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Thank You!

January 11th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Watertown Daily Times editorial makes the point. Breaking ice to get ships to locks they can’t get through once they’re there just doesn’t make sense.

   Watertown Daily Times, January 11, 2018

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With Ship Still Stuck, Silence from the Seaway – Updated

January 5th, 2018 | Posted by Lee

Since Tuesday, the Federal Biscay, a 650+ long bulk carrier, has been stuck in the Snell Lock near Massena, the last U.S. lock on the St. Lawrence River. Up River four more ships wait for it to be cleared.

As they sit surrounded by persistent severe cold, more ice is forming on the River, raising the reasonable question of whether and when the Federal Biscay will be freed, allowing it and the other ships to exit the Upper St. Lawrence. Until then, the Seaway, which was supposed to close December 31st, remains open.

Based on the one statement the Seaway has issued it appears this prolonged delay resulted from the ship being allowed to enter the lock with significant ice present on its hull and in the lock.

In the vacuum created by the Seaway’s silence all we have to go on are tweets and social media posts by followers and watchers of shipping on the River. Other than a reported “No further updates” from the Seaway, the press has had to rely on these “sources” as well.

This, in a word, is unacceptable.

We understand that an incident like this requires an “all hands on deck” approach. But with no official updates on the Seaway’s plans and actions, the public is left to imagine the potential harm that can result from ships with full holds and presumably large quantities of fuel stopped for an indeterminate time in a freezing river? The public is left to wonder what measures are being taken to protect the environment and the health of those nearby and involved in the operation to release the ship? What plans are being made in case it cannot be released until the spring thaw?

Given the Seaway’s legal responsibility as “Captain of the Port” over the River and its enormous moral responsibility to do its part to protect the health of the River as a “shared user”, silence about its actions in response to an incident of this magnitude is a dereliction of its duty to the rest of us who share the River and rely on it remaining healthy and safe. It is reasonable to expect transparency and accountability from a public agency with such tremendous responsibility for and potential impact on our River. It is incumbent on us to demand transparency and accountability when it is not forthcoming.

It may well be that there is nothing to worry about from this incident. Perhaps only environmentally benign measures will be necessary and in a few days all five ships will be on their way.

But then what? We will still be left wondering how the decisions of when to open and close the Seaway are made? How did this incident happen? Why wasn’t the Seaway better prepared to deal with it when it did? How can it be prevented from happening again? Will there be a public inquiry?

We need to hear from the Seaway.

Lee Willbanks, Upper St.Lawrence Riverkeeper

 

Shortly after our original post the Seaway issued this statement:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The International Joint Commission assesses U.S. and Canadian efforts to improve Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water quality:

December 4th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

‘Commendable progress. Much more to be done.’

We were pleased to see the scope of the findings and the recommendations in the IJC report, premised as they are on sound science and significant public input. We were also pleased to get to comment on the report in a recent Watertown Daily Times​ article, “IJC report talks water quality concerns on Lake Ontario” by Gordon Block published December 1, 2017.

In its first assessment on how the two countries are doing to meet the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the IJC found progress on the general objectives of accelerated restoration of contaminated Areas of Concern, the development of binational habitat conservation strategies, the absence of newly introduced aquatic invasive species, and comprehensive reporting on groundwater science.

But, and we here at Save The River​ definitely agree, the IJC finds:

– insufficient progress toward achieving human health objectives;
– insufficient progress on chemicals of mutual concern that pose a threat to the health of humans, wildlife and aquatic organisms;
– more work is required to control the spread of invasive species already in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River;
– there is no basin-wide perspective, approach or strategy for addressing climate change;
– the governments have not fully incorporated robust public engagement into their activities; and
– they should reach beyond the limits & audiences typically recognized & should factor in consideration of environmental justice as a key objective.

There is a lot in the report for anyone who cares about the health of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and the people and communities that rely on them to be swimmable, fishable and drinkable.

The full report, “First Triennial Assessment of Progress on Great Lakes Water Quality“, is worth a read.

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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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Winter Icebreaking on the St. Lawrence River?

August 18th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

2013 Ice on the River at Clayton“We [Save The River and the River community] remain vigilant to any renewed efforts for destructive ice-breaking for winter shipping and we stand ready to block it again.”

In a August 17 story by Brian Kelly the Watertown Daily Times covers the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Maritime Transportation Strategy that, among other things, “suggests ways the shipping season could be extended.”

Ice-breaking on the St. Lawrence River has not and will not be appropriate – either economically or environmentally.

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Oil Shipments, Winter Navigation, Seaway Expansion – Oh My!

February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by admin

NEPCO 140

from today’s Watertown Daily Times story by Brian Kelly,

Revival of old idea(s) meets resistance

Some bad old ideas never seem to die. But to couple it with a new really bad idea – oil shipments on the St. Lawrence River – is no joke.

For the entire bad story click here: http://ow.ly/YEWyK

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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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55th Anniversary of the Seaway Opening

June 26th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Seaway Opening

JUNE 26, 1959: The Queen opened the 2,300-mile St Lawrence Seaway on this day in 1959. A lot has changed since then, but our water levels plan has not. Let’s hope this is the last anniversary with the outdated, destructive plan in place.

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Tell Congress “Don’t weaken environmental review of Army Corps projects!”

September 18th, 2013 | Posted by Lee
Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.
Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.
The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.
Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact their representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.
We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.
Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.
Here are the basic points to make:
Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.
To find your Congress person click here.
Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.
To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.
For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.
Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:
Timothy Bishop
Richard Hanna
Sean Patrick Maloney
Jerrold Nadler
Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.

Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.


The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.

Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact theirSeaway Construction representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.

We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.

Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.

Here are the basic points to make:

  • Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
  • Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
  • Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
  • Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
  • Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
  • Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

To find your Congress person click here.

Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.

To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.

For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.

Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:

Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

** Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is legislation which provides for the conservation and development of water and related resources and authorizes the Secretary of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the United States, and for other purposes deemed appropriate by the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States.
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Action Alert! Thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Formally Rejecting Seaway Expansion!

August 15th, 2011 | Posted by admin

Almost ten years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began spending millions of taxpayer dollars studying proposals to physically expand the St. Lawrence Seaway to allow in much larger ships. Seaway expansion would require dredging hundreds of millions of cubic yards throughout the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, removing portions of islands in narrow reaches of the St. Lawrence River, and replacing numerous locks to accommodate larger ships. This massive re-tooling proposal to enlarge Great Lake and St. Lawrence River shipping channels would destroy miles of fragile habitat, re-suspend polluted sediments and exacerbate the problem of invasive species coming into the Great Lake in ship ballast tanks.

The report – called the Great Lakes Navigation System Review – was met with fierce opposition across the Great Lakes basin. Hundreds of citizens spoke out against the plan at public hearings and submitted comments opposing further study of Seaway expansion. Hundreds of environmental and conservation groups weighed in demanding that expansion be removed as an option for the future of the St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Today – almost ten years later, the Corps has finally, formally removed these expansion options from the report, thereby removing the recommendation to further study the idea of Seaway expansion. This change signals a significant shift in direction, and an opportunity for the region to rally behind a healthy future for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River!

Visit Save The River’s Navigation Study page for more information. You can also read the full Supplement to the Great Lakes Navigation Study on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

Background

Fifty years ago, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened amid great fanfare and ringing predictions of economic growth in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region. Unfortunately, these predictions went unfulfilled, while the introduction of invasive species from ocean going vessels to the fresh waters brought disastrous environmental consequences.

The Seaway operates well below its capacity, yet over the past 22 years citizens have had to repeatedly fight back expansion proposals that would seek to allow wider, longer, and deeper vessels to operate on the Great Lakes. Physical expansion would worsen the environmental impacts of the Seaway. Communities around the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River have called on the governments of the United States and Canada to make it clear that expanding the Seaway is no longer an option.

Today, we also know that there are specific and tangible economic benefits linked to a healthy Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. There is currently unprecedented momentum behind policies that will begin to restore the ecology of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region, and it is essential that commercial navigation activities on the Seaway are reformed to make them consistent with these restoration goals.

In the latest iteration of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made a significant step forward by formally removing expansion from future planning for commercial navigation on the Lakes and River. This is a significant victory for communities around the region. We need your help to write the Corps and thank them for listening to and acting on community input.

For more information, download Save The River’s background fact sheet on the Great Lakes Navigation System Study.

Take Action!

Write the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thank them for taking Seaway expansion off the table!

Find contact information and sample language below. Please call us with any questions, and thank you for speaking out for the protection of the St. Lawrence River!

Points to include in your Letter:

• Explain why the St. Lawrence River/Great Lakes is important to you.

• Support the Corps’ removal of Seaway expansion options in the Supplement to the Reconnaissance Study for the Great Lakes Navigation System Review.

• Urge the Corps to focus future study on reducing the existing, historic and future environmental impacts of commercial navigation on the resource.

• Thank the Corps for listening to the public and taking Seaway expansion off the table!

Send your comments by August 31st to the addresses below:

Project Manager

GLNS – Supplemental Recon.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

7th Floor

477 Michigan Avenue

Detroit, MI 48226

Thank you for speaking out on behalf of the health of the St. Lawrence River!

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