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Remembering the River: Iroquois Lock 1957

November 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Remembering the River:
At 2 pm, November 23, 1957, 58 years ago today, the Canadian Coast Guard ship Grenville became the first ship to pass through the new Iroquois Lock.
This was a test run of the lock, a key facility in the soon to be completed St. Lawrence Seaway system. It is a pivotal event in ushering in the devastating regulation of the once natural levels and flows on the St. Lawrence River.
The damage is well documented – the loss of 64,000 acres of meadow marsh wetlands and the vital ecosystem services they provide, the precipitous decline of Northern Pike and common tern, and the disappearance of muskrat from the River.
A solution exists. Plan 2014 – a modern water levels plan, recommended to the U.S. and Canadian federal governments 18 months ago – will go a long way to restoring the balance, Unfortunately, despite widespread public support from local governments in Canada and the U.S., many federal agencies, over 23,000 signatures on petitions and letters and nearly 100 elected officials, environmental, business and community leaders, Plan 2014 is still unapproved.
The St. Lawrence River needs Plan 2014 now. It’s time to reverse the damage ushered in with the Seaway. Let these key officials know you want Plan 2014 implemented now for the health of the St. Lawrence River:
Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion, via email: stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca
Secretary of State John Kerry, via twitter: @JohnKerry
Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, via email (select “Environmental Concerns” under Topic): http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact and via twitter: @GovCuomo

Remembering the River:

At 2 pm, November 23, 1957, 58 years ago today, the Canadian Coast Guard ship Grenville became the first ship to pass through the new Iroquois Lock.Grenville Iroquois Lock Post

This was a test run of the lock, a key facility in the soon to be completed St. Lawrence Seaway system. It is a pivotal event ushering in almost 60 years of devastating regulation of the once natural levels and flows on the St. Lawrence River.

The damage is well documented – the loss of 64,000 acres of meadow marsh wetlands and the vital ecosystem services they provide, the precipitous decline of Northern Pike and common tern, and the disappearance of muskrat from the River.

A solution exists. Plan 2014 – a modern water levels plan, recommended to the U.S. and Canadian federal governments 18 months ago – will go a long way to restoring the balance, Unfortunately, despite widespread public support from local governments in Canada and the U.S., many federal agencies, over 23,000 signatures on petitions and letters and nearly 100 elected officials, environmental, business and community leaders, Plan 2014 is still unapproved.

The St. Lawrence River needs Plan 2014 now. It’s time to reverse the damage ushered in with the Seaway. Let these key officials know you want Plan 2014 implemented now for the health of the St. Lawrence River:

Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion, via email to: stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca

Secretary of State John Kerry, via twitter

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, via email (select “Environmental Concerns” under Topic)

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, via email

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Remembering the River means working to protect it for future generations

November 21st, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Jodrey Pic

41 years ago today the Roy A. Jodrey went down off Alexandria Bay after hitting Pullman Shoal. Over the years she has been the source of contamination from slowly leaking oil left in the port side day tank.

In 2002 a major effort was undertaken to remove the remaining oil. The amount removed was far less than what was expected to be on board. Concern over any oil being left to leak comes from fact that one-quart of oil will foul 150,000 – 250,000 gallons of freshwater. However, since the clean up effort no leaking fuel has been observed.

Ironically on the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Jodrey – eleven years ago – the Seaway corporations and shippers decided to re-brand the St. Lawrence River “Highway H2O”. Doing so created a clever marketing tool, but it also reduced one of North America’s most significant waterways to just another piece of infrastructure.

Recent efforts by the Seaway corporations to market the River as a highway for crude oil – both tar sands and Bakken (“bomb train”) crude – require all of us concerned about the health of the River to focus on andOil Collage fight the threat these cargoes pose to it.

Shipping on the St. Lawrence River has long been an all-risk and no-reward proposition, and the shipment of crude oil will exponentially increase the risk to our environment, our economy and our communities. Having suffered a major oil spill on the St. Lawrence River, we know all too well the risks involved with even traditional cargoes.

As pressure increases to bring these dangerous cargoes to the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, we must take steps to protect our River before it’s too late.

Save The River has been fighting to protect the vulnerable natural and human environment on the St. Lawrence River for its entire 37 year history. Join us and support our work on the River by becoming a member today.

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Waterkeepers to convene at UN Conference on Climate Change

November 12th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
This December, Waterkeepers from around the world will convene at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to tell world leaders what actions they need to take NOW to protect us from climate change and to create a legally binding universal agreement on climate.
Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper is one of the 121 Waterkeepers from over 20 countries that submitted specific calls to action to their government leaders.
We called on:
– U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion to adopt the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 for the management of levels and flows on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
– The U.S. and Canadian federal governments to elevate the environment in considerations of transboundary issues and shipping practices by halting “Highway H20” to ban the shipment of crude oil on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
– Federal, state / provincial, local governments to invest in upgrades to sewage systems – municipal, private and individual – and other infrastructure to prevent spills from extreme weather events and to ensure waste is properly treated before discharge to freshwater.
for the full list from all 121 Waterkeepers: http://ow.ly/UA4mP

This December, Waterkeepers from around the world will convene at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to tell world leaders what actions they need to take NOW to protect us from climate change and to create a legally binding universal agreement on climate.

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper is one of the 121 Waterkeepers from over 20 countries that submitted specific calls to action to their government leaders.

We called on:

– U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion to adopt the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 for the management of levels and flows on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

– The U.S. and Canadian federal governments to elevate the environment in considerations of transboundary issues and shipping practices by halting “Highway H20” to ban the shipment of crude oil on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

– Federal, state / provincial, local governments to invest in upgrades to sewage systems – municipal, private and individual – and other infrastructure to prevent spills from extreme weather events and to ensure waste is properly treated before discharge to freshwater.

for the full list from all 121 Waterkeepers click here

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Ban crude oil transit

October 1st, 2015 | Posted by admin

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. Recent efforts by the Seaway corporations to market the River as a highway for crude oil have caused us to increase our focus on the threat these cargoes pose to the River. What we have learned is alarming.

Although refined petroleum products are currently transported on the Great Lakes, crude oil is not. Two very different and very dangerous types of crude are poised to transit the St. Lawrence River. One, Bakken crude, is extremely volatile, even explosive as seen in numerous “bomb train” incidents in recent years. The other, tar sands oil, is heavy enough to sink in freshwater where, with current technology it is unrecoverable.

Shipping on the St. Lawrence River has long been an all-risk and no-reward proposition, and the shipment of crude oil will exponentially increase the risk to our environment, our economy and our communities.  Having suffered a major oil spill on the St. Lawrence River, we know all too well the risks involved with even traditional cargoes.  As pressure increases to bring these dangerous cargoes to the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, we must take steps to protect our River before it’s too late.

For these reasons, Save The River enthusiastically supports the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate this week. If passed, it will ban the shipment of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The authors, Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (MI) deserve to be commended. Their bill, in addition to banning the shipment of crude oil, requires a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review of hazardous pipelines in the region, compels an assessment of oil spill response and cleanup plans, and requires that ice cover be part of worst-case scenarios in response plans.

Once crude oil is in a ship’s hold headed for the St. Lawrence it will be too late. Now is the time to prevent the next catastrophic spill from happening. The best way to do that is to keep cargoes the Coast Guard admits it doesn’t know how to handle off the water entirely. The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act should be supported by every member of New York’s Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River congressional delegation as a way to preserve and protect the St. Lawrence River now and for future generations.

Letter to the Editor by Lee Willbanks
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper / Executive Director

Published by the Thousand Islands Sun on September 30th, 2015

Click here to see the print article.

Oil Collage

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Proposed legislation would ban Great Lakes crude oil shipments, up pipeline regulations

September 30th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Published by the Watertown Daily Times on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.
Newly proposed federal legislation could prevent vessels from transporting crude oil on the Great Lakes and provide a “top-to-bottom review” for pipelines on the waterways.

The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, also calls for new research on oil spill response, such as how to respond to a spill during the winter when ice covers the lakes, and increases access to safety information about pipelines.

The pair said in statements that they were inspired by a large spill in the Kalamazoo River.

“One can only imagine what a disaster it would be for a similar oil spill to occur in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest system of fresh surface water,” Sen. Peters said in a statement.

The pair also noted discomfort among maritime officials about the effectiveness of oil spill cleanup methods, such as oil dispersants, in times of cold water.

Among those advocating for the measure were Save the River, Clayton, which dedicated its winter conference to the topic earlier this year.

“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,” D. Lee Willbanks, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Tom Flanagin, spokesman for Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said that the congresswoman was looking for ways to protect the lakes without limiting access to affordable energy, and that the proposal was under review by her staff and the Great Lakes Task Force.

Similarly, a spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the senator’s office also is reviewing the measure. A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she is considering the proposal, and is committed to protecting area lakes and waterways.

Currently, no crude oil shipments are made by vessel on the Great Lakes, Save the River and lawmakers said. However, the possibility of Canadian companies shipping crude oil on the St. Lawrence Seaway was reviewed last year by the U.S. Department of State as a part of its examination of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

2015-09-30 WDT Oil Article

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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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Water Levels to Fluctuate on River During Operation to Recover Sunken Tug – Updated

August 4th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
from the IJC, “Water level impacts of the flow fluctuations will be most evident on the St. Lawrence River.  The decreased outflows expected during the salvage operations will result in water levels on Lake St. Lawrence rising during the day, . . . However, strong winds, especially those with a westerly component, may result in temporary high levels in excess of this threshold [242.35′].  When outflows are ramped back up each night, levels on Lake St. Lawrence will temporarily decrease by as much as 80 cm (31.5 in).”
The Board will allow outflows to be decreased during daylight working hours to reduce current velocities and the risk of hazardous conditions in the vicinity of the remaining sunken vessel. . . . The Board has agreed to allow 14-hour long daytime outflow reductions for up to seven days to facilitate the remaining salvage operations. Starting on Tuesday, 4 August, outflows will be decreased . . . each day by 6 am, and ramped back up . . . each night starting at 8 pm.
– See more at: http://www.ijc.org/en_/islrbc/news?news_id=499&myID=1#sthash.dboz50gb.dpuf

from the IJC, “Water level impacts of the flow fluctuations will be most evident on the St. Lawrence River [& principally on Lake St. Lawrence].  The decreased outflows expected during the salvage operations will result in water levels on Lake St. Lawrence rising during the day, . . . However, strong winds, especially those with a westerly component, may result in temporary high levels in excess of this threshold [242.35′].  When outflows are ramped back up each night, levels on Lake St. Lawrence will temporarily decrease by as much as 80 cm (31.5 in).”

The Board will allow outflows to be decreased during daylight working hours to reduce current velocities and the risk of hazardous conditions in the vicinity of the remaining sunken vessel. . . . The Board has agreed to allow 14-hour long daytime outflow reductions for up to seven days to facilitate the remaining salvage operations. Starting on Tuesday, 4 August, outflows will be decreased . . . each day by 6 am, and ramped back up . . . each night starting at 8 pm.

“The net effect of the flow variations will also cause as much as 3 cm (1.2 in) of water to be temporarily stored on Lake Ontario [& the River in the 1000 Islands region] (relative to Plan 1958-D).  This water will then be removed from Lake Ontario as quickly as possible following the removal of the remaining tug.  The Board currently anticipates being able to complete this process within a period of between five to eight weeks.

– See more at: Board adjusting outflows to assist salvage efforts

– For a look back at the original story: Cornwall Seaway News

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Thousand Islands shipping halted after sugar freighter runs aground

April 21st, 2015 | Posted by admin

Published by the Watertown Daily Time on April 21, 2015

“Shipping along the St. Lawrence Seaway has been halted after a freighter carrying sugar ran aground under the Thousand Islands Bridge early Monday.

Lt. Brian T. Hillman, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard based in Buffalo, said the 621-foot-long freighter, named Juno, called for help about 1 a.m. Monday. No cargo or fuel was spilled into the waterway, he said, and no crew injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard said Monday evening the vessel was listing slightly to port with 18 feet of water in the forward peak of the vessel.

The ship, flagged in the Bahamas, was heading toward Toronto. It is owned and operated by Polska Zeg Luga Morska, P.P., a subsidiary of the O’Brien’s Group. The pilot was fully licensed.

Lt. Hillman said Coast Guard and company crews are investigating the cause of the stoppage, assessing damage to the vessel as they wait for a salvage team that is en route.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi A. Read, based in Cleveland, said three ships were stopped because of the Juno’s grounding.

He said the Juno might not be able to leave the area until Wednesday, and the crew will stay on board the freighter in the interim.

Monday afternoon, environmental group Save the River noted the Juno was the second grounding of the just-launched season, and criticized the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. for listing the waterway as “Highway H2O.”

“If the shippers want to share the use of this river with the rest of us, they must exhibit their ability to do it safely,” D. Lee Willbanks, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Too much is at stake for the environment and our communities who rely on a healthy river.”

On April 3, the bulk carrier CWB Marquis went aground near Beauharnois, Quebec, Canada, after hitting a large ice floe.”

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From WWNY Channel 7 News: Ship Aground Near TI Bridge

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Kelly Martelle Juno aground

“The St. Lawrence Seaway is closed to commercial traffic after a freighter ran aground under the Thousand Islands Bridge near Alexandria Bay early Monday morning.

It happened just after 1 a.m.
The Juno is registered in the Bahamas and is carrying a load of sugar.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Mark Weidman tells 7 News nothing was spilled and there has been no environmental damage.

Coast Guard and Seaway inspectors are on board.”

http://www.wwnytv.com/…/Ship-Aground-Near-TI-Bridge-3006316…

We’ll keep you updated on the status of the Juno as we learn more.

Photo Credit: Kelly Martelle

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Cost of an Oil Spill Too High

February 20th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

The clean up cost of oil spills has come into question as more crude oil is being transported across the US and Canada. With recent train derailments causing oil spills and explosions, the damage that can be caused by oil transport is becoming more apparent.

Monday February 16th a train carrying 3 millions gallons of Bakken crude oil derailed in West Virginia. The train consisted of 109 tanker cars, 26 of which had been derailed. Of the 26 derailed cars, all of which were built to new higher standards following the tragic Lac Megantic derailment, 19 were involved in a fire that was still ablaze on Wednesday, two days after the initial crash. Crude oil was also spilled into the Kanawha River. Several 100 people were left without drinking water and with winter weather impacting the area a timely response for clean up was not an option.

The risk of an oil spill on the St. Lawrence River is an emerging threat as companies seek ways to transport the hug buildup of Bakken and tar sands oil. One oil tanker can carry the equivalent product of 225 rail cars or 870 trucks. If a ship carrying oil on the River was involved in an incident, a spill might not be the worse that could happen. In any case the end results would be devastating and the damage unimaginable.

The Council of Canadians and Équiterre have issued a new report that make it clear that an oil spill in Lac Saint-Pierre on the St. Lawrence River, where tar sands oil has already been shipped, would cost billions to clean up – far more than the liability limit in Canada.

The environmental impact would be devastating to this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve recognized as a wetland of international importance. Lac Saint-Pierre is a drinking water source and home to 27 species of rare plants, 79 species of fish, and 288 species of waterfowl. Although down river from Montreal, it stands as a chilling illustration of what could happen on some of the most difficult to navigate sections of the St. Lawrence between Kingston – Cape Vincent and the Seaway locks at Massena.

“Lac Saint-Pierre is a treasure and a wonder in the area. One oil spill could be the death of it all for future generations,” says Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre. “Given the high environmental price of a spill, diluted bitumen shipments should not be permitted on the St. Lawrence River.”

Shipments of diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands are expected to increase as oil giant Suncor and pipeline company TransCanada ramp up exports from ports on the St. Lawrence River. Bitumen from the tar sands is extremely difficult to contain and clean up when spilled on water as it tends to sink to the bottom.

The study also reports that in the event of an oil spill, emergency response would be limited by ice conditions and inadequate capacity of the small private company responsible for oil spill cleanup on the St. Lawrence. Under normal conditions, a spill could travel the length of Lac Saint-Pierre in eight hours – far quicker than a response can be mounted.

“We should be reducing the amount of oil shipped on the St. Lawrence, not increasing it,” says Mark Calzavara of the Council of Canadians. “Doubling the number of supertankers and doubling their size means that a disastrous oil spill is just a matter of time.”

The report recommends reducing the allowable ship size and number of exports, increasing emergency response capacity, removing the liability limit, and making the exporting company jointly responsible for damages.

The report is available at: http://www.canadians.org/LacStPierre

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