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2019 Historic High Water Levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario

June 17th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

A message from John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper: 

This statement from our partners at The Nature Conservancy parallels Save The River’s position on the current water levels plan. Plan 2014 replaced the outdated Plan 1958D, which was drawn up when environmental science was in its infancy. For the first time, the water level regulations plan gave a voice to the environment, recreational boating, and provided for adaptive management to review and make recommended changes to the plan as time goes on.

Since it became apparent earlier this spring that the River was facing another extremely high water year, Save The River has been working with legislators and regulators to help our members and River residents have a better understanding of the causes. We hosted a boat tour and roundtable discussion with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, River residents, local business owners and elected officials. We also spent a morning showing Government Accounting Office officials the environmental benefits and shoreline mitigation efforts that will result from more natural water level fluctuations.

This year’s high water has been caused by record or near record water levels in all of the Great Lakes coupled with above average rainfall in the Great Lakes and Ottawa River Basins. The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board acted responsibly by discharging the fourth highest recorded average outflows of water from the Moses- Saunders Dam from December 2018 through March 2019. However, once the flooding of the Ottawa River began to flood Montreal and displace thousands of families from their homes, the only responsible course of action for the Board was to slow the flow of water through the dam. To exacerbate Montreal’s flooded conditions with increased outflows would have been morally unacceptable to all residents on both sides of the border.

The historic high water is frustrating to all of us living and working on the River. I believe that we would all be better served to work together to help communities and residents understand and plan to adapt to future extreme water levels, rather than political posturing to curry favor with voters and shoreline residents.

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Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Save The River Host Roundtable Discussion

May 31st, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

On Wednesday, May 29 Congresswoman Stefanik visited Save The River for a working tour of the St. Lawrence River followed by a roundtable with local business owners, elected officials representing towns, villages, and counties along the River, and members of the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River (ILOSLR) Board.  

Jeff Garnsey, president of Save The River’s board of directors, captained the boat tour that began with a look at the work done to protect the village of Clayton’s waterfront properties. Moving upriver the tour paused to float in Grindstone Island’s Flynn Bay where Captain Garnsey, a fifth-generation fishing guide, explained that the bay is one of the area’s most important northern pike and muskellunge hatcheries and the return of more natural water levels, supported by Plan 2014, will reduce the dense mat of cattails that have choked the bay’s shorelines and prevented these prized sport fish from reaching their historical breeding grounds. As the tour moved downstreamand back to Clayton, the group was able to view how waterfront residents are modifying their docks, boathouses, and homes to the adapt to the high-water levels.

Following the boat tour, Save The River and Congresswoman Stefanik hosted a roundtable discussion with a wide spectrum of voices including business and tourism leaders, local elected officials, and members of the IJC to discuss both the benefits of Plan 2014 and the concerns of Riverfront residents about the water levels. Tom Brown, a U.S. member of the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, provided an educational background on the water level regulations plan (1958D) that historically governed the outflows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and noted that that in reality Plan 2014 was not a dramatic change from prior plans but it acknowledges the critical importance of natural level fluctuations and accounts for previously unrepresented interests, including the environment and recreational boating. Brown, along with Save The River, reaffirmed the importance of moving forward with a continued commitment to Plan 2014, while acknowledging another important component of the plan: the Great Lakes Adaptive Management’s Committee who is tasked with the long-term adaptive management process to review and improve outflow regulation.

The discussion then turned to the extraordinary conditions that are causing high water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River this year including:

  • all five of the Great Lakes currently dealing with above average water levels, including Lake Erie which has reached record highs in the month of May and represents 80% of the inflow entering Lake Ontario,
  • significant spring runoff and heavy precipitation leading to the flooding of the Ottawa River basin, a water system that is nearly two and a half times the size of the Lake Ontario watershed basin, and which empties into the lower St. Lawrence River where it impacts downstream cities,
  • such as Montreal which has faced historic flooding since mid-April with over 10,000 residents who have had to evacuate their homes, and
  • above average precipitation throughout the region; Watertown has already recorded nearly double the average amount of rainfall for the month of May.

In short, Brown explained, “There is too much water upstream and there is too much downstream, there is nowhere for it to go.”

Rob Campany, also a U.S. member of the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, discussed the delicate balancing act of maximizing outflows, especially during the winter months when the board must closely monitor ice formation and adjust outflows to allow the formation of a stable ice cover to prevent ice jams that can cause devastating destruction and inland flooding. Campany noted that in the months of December 2018 through February 2019 record high outflows were achieved, the fourth highest outflows in over 100 years of monitoring. Without the increased outflows this past winter, this year’s flooding would have been more significant.

Discussion around the table included concerns from downriver residents who experienced extreme low water levels in 2018, the economic importance of an extended boating season supported by Plan 2014, and recollections of high-water years in past decades including the 1970s. Ron Thomson, owner and operator of Uncle Sam Boat Tours, noted that with all of the area’s outstanding tourist attractions “…the number one attraction is the River itself, which means the health of the River is critical for our business.”

Congresswoman Stefanik wrapped up the meeting by addressing concerns about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to local municipalities and encouraged local officials to contact her office so that they could work together to track FEMA applications. Stefanik also heard about the critical need for modern digital flood maps that are being created by FEMA across the nation but have not yet been created for the St. Lawrence River region; Stefanik noted that an official request will be made to prioritize mapping the River. Finally, Stefanik also commented that based on her conversations with Brown, Campany, and others it was clear that more work on shoreline resiliency was essential.

“It was important for Save The River to be able to take Congresswoman Stefanik and local leaders out on the River to see the measures being taken by the community and River residents to adapt to the high-water levels,” said John Peach, executive director of Save The River. “We’re grateful both for her ongoing support of Plan 2014 and for her response to our communities in these years’ of extreme conditions that create record high water levels.”

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Now Accepting Applications for 2019 Seasonal Interns

February 11th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River is now accepting applications for two seasonal (mid-May through Labor Day) paid internship positions. Save The River interns have the opportunity to work closely with staff and volunteers while gaining invaluable experience at the region’s leading environmental advocacy nonprofit organization. Click here to read the complete position description.

The deadline to apply is Friday, March 29, 2019. 

Save The River interns manage a diverse workload with primary responsibilities that include working in the storefront managing merchandise sales and encouraging visitors to become members, promoting public education, representing Save The River at community events including bass fishing tournaments, and implementing fieldwork projects including Beach Watch, Common Tern Monitoring, Shoreline Cleanups, and Catch and Release programs.

Ideal candidates will be enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate environmental or related program, have familiarity with the St. Lawrence River and community, and flexibility to work weekends and some nights.

To apply: send resume, cover letter, and contact information for at least one professional and one personal reference to Save The River, 409 Riverside Drive, Clayton, New York 13624, or email full application package to info@savetheriver.orgIn order to expedite the internal sorting and reviewing process, please write your name (Last, First) and Summer Internship as the subject line of your email.

 

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Calling All Photographers!

February 4th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

We are now accepting submissions of St. Lawrence River photos for our annual calendar photo contest. All photos will be considered, including film prints and digital images, and pictures from all seasons on the River are encouraged. Over 90 images will be included in the calendar.

Photographers whose submissions are chosen as one of the 14 featured images (cover and 13 months) will receive a complimentary 2019-2020 calendar. Calendars will be available for sale in May 2019 with all proceeds directly supporting Save The River’s river protection programs.

The deadline for submission is March 4, 2019.

Information on submitting photos:

  • Submissions should include contact information including first and last name, mailing address, and email address.
  • Digital images must be high resolution and greater than 300 dpi. (Hint: The file size will be approximately 3 MB or larger).
  • Photographers submitting photos grant Save The River a non-exclusive right to use the image(s) for any purpose in perpetuity. Ownership of the image will remain the property of the photographer.
  • Photos can be submitted to Save The River via email to margaret@savetheriver.org with ‘Calendar Photo Contest’ in the subject or via postal mail to Save The River, Attention Calendar Photo Contest, 409 Riverside Drive, Clayton, NY, 13624.

Caption: The cover image of the 2018-2019 Save The River calendar was a unique submerged shot of the River bottom, taken by Anthony Ingerson. 

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Stopping Asian Carp: Past, Present, and Future

February 1st, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Asian carp are one of the biggest threats facing the Great Lakes today. The damage caused by this invasive fish could devastate the world’s largest surface freshwater resource. At tomorrow’s 30th Annual Winter Environmental Conference Chad Lord will look at this threat, examine what has already been done to keep these fish out and provide insights into where the region can go to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Chad Lord serves as the Policy Director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, where he develops and guides the implementation of the Coalition’s legislative and policy agenda in Washington, D.C. Before joining the HOW Coalition, Chad served for five years as senior legislative assistant for U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN). Chad’s portfolio included energy, environment, transportation, international trade and budget and appropriations. Chad lives with his husband and 5-year old daughter in Washington, D.C. Chad was raised in southwest Minnesota and lived in there before moving to the District of Columbia. He attended St. Olaf College where he majored in political science and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1995.

Other speakers at the Conference will include:

  • Peter Annin will analyze the future of Great Lakes water diversion management.
  • Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason will discuss the realities of plastic pollution right here, right now in the Great Lakes region.
  • Evie Brahmstedt will describe her ongoing research about mercury in St. Lawrence wetlands.
  • Elaine Tack will present It’s Hard to be a Tern, her short film exploring Save The River’s common tern restoration program.
  • Dr. John Casselman will discuss the catastrophic decline of the American eel in the St. Lawrence River system.

Hear Chad speak tomorrow, February 2 at the WEC, hosted at Clayton’s 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. Call (315) 686-2010 to register; $50 conference fee includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch, afternoon snack, and light appetizers during cocktail hour (cash bar).

 New this year: for those unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the WEC. In order to support this exciting new offering, there is a suggested donation of $25. The hyperlink for the live stream will be shared later today.

 

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Will Plan 2014 Create a Risk for Mercury Contamination?

January 30th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

St. Lawrence River wetlands contain a legacy of mercury content from past and present atmospheric deposition. Wetlands are considered areas of active mercury transformation and cycling, particularly those experiencing water level fluctuations. At this Saturday’s Winter Environmental Conference, Evie Brahmstedt will describe her current research of mercury in St. Lawrence River wetlands examining how much mercury is present, where it is going, in what form, and how quickly.

Brahmstedt is an Environmental and Engineering Ph.D. student at Clarkson University’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment. Working in Dr. Michael Twiss’ Limnology lab, she is studying mercury cycling in freshwater riparian wetlands with a focus on the St. Lawrence River. Upon earning her Ph.D., Brahmstedt hopes to become a professor at an institution where she can further her research of freshwater wetland systems, teach and inspire future scientists, and be involved with environmental management through organizations that function at the interface of science and policy. In her spare time, Brahmstedt enjoys running marathon races.

Other speakers at the Conference will include:

  • Peter Annin will analyze the future of Great Lakes water diversion management.
  • Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason will discuss the realities of plastic pollution right here, right now in the Great Lakes region.
  • Dr. John Casselman will explore the American eel, an elusive and highly migratory species whose population has faced a catastrophic decline in recent years.
  • Elaine Tack will present It’s Hard to be a Tern, her short film exploring Save The River’s common tern restoration program.
  • Chad Lord will explore the threat of Asian carp and what can be done to keep these invasive fish out of the Great Lakes.

Hear Evie Brahmstedt speak Saturday, February 2 at the WEC, hosted at Clayton’s 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. Call (315) 686-2010 to register; $50 conference fee includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch, afternoon snack, and light appetizers during cocktail hour (cash bar). Click here for the registration form.  

New this year: for those unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the WEC. In order to support this exciting new offering, there is a suggested donation of $25. The hyperlink for the live stream will be emailed the week of the conference.

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American Eels in the St. Lawrence River System – Going, Going, Gone?

January 29th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

At this Saturday’s 30th Annual Winter Environmental Conference, Dr. John Casselman will speak about the American eel, a species that was once very abundant in the St. Lawrence River system, making up half of the inshore fish biomass and was of great importance to First Nations communities. Learn about the American eel, an elusive and highly migratory species that spawns in the Sargasso Sea and matures in the continental waters of North America but whose population has catastrophically declined in recent years. What is unique about this important indicator species and are they going, going, gone?

Dr. John Casselman is an adjunct professor in the Biology Department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Casselman is a fisheries ecologist and environmental physiologist who has numerous publications in the primary literature, reports, and book chapters on numerous aspects of fisheries science. He has published and presented widely on eels, climate change, fish and fisheries and has received numerous awards, including, in 2008, the American Fisheries Society prestigious Award of Excellence.

Other speakers at the Conference will include:

  • Peter Annin will analyze the future of Great Lakes water diversion management.
  • Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason will discuss the realities of plastic pollution right here, right now in the Great Lakes region.
  • Evie Brahmstedt will describe her ongoing research about mercury in St. Lawrence wetlands.
  • Elaine Tack will present It’s Hard to be a Tern, her short film exploring Save The River’s common tern restoration program.
  • Chad Lord will explore the threat of Asian carp and what can be done to keep these invasive fish out of the Great Lakes.

Hear Dr. Casselman speak Saturday, February 2 at the WEC, hosted at Clayton’s 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. Call (315) 686-2010 to register; $50 conference fee includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch, afternoon snack, and light appetizers during cocktail hour (cash bar). Click here for the registration form. 

New this year: for those unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the WEC. In order to support this exciting new offering, there is a suggested donation of $25. The hyperlink for the live stream will be emailed the week of the conference.

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Dr. Sherri Mason, Groundbreaking Researcher in Plastics Pollution, to Speak at Winter Environmental Conference

January 28th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

‘Single-Use’ plastic was named the word of the year by Collins Dictionary highlighting the wave of news stories, social media hits, and policies that have become increasingly common over the last few years. Why? What is the problem with plastic?

At this year’s Winter Environmental Conference, Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason will present a basic primer on what plastic is and the realities of plastic pollution right here, right now in the Great Lakes region.

Dr. Mason earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and completed her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Montana as a NASA Earth System Science scholar. While a Professor of Chemistry at SUNY Fredonia, her research group was among the first to study the prevalence and impact of plastic pollution within freshwater ecosystems. Among her accolades Dr. Mason was named an EPA Environmental Champion in 2016, was awarded for her Excellence in Environmental Research by the Earth Month Network in 2017 and was selected to receive a Heinz Award in Public Policy in 2018. She has recently moved into a new role as Sustainability Coordinator at Penn State Behrend.

Watch Dr. Mason’s Tedx Talk Beads of Destruction.

Other speakers at the Conference will include:

  • Peter Annin will analyze the future of Great Lakes water diversion management.
  • Evie Brahmstedt will describe her ongoing research about mercury in St. Lawrence wetlands.
  • Elaine Tack will present It’s Hard to be a Tern, her short film exploring Save The River’s common tern restoration program.
  • John Casselman will discuss the catastrophic decline of the American eel in the St. Lawrence River system.
  • Chad Lord will explore the threat of Asian carp and what can be done to keep these invasive fish out of the Great Lakes.

Hear Dr. Mason speak Saturday, February 2 at the WEC, hosted at Clayton’s 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. Call (315) 686-2010 to register; $50 conference fee includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch, afternoon snack, and light appetizers during cocktail hour (cash bar). Click here for the registration form. 

New this year: for those unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the WEC. In order to support this exciting new offering, there is a suggested donation of $25. The hyperlink for the live stream will be emailed the week of the conference.

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Peter Annin, Leading Expert on Water Diversions, to Speak at the Winter Environmental Conference

January 28th, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Peter Annin, author of The Great Lakes Water Wars, will be our featured speaker at this year’s Winter Environmental Conference (WEC). Learn about the long history of political maneuvers and water diversion schemes that have proposed sending Great Lakes water everywhere from Akron to Arizona. Through the prism of the past, this talk analyzes the future of the Great Lakes water diversion management, currently controlled by the Great Lakes Compact, a legal document that went into effect in 2008. Learn about several noteworthy Great Lakes diversions that already exist, along with potential water diversions of the future, including the controversial Foxconn water diversion that has been proposed south of Milwaukee, WI.

Peter Annin is the director of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College in Ashland, WI. Before coming to Northland College in 2015, Peter served as a reporter at Newsweek, the associate director of the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, and the managing director of the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative. He continues to report on the Great Lakes water diversion issue and published a second edition of The Great Lakes Water Wars in the fall of 2018.

In addition to hearing Peter speak at the WEC, you’ll be able to purchase a copy of his recently released, revised version of The Great Lakes Water Wars ($30) and have your copy signed during an author meet and greet (hosted during the 12 – 1 pm lunch hour of WEC).

Hear Peter speak Saturday, February 2 at the WEC, hosted at Clayton’s 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. Call (315) 686-2010 to register; $50 conference fee includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch, afternoon snack, and light appetizers during cocktail hour (cash bar). Click here for the registration form. 

New this year: for those unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the WEC. In order to support this exciting new offering, there is a suggested donation of $25. The hyperlink for the live stream will be emailed the week of the conference.

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Register for the 30th Winter Environmental Conference

January 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Click Here for the Winter Environmental Conference Registration Form

Send us your completed registration form either by postal mail (409 Riverside Drive, Clayton, NY, 13624) or by email (kendall@savetheriver.org); we can also process your registration over the phone, call us at (315) 686-2010. 

This year we celebrate the 30th year of this important annual event. Thirty years of gathering to hear from national and regional policymakers, scientists, opinion leaders, students, and teachers about the topics of critical importance to the health of the St. Lawrence River. At this year’s conference, you’ll learn about the diversion of Great Lakes freshwater, research on American eels, the threat of Asian carp, plastics in our water, and research of mercury cycling in St. Lawrence River wetlands. We will also be premiering our short film, It’s Hard to be a Tern. We hope that you will join us in Clayton on the first Saturday of February! Please register by Friday, January 25, 2019.

SPEAKERS

  • Peter Annin Author of The Great Lakes Water Wars, originally published in 2006, revised and updated edition published in 2018. Director of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.
  • Dr. John Casselmann Adjunct professor of biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario whose research focuses on American eels, a species whose population declined so greatly in recent decades that they are classified as an endangered species in Ontario.
  • Chad Lord Policy director of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, a group of more than 150 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations all working toward restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. Chad will discuss the threat of Asian carp and the current work being done to prevent their spread into the Lakes.
  • Dr. Sherri Mason Professor at SUNY Fredonia, pioneered the first-ever survey of plastics pollution in the Great Lakes. Her findings led to the federal ban on plastic microbeads in consumer products like toothpaste, face wash, and more.
  • Elaine Tack spent her 14-year broadcast journalism career reporting in Chicago, Cleveland, and Las Vegas. She is well-known in the 1000 Islands for her generosity in using her time and talent to create films for local organizations.
  • Evie Brahmstedt, Ph.D. Student at Clarkson University, will discuss her research in mercury cycling in wetlands, with a focus on the St. Lawrence River.

SCHEDULE

  • 9:30 am: Registration and morning coffee; 10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Presentations (break for lunch from 12:00 – 1:00 pm); 4:00 pm: Cocktail reception with cash bar. The final schedule with the order of speakers will be released in January.

OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS

  • Save The River has reserved a limited block of rooms at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel starting at $119 per night. Reservations can be made by calling the hotel directly at (315) 686-1100. This discount rate is guaranteed through January 9.

*NEW THIS YEAR – LIVE STREAM*

  • For those who are unable to make the trip to Clayton, we will be hosting a professional live stream of the conference. The hyperlink to the live stream will be shared the week of the conference. In order to support this exciting new offering, please consider making an additional contribution of $25.

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