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Another Anniversary of the Clean Water Act; And Still No New Water Levels Plan!

October 18th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

For over 50 years the St. Lawrence River has suffered under a destructive water levels management plan. On this 44th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, almost 20 years after the destruction of over 64,000 acres of wetlands habitat and the precipitous decline of species dependent on those wetlands was identified and more than 2 years after a plan to begin the restoration of those wetlands was referred to them by Most Endangeredthe International Joint Commission, the U.S. and Canadian federal governments still have not acted, and the St. Lawrence remains one of America’s most endangered rivers.

This is not right!

In June following American Rivers designating the St. Lawrence as one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers, we wrote about it on their website. At that point we and a broad coalition of groups and individuals supporting a modern plan for managing the River – Plan 2014 – had collected over 22,000 expressions of support for the plan. Now we have over 36,000.

Now is the time for our federal governments to act. Now before we reach any more anniversaries. Now before we lose any more wetlands and the species dependent on them.

It is time for #Plan2014Now!

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Save The River Questions Oil on the River at Great Lakes Forum 2016

October 11th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Crude oil has no place on the River or its tributaries. While at the Great Lakes Public Forum, Riverkeeper and Save The River’s Executive Director had a chance to remind the panelists of the 1976 Nepco 140 spill of 300,000 gallons of crude oil on the St. Lawrence River – at the time the largest inland oil spill in North America and to ask about measures to deal with spills from pipelines, and rail, as well as ships.

Save The River has been fighting to protect the vulnerable and fragile natural and human environment on the St. Lawrence River for its entire history.

Although refined petroleum products are currently transported on the River, 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, either in the holds of ships, through pipelines or in rail cars, we must take steps to protect our River before it’s too late.

More on Save The River’s position and advocacy to protect the St. Lawrence River from spills.

The whole Great Lakes Public Forum was live streamed by Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now coverage. Click here for their coverage.

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Giving Thanks

October 10th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

All we are thankful for begins with clean, abundant water. First Nations have always known that, we all need to remember that and we all need to make certain that we pass it on to our children and their children so they too can celebrate the blessing clean water is.

Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian members and

photo credit: Jenn Pfeiffer

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Join Us

October 9th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Join us in our work to protect, preserve and restore the St. Lawrence River now and for future generations.Value

We do this by educating children about the River, and how to live with and sustain it and the creatures that depend on it being healthy. And we work for policies that will protect it from invasive species, toxic chemicals and untreated waste dumping, microplastics and an outdated dam management plan that has decimated tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and species.

But to do it well and to reach even more children and adults and bring about meaningful policy change we need a community of members that is large, vocal and supportive.

We need you! Please join Save The River today and become a partner in our effort to pass on a healthy St. Lawrence River for generations to share.

Click here.

Thank you.

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Executive Director interviewed for Public Television on Water Levels

October 9th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Taking every opportunity to make the case for our two federal governments to lift their pens and concur with the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 and begin restoring wetlands, Northern Pike, Black Tern and so much more to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Riverkeeper and Save The River executive director speaking to tvo’s The Agenda, Nam Kiwanuka, for broadcast on Detroit Public Television while at the Great Lakes Public Forum in Toronto.

It’s time for #Plan2014Now.

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More on the Documentary “Changing Currents: Protecting North America’s Rivers”

September 30th, 2016 | Posted by admin

As we reported here in an earlier post, “St. Lawrence River & Key Figures Play Big Role in Upcoming Film“, in June the crew from Changing Currents, PLU MediaLab, came to New York, Ontario and, specifically the St. Lawrence River for interviews and filming for “Changing Currents: Protecting North America’s Rivers”, an examination of river pollution and restoration efforts in North America.

In a recently released trailer for the movie portions of an interview with Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director Lee Willbanks are shown. “I am honored to be able to speak about the work we and many others have done to preserve, protect and restore the St. Lawrence River as part of what looks to be an excellent documentary about the threats to freshwater bodies across North America and some of the restoration efforts occurring in communities across the continent.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 50 percent of rivers and lakes in the United States are too polluted for swimming or fishing. The mission of the film is to educate others on ecological river health, encourage environmental stewardship and advocate for dialog regarding effective river protection. The film is currently in pre-production and will premiere on Nov. 12, 2016 in the Theatre on the Square at the Broadway Center for Performing Arts in Tacoma, Washington.

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International Joint Commission launches public consultations on progress by the governments to restore and protect the Great Lakes

September 30th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Over the next year, citizens throughout the Great Lakes basin can participate in online & in-person discussions & meetings to provide their perspectives about progress by the governments of Canada & the United States under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Their viewpoints will contribute to the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) first assessment of progress made by the governments to restore & protect the Great Lakes under the 2012 Agreement.ijc-glwqa

“Residents of the Great Lakes basin have a vital interest in this Agreement, which embodies the spirit of cooperation between our two countries, as well as the joint goals & activities needed to restore and protect Great Lakes water quality,” said Gordon Walker, chair, IJC Canadian Section.

“Restoring Great Lakes water quality continues to be an ambitious undertaking, so it is critical that citizens express their views on progress to implement this Agreement & work that still needs to be done,” said Lana Pollack, chair, IJC US Section.

Throughout the next ten months, the IJC will host a series of monthly online discussions on its online democracy platform called ParticipateIJC. The sharing platform will include valuable information about the Agreement & provide opportunities for citizens throughout the Great Lakes region to contribute videos, photos, stories & comments, & talk with others about progress to restore & protect the lakes. It will also provide video from the Great Lakes Public Forum & other meetings held around the basin for those who cannot attend in person. ParticipateIJC will include a variety of discussion forums as well as new information as public meetings are held in towns throughout the Great Lakes region.

Between the end of October 2016 and mid-January 2017, the IJC will pull all the information together – the governments’ progress report, its advisory boards’ reports and assessments, and citizens’ comments – to write a draft of its Triennial Assessment Report. Once that’s released in mid-January, the IJC will head back out to hear what citizens think of that report and issues they’re concerned about in their area in a series of public meetings in communities across the Great Lakes basin. The draft report and its appendices will be posted at and on ParticipateIJC to encourage discussion and comments. A final report will be released in summer 2017 that will incorporate all scientific, policy and citizen input.

Click here to join in the conversation.

More on the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website).

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Wetlands need Cuomo’s support, from the Albany Times Union

September 26th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Two and a half years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke passionately and factually about the value of healthy wetlands. Highlighting the state’s efforts in the New York City area after Hurricane Sandy, he said, “We devalued the purpose of vacant land, wetlands, around the body of water. And, we really just trampled on it. A wetland is called a wetland for a reason.”1958 Called Cuomo

His comments remain powerful today as a plan to restore healthy wetlands along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River awaits the approval of the U.S. and Canadian governments. And, we need his support.

Environmental considerations were never part of the planning process when the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam and the St. Lawrence shipping channel were built in the 1950s. As a result, outdated dam operations have caused significant losses to the upper St. Lawrence River’s wetlands, biodiversity and habitat. For this reason, American Rivers named the St. Lawrence River one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers earlier this year — the only one in New York.

In response to the ongoing devastation, a new approach to the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam operations was formulated. This approach, called Plan 2014, will increase wet meadow acreage by 40 percent, northern pike populations by 39 percent, and black tern populations by 16 percent. It will boost annual hydroelectric power production by $5.3 million, and annual recreational activity along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario by $9.1 million. Each of these benefits comes at no cost to taxpayers.

The plan was devised with the input of more than 180 stakeholder representatives, and referred to the two federal governments two years ago by the International Joint Commission.

Cuomo has received more than 22,000 petition signatures, letters and postcards in support of the plan, as well as letters from 42 environmental conservation and sportsmen organizations and 35 businesses and community leaders. Furthermore, former Gov. David Paterson and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis expressed support for Plan 2014’s precursor.

The governor, though, has been silent about the enactment of Plan 2014.

When I listen again to the governor’s words about the value of healthy wetlands, I remain inspired. Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the North Country deserve the same consideration as the New York City area. These wetlands must be restored, and Cuomo must take action now to support Plan 2014.

published in the Albany Times Union

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Save The River Submits to Comments to Public Service Commission on Wind Projects

September 14th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

from Save The River’s submission to the New York State Department of Public Service:

“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a report based on radar generated data stating, ‘Our data demonstrate that the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario are important for migrating birds and bats. We have identified behaviors that concentrate migrants along the shoreline, demonstrated that these behaviors occur regularly throughout the season, and established that migrants are flying at altitudes that place them at risk of collision with current or future wind energy development in the area. The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our study, highlight the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012).’ (emphasis added)

Based on the Fish and Wildlife Service report the American Bird Conservancy concluded, “this new radar study suggests that the minimum should be extended even farther, perhaps as far as 10 miles.”

“The implications of this study for the likely impacts on migratory birds and bats of the three industrial wind projects currently proposed and proceeding now, all of which are well within 10 miles of Lake Ontario or St. Lawrence River shoreline, must be taken into account by every level of government agency – from local municipal, to state and federal – with permitting or oversight authority. In particular the New York State Departments of Public Service and Environmental Conservation which have shared responsibility, under Article 10, for the permitting and siting of industrial wind projects, must exercise their statutory authority and require the developers of these three projects undertake a joint, credible effort to apply the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service report to the impacts of their projects on migratory birds and bats.

“Eagerness either for profits or quick solutions to the uncertainty of carbon-induced climate change cannot replace science or the development of sound environmental solutions that are protective of the ecosystem as a whole. Since 2010 Save The River has called for a moratorium on industrial wind projects in the environmentally significant and sensitive area that is the St. Lawrence River valley until a cumulative environmental assessment of the impacts of such projects has been conducted. In 2013 we objected to an industrial wind project proceeding to the application phase of the Article 10 process for the same reason. As recently as April, we reiterated this position.

Click the following for the full text of:

Save The River’s September 14, 2016 letter to the New York State Public Service Commission on the Horse Creek Wind Farm.

Save The River’s “Position on Industrial Wind Development in the St. Lawrence River Valley”

US Fish & Wildlife Service’s “Great Lakes Avian Radar Technical Report; Niagara, Genesee, Wayne and Jefferson Counties, New York, Spring 2013 Season”

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Governor Cuomo on the Value of Healthy Wetlands

September 12th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Gov Cuomo spoke about the value of healthy wetlands at a New York Rising event at the State Capitol April 23, 2014.

His comments have direct application to the damage an out-dated dam management plan has caused to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and the need for a modern, restorative water levels plan – Plan 2014.

More than ever it is time for #Plan2014Now. Go to and let him know it’s time to speak up for the River and the people who depend on it being healthy.

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