ago we posted, “Nature plays the biggest role in water levels in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system,” disputing the unfounded, but frequently made claim that the new water management plan – Plan 2014 – is to blame. Yesterday in a lengthy, well-sourced and comprehensive article the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle agreed.

The entire article, “High water on Lake Ontario: Who’s to blame?” by Steve Orr and Meaghan M. McDermott, is a must read. It puts to bed two questions that have been burning up the press, the airwaves and the inboxes of elected officials (and Save The River) for weeks.

to quote the article:

Who or what is really to blame for the high water?

This spring’s high water is an act of God. It is the consequence of heavy rainfall in March and especially in early April, when the amount of water entering Lake Ontario set a record. Similar high water has afflicted the St. Lawrence River, which carries the flow from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean.”

“So Plan 2014 is to blame then?

All the experts have disavowed any connection between high water and the regulations.”

and, from a longtime and vocal critic of Plan 2014 (as the article points out) Frank Sciremammano, “Under either the old plan or the new plan, we would be where we are now.”

As Sciremammano says, “it depends on the weather“. Therefore it is incumbent on us to leave Plan 2014 in place, balancing the many shared interests and uses of the Lake and the River, and use our resources, our ingenuity and our collective political will to realistically deal with the situation and to make certain that what we build in the future takes into account the dominant role of Nature and the reality of these dynamic water bodies and shorelines.

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It Bears Repeating – Denying Real Cause Will Not Lower Water Levels

April 27th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

We’ve posted on this before, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are [now] running about 21” higher than average. And the anger and frustration of shoreline property owners is understandable.

What isn’t understandable is the insistence of certain public figures to blame Plan 2014 – the just implemented water management plan for the Lake and River – as the cause.

Today’s coverage of the story from news outlets on the South shore of Lake Ontario to the River region points out what we have been saying all along, Nature plays the biggest role in water levels in the Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River system. The River is fed by the outflow from Lakes Ontario and Erie, snowfall, and rainfall and runoff. And at times its outflow must be controlled due to conditions on the lower river below the Moses-Saunders Dam.

> from the The Daily News

The root of the current issues is that heavy rainfall and inflows from feeder systems such as the peaking Ottawa River were widespread on both divides of the dam.

also, “according to Arun Heer, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the secretary of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board, . . . there’s not room to outflow the water from the lake [due to the high water level below the dam.]

> from North Country Public Radio

Heavy rains on saturated soils amidst snow melt have inundated the lake, the river, and their tributaries this spring. The Ottawa River, which empties into the St. Lawrence, is flowing at record-high levels. Meanwhile, downstream near Montreal, the St. Lawrence has already flooded, triggering evacuations and boil water alerts in some communities.

meaning, as Frank Bevaqua, spokesman for the IJC, explained to NCPR, “There’s no plug that can be pulled just to drain the system. There’s an awful lot of water in the system and only so much that can be done.

As for the solution proposed by some public figures – “withdraw from Plan 2014”. That is no solution at all.

> from the Watertown Daily Times editorial page

But arguing against a plan that will restore the health of these waterways is foolish. We cannot march backward to continue practices that have damaged the ecosystem. This will help no one. . . . Plan 2014 is the most sensible approach to ensuring that Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River return to a healthier condition.

Our opinion?

The solution to this year’s, or some decades hence high water level is not a return to an outdated plan under which the same conditions have repeatedly occurred and which has led to precipitous declines in wetland habitat and species. It is instead incumbent on us to use our resources, our ingenuity and our collective political will to assist those impacted now to realistically deal with the situation and to make certain what we build in the future takes the dominant role of Nature and the reality of these dynamic water bodies and shorelines into account.

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Changing Currents; This Saturday, April 29th – Be There!

April 25th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

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Join Us! Click here for more details

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St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Is Plan 2014 to Blame?

April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Lee

St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Is Plan 2014 to Blame?

The St. Lawrence River is running high -about 18” higher than the average for this time of year. So is Lake Ontario. And, so are the passions of shoreline property owners impacted by the high levels, local elected officials and some journalists.

Anger, frustration and a demand for answers about why it is happening, how can it be stopped and what will prevent it from happening in the future are understandable reactions to homes and property being threatened.

Unfortunately, in the case of this Spring’s high water the blame is being misplaced and the solution being sought is no solution at all.

Is the new water management plan – Plan 2014 – the reason the water is high?

No – the Lake and River would be at similar levels whether Plan 2014 was implemented or not.

Is Plan 2014 the reason water isn’t being let through the dam to lower the Lake and River?

No – the Board of Control is doing all they can to fairly balance and minimize flooding on both Lake Ontario and on the River at Lake St. Louis (at Montreal). They have made numerous flow adjustments in recent days to keep this balance. Adding to the challenge is the fact that Ottawa River outflows have recently been at record high values.

Why are water levels higher than in previous years?

It is important to remember that neither the River or the Lake are isolated bodies of water, they are part of a large, complex system. A system that holds 40% of North America’s freshwater.

Nature plays the biggest role in water levels in the Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River system. The River is fed by the outflow from Lakes Ontario and Erie, snowfall, and rainfall and runoff. And at times its outflow must be controlled due to conditions on the lower river below the Moses-Saunders Dam.

It is also important to remember that there have been several periods of higher water in the past under the previous plan – Plan 1958DD.

The water in the St Lawrence is higher than last year because the supply of water flowing into it has been greater. And the water it has received has had to be held back at times because the river below the dam has experienced flooding and evacuations.

According to the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board,

“The wet conditions have resulted in rapidly rising water levels throughout the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River system. . . To prevent . . . levels from rising further and causing more extensive damage [below the dam], the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board reduced outflows from Lake Ontario in accordance with Plan 2014.” [1]

What will Plan 2014 mean for water levels in the future?

Water levels have and will always fluctuate. It is important to understand that while we on the River tend to like our water levels to be on the higher side, the health of the St. Lawrence depends on having a variety of levels including some infrequent low levels. In a very few years, likely 6 or fewer years per century, levels will drop below the long-term average when water supplies to the River are naturally lower. These occasional low levels are essential to the health of the fish, the wildlife and the wetlands of the St. Lawrence River.

Even if Plan 2014 isn’t responsible for this year’s high water, why was a new plan needed?

When the Moses-Saunders Dam was built in the 1950’s it meant the St. Lawrence River no longer ran wild and a plan for managing its levels and flows had to be developed. That plan – Plan 1958DD – in operation for over 50 years, led to the loss of 64,000 acres of wetlands, the destruction of critical habitat and the decimation of key species like Black Tern and Northern Pike. In the 90’s it became clear a new plan was needed to stop the slow death of the River.

The new plan – Plan 2014 – was implemented this past January after years of study, input from communities and individuals all around the Lake and River, and review by the governments of Canada and the United States. It is intended to set water levels more in tune with the natural conditions.

By allowing for a more natural cycle of high and occasional low water, Plan 2014 will improve the overall health of the River, restore critical wetland habitat and species, and provide greater economic opportunities for the River region’s tourism-based economy.  This Spring’s water levels are on track with Plan 2014 and should begin to have positive results.

Click here for more information on Plan 2014

Click here for a video on how the Moses-Saunders dam influences water levels

Please consider becoming a member of Save The River to support our education programs and advocacy for a healthy St. Lawrence River – www.donate.savetheriver.org

 

[1] http://ijc.org/greatlakesconnection/en/2017/04/lake-ontario-st-lawrence-river-levels-rise-following-april-rains/

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Environmental Documentary Featuring St. Lawrence River to Premiere in Clayton

April 17th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

 

Saturday, April 29th at 4:00pm Save The River is bringing the award-winning documentary “Changing Currents: Protecting North America’s Rivers” to the Clayton Opera House for its East Coast premiere.

The film explores the many challenges facing the St. Lawrence River and other North American waterways and highlights several significant restoration and protection efforts underway in the U.S. and Canada. It was produced by MediaLab, an award-winning, applied research and media production program based at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in Tacoma, Washington.

During nearly one year of research and interviews, in addition to the St. Lawrence River region, the MediaLab team traveled to cities across North America. They spoke with citizens, community leaders, elected officials, and a variety of organizations working to protect rivers in their areas. While on the St. Lawrence, they spoke to members of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, researchers at the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, and members of Save The River.

Following the screening the filmmakers, as well as St. Lawrence region experts from New York and Ontario, will hold a discussion with the audience.

The screening, sponsored by Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, is open to the public with a suggested donation of $10.00 to support Save The River’s education programs and advocacy efforts to protect the St. Lawrence River.

Watch the trailer for the “Changing Currents” East Coast Premiere

 

from Jeff Garnsey, Save The River Board President, River guide and a participant in the film

“As a third-generation guide, I have seen firsthand the damage to the River from poor stewardship practices and thoughtless actions,” said Jeff Garnsey, River Guide and Save The River Board President. “But I have seen the positive results of informed, persistent community action. This film is a great examination of both the challenges and the successes in our efforts to restore rivers like the St. Lawrence.”

from a member of the documentary team

“River restoration has come a long way in the last 50 years,” said MediaLab member John Struzenberg, who served as the film’s chief videographer and editor. “What people don’t realize is that there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Click here for more information about the film.

About MediaLab at PLU

MediaLab is an award–winning, applied research and media production organization housed within the Center for Media Studies at Pacific Lutheran University’s School of Arts and Communication. MediaLab students work on projects across the media spectrum, including market research, photography, graphic design, web design, writing, video, public relations, event planning, filmmaking, and more.

The Changing Currents research team members are: Creative Director Rachel Lovrovich; John Struzenberg chief videographer and editor; Christopher Boettcher, social media associate; Kelly Lavelle, publicity, design, and photography; and Joshua Wiersma, assistant editor and videographer. The team was led by Robert Marshall Wells, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication at PLU and the film’s executive producer.

About Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

Since 1978 Save The River, a community-based membership not-for-profit organization, has been the leading environmental organization fighting for the ecological integrity of the St. Lawrence River. Its mission is to preserve, protect and restore the River now, and for generations to come. It delivers educational programs to students and adults about the River, its fragility, and the importance of protecting it. Save The River is committed to being a forceful advocate for policies and programs that promote clean water protections and to resist those that eliminate or weaken them.

Please consider becoming a member of Save The River to support our education programs and advocacy for a healthy St. Lawrence Riverwww.donate.savetheriver.org 

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St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Spring 2017

April 14th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Spring 2017

The snow and ice are gone, and the beauty of River this time of year is drawing us all to it – whether for a walk along its banks, or to the end of the dock. And boaters are anticipating the day they launch. However we get to the River, it’s pretty clear the water is higher than we’re used to seeing this time of year.

Naturally it leads to questions about why and what will the higher level mean for this summer?

Is the water level of the River higher than usual this year?

Yes and No

Yes – It is a little more than 18” above its recent (1918 – 2016) average for this time of year and about 6” higher than last year.

No – Not in the bigger picture. The River is actually around 6” below the level it would be if were undammed and still allowed to run unobstructed.

Why are water levels higher than last year?

The water in the St Lawrence is higher than last year because the supply of water flowing into the river has been greater.

The River is not an isolated water body, it is part of a large, complex system. When looking at the level of the River, it is important to look at where its water comes from and the other factors that influence levels. It is fed by the outflow from Lakes Ontario and Erie, snowfall, and rainfall and runoff. And at times it must be controlled due to conditions on the lower river below the Moses-Saunders Dam.

According to the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board,

A series of storm events passed through the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system from April 4-10, resulting in significant precipitation across the region. Some eastern parts of the Lake Ontario basin received as much as 3.2” (80mm), while areas around the St. Lawrence River near Montreal saw as much as 3.5” (90mm) during the same series of events. . . The wet conditions have resulted in rapidly rising water levels throughout the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River system. . . To prevent . . . levels from rising further and causing more extensive damage [below the dam], the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board reduced outflows from Lake Ontario in accordance with Plan 2014.

What is Plan 2014 and what does it have to do with water levels on the St. Lawrence River?

When the Moses-Saunders Dam was built in the 1950’s it meant the St. Lawrence River no longer ran wild and a plan for managing its levels and flows had to be developed. That plan – Plan 1958DD – in operation for over 50 years, led to the loss of 64,000 acres of wetlands, the destruction of critical habitat and the decimation of key species like Black Tern and Northern Pike. In the 90’s it became clear a new plan was needed to stop the slow death of the River.

A new plan – Plan 2014 – was implemented just this past January after years of study, community input and review by the governments of Canada and the United States. It is intended to set water levels more in tune with the natural conditions.

By allowing for a more natural cycle of high and occasional low water, Plan 2014 will improve the overall health of the River and restore critical wetland habitat and species, and provide greater economic opportunities for the River region’s tourism-based economy. This Spring’s water levels are on track with Plan 2014 and should begin to have positive results.

What will Plan 2014 mean for water levels in the future?

Water levels have and will always fluctuate. It is important to understand that while we on the River tend to like our water levels to be on the higher side, the health of the St. Lawrence depends on having a variety of levels including some infrequent low levels. In a very few years, likely 6 or fewer years per century, levels will drop below the long-term average when water supplies to the River are naturally lower. These occasional low levels are essential to the health of the fish, the wildlife and the wetlands of the St. Lawrence River.

Will Plan 2014 mean a longer boating season?

Most of the time yes, but not always. Overall, it’s clear that Plan 2014 will extend the boating season. Over the last hundred years, the boating season under Plan 2014 would have been 23 weeks or longer in 51 out of every 100 years.

Click here for more information on Plan 2014

Click here for more news from the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control

Please consider becoming a member of Save The River to support our education programs and advocacy for a healthy St. Lawrence River – www.donate.savetheriver.org

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Seriously?! NO Great Lakes Restoration funding, ZERO!

March 16th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Seriously?! NO Great Lakes Restoration funding, ZERO!

Page 42 of President’s budget plan released today “Eliminates funding for…Great Lakes Restoration Initiative”. This program has received bipartisan support in every budget since its inception in 2010. Over $130,000,000 has come to New York State to improve wetlands, fish habitat, invasive species detection and prevention, pollution abatement and other important projects that have created direct and indirect jobs, improving our environment and our economy. Over $6.4 million has been spent directly in the St. Lawrence River watershed.

Zero it out? Seriously. Decidedly. Outrageous!

It is just one part of the budget’s assault on programs that protect the water we depend on for our world-class fisheries, to sustain our recreation and tourism based economy, AND to drink!

Among many other programs cut or zeroed out is a Department of Agriculture program that assists communities with fewer than 10,000 people with water and sewer infrastructure.

It’s hard to imagine describing the St. Lawrence River as “great” if the water is no longer swimmable, fishable, or drinkable.

The President’s budget plan is chock full of disappointments for anyone who has benefitted from the last half century of progress the United States has made in air and water quality and human health.

Common sense tells us we have more to do to make sure every American has access to clean air and water, both basic human rights.

Instead for Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and our members and supporters, this budget is nothing less than a full on assault on the health of one of North America’s most important waterways and the people and communities that depend on it being and staying healthy.

Call the Congressional switchboard, (202) 224-3121, to connect with your Senators & Representative with the simple message “I support clean water programs – GLRI, revolving loan funds, & EPA”. Then call White House with same message (202) 456-1414 or (202) 456-1111.

Please also consider becoming a member of Save The River to strengthen our ability to fight for a healthy St. Lawrence River, now and for generations to come. Add your voice to thousands of others working to preserve, protect and restore one of the great rivers in North America.

#WePersist

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Budget Blunder? Absolutely Right!

March 13th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Watertown Daily Times calls President Trump’s approach on vital Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River programs a, “Budget blunder.” And they are absolutely right!

In a March 11th editorial the Watertown Daily Times called out the President for his proposal to slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and his intention to “wrench most of this from the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative”.

The Times had reported the day before “Mr. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget request calls for funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to fall from $300 million to $10 million, a 97 percent reduction. Reuters reported the Environmental Protection Agency’s overall budget will be cut about 25 percent.”

This is simply outrageous.

As the Times editorial points out, “[t]o date, the GLRI [Great Lakes Restoration Initiative] has invested more than $2.2 billion in restoration projects in the Great Lakes.” In an earlier story the Times noted, “the GLRI provides funding for thousands of projects pertaining to wetlands restoration, combating invasive species and cleaning up toxins in the Great Lakes and along their shores.”

The GLRI has received bipartisan support in Congress since its inception. It is a keystone in the nation’s commitment to restore the health of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River; the largest freshwater system on earth, drinking water supply to millions and a recreational mecca that draws visitors from all over the world.

GLRI funded projects have certainly benefitted the environment of the communities where they are located. But these projects have also supported the economy of those communities with the direct and indirect jobs they have created and by the increased commercial and recreational use of the waters they have restored.

Save The River wholeheartedly agrees with the Times’ conclusion that, “Mr. Trump cannot be allowed to finance his plans at the expense of the health of the Great Lakes”.

And, while we are fortunate on the St. Lawrence River that Congresswoman Stefanik and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand support the GLRI, we know that restoration of these draconian cuts will not be easy to reverse and the effort will take more than the support of our local representatives.

For these reasons Save The River is committed to working with groups from all of the Great Lakes states to stop the President’s plan to slash the EPA and GLRI funding. You can help two ways:

  • Call your representatives at (202) 224-3121:
    • If they support full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; say “Thanks”. Positive messages work to shore up support.
    • If they don’t support the GLRI; Tell them why it is important to you that they do. Personal stories help them understand how these programs impact real people.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in New York State by the numbers:

 

Read the full Watertown Daily Times editorial and stories at these links:

 

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President Takes Action to Limit Clean Water Rule Protections

March 1st, 2017 | Posted by Lee

As the Riverkeeper for the St. Lawrence River, downstream of the 5 Great Lakes, drinking water for 40 million people, collector of human and industrial wastes from 8 states, we know full well the impact of the President’s order. And like the Waterkeeper Alliance and all freshwater groups in American, we will fight this.

From the Waterkeeper Alliance statement, “We also know that pollution flows downstream and poisons larger waterways used for drinking water, fishing, and recreation. This is why Congress passed the Clean Water Act more than 40 years ago — Waterkeeper Alliance will fight every effort to destroy these longstanding clean water protections.”

Full statement here, Waterkeeper Alliance Responds to Anti-Clean Water Executive Order

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