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Aquatic Invasive Species in New York State

February 27th, 2016 | Posted by admin

From the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Eurasian Milfoil

What do Eurasian watermilfoil, Didymo, water chestnut, purple loosestrife, fishhook water fleas, zebra mussels, and round gobies have in common? They are all species from other parts of the world that have been accidentally introduced and have flourished in New York State, oftentimes at the expense of valuable natived to water which they were not originally found. These plants and animals are all considered invasive species and, when they become problems, are termed nuisance invasive species. Without the predators, parasites and diseases that control their numbers in their native habitats, these species can reproduce and spread at an amazing pace. Similarly, fish diseases such as whirling disease and viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) have also been introduced to New York State. Although these diseases are not a threat to human health, they can have dire consequences for our native fish communities.

For more information visit:

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What makes a species invasive?

February 26th, 2016 | Posted by admin

From the National Wildlife Federation

“Invasive species” — it doesn’t sound very threatening, does it? But these invaders, large and small, have devastating effects on U.S. wildlife. Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered species are at risk primarily due to invasive species.

Human health and economies are also at risk from invasive species. The impacts of invasive species on our natural ecosystems and economy cost billions of dollars each year. Many of our commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities depend on healthy native ecosystems.

What makes a species invasive?

round goby

An invasive species does not have to come from another country. For example, lake trout are native to the Great Lakes, but are considered to be an invasive species in Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming because they compete with native cutthroat trout for habitat. An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad pictured left), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.  They can harm the environment, the economy or even, human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label of “invasive”

What you can do to help curb the spread of invasive species

  • Plant native plants and remove any invasive plants in your garden. There are many good native plant alternatives to common exotic ornamental plants.
  • Learn to identify invasive species in your area. Report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. Learn more about invasive species in your state.
  • Regularly clean your boots, gear, boat, tires and any other equipment you use outdoors to remove insects and plant parts that may spread invasive species to new places.
  • When camping, buy firewood near your campsite (within 30 miles) instead of bringing your own from home, and leave any extra for the next campers. Invertebrates and plants can easily hitch a ride on firewood you haul to or from a campsite — you could inadvertently introduce an invasive to a new area.

For more information visit:

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Keep The River Clean

February 25th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Originally published in the Thousand Islands Sun on February 24, 2016, from Lee Willbanks Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River executive director.

The Thousand Islands Sun recently published a letter to the editor expressing concern about the disposal of fracking waste in the St. Lawrence River watershed.

Save The River is adamantly opposed to and works to prevent the discharge of toxics in any quantities into the St. Lawrence River, its tributaries and its watershed.

Currently there are no proposals for the disposal of fracking waste within the boundaries of the River’s watershed in either New York state or the province of Ontario. Even so, Save The River remains vigilant and vigorously opposed to any proposals to do so.

However, the St. Lawrence River watershed is not isolated. Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes, and their watersheds ultimately drain to the River. As with other threats to water quality in the vast Great Lakes basin, Save The River is working through and with the many organizations throughout the Great Lakes with whom we collaborate to prevent the disposal of fracking waste in any manner which threatens water quality.

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You Can Help Prevent The Spread Of Invasive Species

February 25th, 2016 | Posted by admin

Save The River’s Riverkeeper Volunteer Program trains volunteers to be our eyes and ears out on the River, by teaching the basics on assessing River health and identifying potential pollution problems.

For more information contact us at or 315-686-2010.

2016 Riverkeeper

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Formidable invasive species won’t be easy to keep out of Great Lakes

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by admin

Invasive species are huge threat to the ecosystems along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Save The River’s Clean-Up the Ballast Campaign is focused on stopping aquatic invasive species introductions by tackling the primary source – ship ballast tanks.

Formidable invasive species won’t be easy to keep out of Great Lakes by Dan Egan is a great article showcasing the threats and damage caused by aquatic invasive species and how these pesky species enter our waterways. Below is an excerpt from the article. Click here to view the full story.

Haphazard’ hunts for fresh invasions

The pace of invasive species being discovered in the Great Lakes peaked about a decade ago, when a new invader was detected, on average, more than once a year.

To stanch the onslaught, starting in 2008 all Great Lakes-bound overseas vessels were required to flush their ballast tanks in mid-ocean to expel any ballast dwelling organisms, or kill them with a blast of saltwater. No new invader has been detected in the lakes since — a point shipping industry advocates are quick to tout.

Research shows that a saltwater ballast flush can go a long way in killing most freshwater tank dwellers. But most biologists don’t think that’s enough because even if flushing ballast tanks with saltwater eliminates 98 or even more than 99% of certain classes of hitchhikers, boats arriving from ports around the globe are far from sterile.

One Great Lakes-bound freighter can carry enough ballast to fill 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. These tanks can hold not only water but also swamps of sediment that can be teeming with all manner of organisms in all different life stages, from fish eggs to microscopic zooplankton to dormant cysts that evolved over millions of years to survive most anything nature can toss at them.

A 2011 federal report looking at the threat of ballast water to all U.S. ports noted that a study conducted in Australia revealed that sediments from just one freighter ballast tank can harbor up to 300 million viable cysts of primitive dinoflagellates, which scientists dub the “cells from hell” because they can produce a deadly neurotoxin. So a flush that eliminates 99% of this ballast tank’s inhabitants could still carry 3 million potential invaders

That’s just one ballast tank, and that’s just one species.

UWM’s Strickler says there are plenty of freshwater organisms that will indeed wither when hit with a blast of saltwater.

But he considers these species pushovers. He works with animals that, depending on their life stage, can withstand everything from water fresh enough to drink to brews far brinier than the ocean.

“Most of my animals can survive salinity,” Strickler says with a wry smile as he slowly closes his eyes, “they just go to sleep.”

Most biologists, meanwhile, believe it is naïve to think the ballast problem has been solved simply because it’s been several years since a new lake invader has been detected. Sleeper colonies can lurk for years — even decades — before their numbers grow big enough to get noticed. Great Lakes species discoveries also tend to be utterly accidental — a fisherman hauls up a strange cluster of slimy critters coating his nets; students doing a routine survey of a lake bottom stumble upon something their professor doesn’t recognize.

Ballast Image

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

February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by admin


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:

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Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by admin

stop aquatic hitchhikersImportant steps for anyone boating on the St. Lawrence River (and not just during Invasive Species Awareness Week).

Information on how to Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

Boats, trailers, waders and other fishing and boating equipment can spread aquatic invasive species from waterbody to waterbody unless properly cleaned, dried or disinfected after use. Although some invasive species such as water milfoil are readily visible to the human eye, many others are too small to be readily noticed. To avoid spreading invasive species please follow the guidelines in the following steps:


Details here:

For more information on the Clean, Drain, Dry Campaign visit:

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Protecting Our North Country Wonders from Ecological Predators

February 22nd, 2016 | Posted by admin

In our observance of National Invasive Species Week we are pleased to share this presentation from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. We recently worked together on an Invasive Species Summit with the congresswoman and other stakeholders across our region aiming to stop the spread of invasive species and mitigate the damage already done.

From Congresswoman Elise Stefanik: Protecting Our North Country Wonders from Ecological Predators

From Lake George, to the St. Lawrence Seaway, to the pristine waters of Lake Champlain, and all of the beautiful mountains and maple trees that run between — our district is home to many ecological treasures.

Sadly, many of these natural wonders have fallen under siege to invasive species that threaten the health and beauty of our natural habitats. When our natural habitats become overrun by species that are not native to these areas, they can damage the environment, pose health risks and even hurt our local economy.

Our environment is our lifeblood in Upstate New York, and we must protect it from these predators to help boost our economy and to ensure we protect our environment for future generations.

This is why, on February 5th, I was proud to join with stakeholders who have been working tirelessly on this issue across our district and across New York State at an Invasive Species Summit in Clayton. Attendees included — Save the RiverThe Fund for Lake George, and representatives from our local and state government as well as officials from the Canadian government, who have been working tirelessly to stop the spread of invasive species and mitigate the damage already done.

Together we explored best practices and information sharing, as well as ideas for working on innovative new solutions to stop this epidemic.

One of the most important things we can do as a community is work together to ensure that our friends and neighbors have the information needed to identify these invasive predators. With this in mind, I wanted to share three common invasive species that threaten our North Country habitats.

invasives map

Map courtesy of the USDA Forest Service

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It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week

February 21st, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Something We on the River Know Too Much About

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is this week, February 21st-27th. Non-native plants, animals and pathogens harm humans and the environment and cause significant negative impact to our nation and the River region’s economy.

Invasive species have always been a threat to the River. To-date 186 invasive species have been documented in the Great Lakes and River.  Almost 60 aquaticAsian Carp invasive species have been introduced by way of ballast water since opening the Lakes and River to ocean-going ships. The resulting harm to indigenous species has cost many millions of dollars in control and mitigation efforts.

Even with increased regulations commercial shipping still poses a threat and opens the door for new invasive species to enter the River. And relatively new research has produced a list of ten species of eastern European fishes that are at high-risk of invading the Great Lakes and causing significant harm if they are successful even with strict enforcement of saltwater flushes of the ballast of ocean-going ships.

The threat of Asian Carp has been an imminent danger to the Great Lakes and River. Other threats include the live trade of exotic plants and animals and the transport of recreational boats and equipment from one waterbody to another without proper cleaning – an all too common practice that poses a threat to all waters when owners use their boats in different locations.

Last year New York State took a step forward to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and to protect our waters. Now all boats and floating docks launched in New York State must be clean of plant or animal matter. The intent of the new law is to prevent the spread of invasive species from one waterbody to another.

Cleaning your boat and trailer between waterbodies has long been a best practice to stop the spread of invasives. We hope that the state will follow up with extensive public outreach and education. Voluntary compliance is always preferable to enforcement.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is developing new regulations that will more clearly define how boaters must clean their vessels before entering the water. For a step-by-step guide on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species visit:

For more information on DEC boating regulations visit:

For more information about invasive species click here.

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A Voice for Clean Water

February 10th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Originally published in the Thousand Islands Sun on February 3, 2016, from Lee Willbanks Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River executive director.

Clean, drinkable water is a basic human necessity. It is fundamental to the environment that sustains all human activity. Even so, for much of our history we have taken fresh, life-sustaining water for granted. In the vast St. Lawrence River watershed, blessed as it is with an abundance of clean water, threats to it have frequently seemed remote.

It is a sad irony, when the Thousand Islands stretch of the River is ranked as America’s number one archipelago, the River is recognized as a premier destination, and Clayton is chosen to host the 2016 Empire State Tourism Conference, that right in our backyard the fundamental ingredient in those accolades – fresh water – is under such a threat.

In the unfolding story of Flint, Michigan, and, closer to home, Hoosick Falls, we are witnessing the toll on a community when access to fresh water is compromised and government turns its back or is slow to mobilize. Much closer to home news reports have made a compelling case that this is happening in the Town of Orleans.

While the number of affected residents and businesses is small compared to Flint or even Hoosick Falls, it is clear that salt from a source other than the individual homeowners is in the groundwater. And it is there in high enough concentrations to cause serious health concerns – the introduction of lead from salt-caused corrosion foremost among them.

Corroded pipes and appliances are not within the mission of Save The River. Protection of the River, its tributaries and the people that live within its watershed from polluted water is. Montreal’s massive sewage dump opened our eyes to the equally massive amount of sewage entering our waters upstream. Algal blooms, dead zones in Lake Erie and the threat of oil transport on and around the River make it clear that threats to freshwater are not remote but right here right now. As Riverkeeper we join our community in the effort to protect it.

Whether the state is culpable or has just been inattentive is not the immediate issue in Orleans. Bringing the necessary resources to bear to solve the problem is. A state that can contemplate $100 billion in multi-year capital projects should be able to put together a funding package for the Town that gets clean, safe and affordable drinking water to its citizens. And it is imperative that it do so as soon as possible.

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