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St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Spring 2017

April 14th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

St. Lawrence River Water Levels – Spring 2017

The snow and ice are gone, and the beauty of River this time of year is drawing us all to it – whether for a walk along its banks, or to the end of the dock. And boaters are anticipating the day they launch. However we get to the River, it’s pretty clear the water is higher than we’re used to seeing this time of year.

Naturally it leads to questions about why and what will the higher level mean for this summer?

Is the water level of the River higher than usual this year?

Yes and No

Yes – It is a little more than 18” above its recent (1918 – 2016) average for this time of year and about 6” higher than last year.

No – Not in the bigger picture. The River is actually around 6” below the level it would be if were undammed and still allowed to run unobstructed.

Why are water levels higher than last year?

The water in the St Lawrence is higher than last year because the supply of water flowing into the river has been greater.

The River is not an isolated water body, it is part of a large, complex system. When looking at the level of the River, it is important to look at where its water comes from and the other factors that influence levels. It is fed by the outflow from Lakes Ontario and Erie, snowfall, and rainfall and runoff. And at times it must be controlled due to conditions on the lower river below the Moses-Saunders Dam.

According to the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board,

A series of storm events passed through the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system from April 4-10, resulting in significant precipitation across the region. Some eastern parts of the Lake Ontario basin received as much as 3.2” (80mm), while areas around the St. Lawrence River near Montreal saw as much as 3.5” (90mm) during the same series of events. . . The wet conditions have resulted in rapidly rising water levels throughout the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River system. . . To prevent . . . levels from rising further and causing more extensive damage [below the dam], the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board reduced outflows from Lake Ontario in accordance with Plan 2014.

What is Plan 2014 and what does it have to do with water levels on the St. Lawrence River?

When the Moses-Saunders Dam was built in the 1950’s it meant the St. Lawrence River no longer ran wild and a plan for managing its levels and flows had to be developed. That plan – Plan 1958DD – in operation for over 50 years, led to the loss of 64,000 acres of wetlands, the destruction of critical habitat and the decimation of key species like Black Tern and Northern Pike. In the 90’s it became clear a new plan was needed to stop the slow death of the River.

A new plan – Plan 2014 – was implemented just this past January after years of study, community input and review by the governments of Canada and the United States. It is intended to set water levels more in tune with the natural conditions.

By allowing for a more natural cycle of high and occasional low water, Plan 2014 will improve the overall health of the River and restore critical wetland habitat and species, and provide greater economic opportunities for the River region’s tourism-based economy. This Spring’s water levels are on track with Plan 2014 and should begin to have positive results.

What will Plan 2014 mean for water levels in the future?

Water levels have and will always fluctuate. It is important to understand that while we on the River tend to like our water levels to be on the higher side, the health of the St. Lawrence depends on having a variety of levels including some infrequent low levels. In a very few years, likely 6 or fewer years per century, levels will drop below the long-term average when water supplies to the River are naturally lower. These occasional low levels are essential to the health of the fish, the wildlife and the wetlands of the St. Lawrence River.

Will Plan 2014 mean a longer boating season?

Most of the time yes, but not always. Overall, it’s clear that Plan 2014 will extend the boating season. Over the last hundred years, the boating season under Plan 2014 would have been 23 weeks or longer in 51 out of every 100 years.

Click here for more information on Plan 2014

Click here for more news from the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control

Please consider becoming a member of Save The River to support our education programs and advocacy for a healthy St. Lawrence River – www.donate.savetheriver.org

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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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President Takes Action to Limit Clean Water Rule Protections

March 1st, 2017 | Posted by Lee

As the Riverkeeper for the St. Lawrence River, downstream of the 5 Great Lakes, drinking water for 40 million people, collector of human and industrial wastes from 8 states, we know full well the impact of the President’s order. And like the Waterkeeper Alliance and all freshwater groups in American, we will fight this.

From the Waterkeeper Alliance statement, “We also know that pollution flows downstream and poisons larger waterways used for drinking water, fishing, and recreation. This is why Congress passed the Clean Water Act more than 40 years ago — Waterkeeper Alliance will fight every effort to destroy these longstanding clean water protections.”

Full statement here, Waterkeeper Alliance Responds to Anti-Clean Water Executive Order

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Highlights of Save The River’s 28th Winter Conference

February 25th, 2017 | Posted by admin

Just click anywhere to get to the highlights!

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Your Chance to Speak Up for the River (& the Great Lakes)

February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by admin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve followed news on the Great Lakes, you know that Canada and the United States, and the IJC, have released reports on progress to restore the vitality of the Great Lakes. The reports are required every three years by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which provides goals to guide the two countries’ work. Now’s your chance to influence what actions will be taken for the Great Lakes in the next triennial cycle. 

The IJC has launched ParticipateIJC, a website for gathering public comment on progress made by our two countries and sharing conversations and videos from meetings the IJC is holding around the Great Lakes. You may review the reports – the Parties Report on Progress and the IJC’s draft Triennial Assessment of Progress (TAP) report – and provide written comments as well as joining online discussions on topics in the TAP report. We welcome perceptions of the lakes from your unique vantage point, locally and as a Great Lakes citizen. All written comments can be submitted by April 15, 2017.

Great Lake Connection is the IJC’s monthly newsletter linking science and citizens for action. To sign up for Great Lakes Connection, click here.

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Plan 2014 is the Right Plan for the St. Lawrence River

February 21st, 2017 | Posted by Lee

January 7th was a red-letter day for the St. Lawrence River.

It was the day Plan 2014 – the modern water levels plan Save The River has advocated for since the 1990’s – went into effect.

Unfortunately, even before it was unanimously approved by the International Joint Commission, a few elected officials and self-appointed spokespersons from the south shore of Lake Ontario began using “alternative facts” to block its approval and now its operation.

Their plan? Is no plan at all – They would keep in place the outdated regulatory scheme that has destroyed critical wetland habitat, decimated key species like Northern Pike and Black Term, and choked economic development up and down the River for the past 50 years.

Their efforts continue – and they are wrong on every point.

ECONOMIC AND SHORELINE BENEFITS

Their claim? The new plan “will set the stage for very large man-made disasters . . . [and] the real numbers [of damages] will be in the hundreds of millions [of dollars] . . . that could destroy the economies of six counties” (note 1)

Box 2b

PUBLIC SUPPORT AND INPUT

Their claim? “The approval of this plan was a midnight action(note 2) and it “was a last-minute mid-night approval by U.S. and Canadian officials having no understanding of [its] ramifications.” (note 3)

THE BOTTOM LINE

Their claim? “[A] recent decision by the International Joint Commission on Lake Levels [sic] to increase the maximum lake level by another two feet.” (note 4)

 


Notes:
    1.  January 30, 2017 letter from the Lake Ontario Riparian Alliance (LORA) to President Trump
    2.  January 17, 2017 letter from Reps. Collins and Katko to then Vice President-elect Pence
    3.  January 30, 2017 LORA letter to President Trump
    4.  Letter to the editor from NYS Assemblyman Peter Lawrence published in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle April 30, 2016

 

Save The River and the standing heron are registered trademarks. Riverkeeper is a registered trademark of the Waterkeeper® Alliance

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What we are about to lose

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

It begins; What we are about to lose

Just confirmed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott “Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that he expects to quickly withdraw both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, the Obama administration’s attempt at clarifying the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.”

from an article by Natasha Geiling, in ThinkProgress


Graphic from the EPA website (for now): https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule

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Agenda Set for Save The River’s 28th Winter Environmental Conference

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Saturday, February 4, attendees of this annual conference focused on the health of the St. Lawrence River will hear from an influential and diverse group of speakers.

Click here for the agenda for the day.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose district covers the entire length of the St. Lawrence River in the U.S., will speak on the strides made to protect the River Community and the important work done on issues ranging from Plan 2014 to combating invasive species.

Frank Bevacqua, Public Information Officer with the International Joint Commission, will talk about the differences in water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario under Plan 2014, and what it means for boaters, shoreline residents and the natural environment.

Rob Caldwell, Canadian Regulation Representative with the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, will cover how the new plan compares to the one it replaced and potential impacts and benefits.

Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler and founder of Blue Fish Canada. Lawrence will talk about his experiences making the documentary “What Lies Below” for which he crossed Canada and spoke to sport and commercial fishermen and women about the challenges facing Canada’s wild fish stocks.

The St. Lawrence River Institute’s Mesha Boyer will present the film “A Great River Runs Through Us” which documents their extremely successful citizens’ River cleanup efforts in the Cornwall area this past summer.

Wrapping up the conference will be the First Lego League Team: Heritage Hi-Techs whose “Animal Allies” themed robotics competition entry was based on knowledge gained from Save The River and others about the need for responsible stewardship of the River’s threatened Muskellunge population.

Registration for this year’s Conference closes tomorrow Friday, February 3rd. To secure a place, it is best call the Save The River office at (315) 686-2010.

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Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to Speak at Winter Conference

January 30th, 2017 | Posted by Lee

Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose district covers the entire length of the St. Lawrence River in the U.S., will speak at our 28th Winter Environmental Conference.

Her talk, “Working Together for Real Results for Our River Community”, is particularly timely as the new water levels plan for the River and Lake Ontario – Plan 2014 – for which Congresswoman Stefanik was a vocal supporter, has just gone into effect after an almost two decades long effort.

Ms. Stefanik, who spoke at last year’s conference, has worked with conservation and environmental organizations, like Save The River, on a broad range of issues of importance to preserving and protecting the vast and unique natural resources within the 21st Congressional District.

We are pleased to have her return.

Registration for the conference closes Friday, February 3.
Click here to download your registration form: http://ow.ly/zo3r308q3QM

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Riverkeeper Statement to Watertown ‘Sister Rally’

January 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Lee

It was an honor to be asked to be a part of Watertown’s ‘Sister Rally’ held Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington and the hundreds of others held across the country. It was the beginning of a grassroots effort to remind the new administration and the new Congress that there is widespread support for a range of policies and programs the new President has expressed opposition to.

Although I was out of the area, Save The River supporter and volunteer Maria Purcell read my statement to the almost 300 participants from all over the River region and beyond*.

In part,

“The fact that the highest level appointees of the incoming administration have articulated a clear intention to minimize environmental protections in government decisionmaking is frightening. It threatens our very mission – the protection and restoration of the St. Lawrence River.

Access to clean water is the most fundamental human right. We are entering challenging times for many (if not all) social justice issues, within which we must include the right to clean – swimmable, fishable, drinkable – water.”

We are thankful that the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and their tributaries have benefitted from decades of bipartisan cooperation at every level of government, from village, township, county, province and state to federal and international, by people of good will focused on restoring and protecting these waterbodies that hold 20% of the world’s fresh water and provide drinking water to millions. We cannot return to a time when they were viewed as resources to be consumed, dammed, diverted, filled and fouled.

The message Saturday was simple, we are watching and we will mobilize to protect hard fought and hard won victories for a clean St. Lawrence River now and for generations to come.

Save The River and the standing heron are registered trademarks. Riverkeeper is a registered trademark of the Waterkeeper® Alliance


Notes:

  • full text of statement
  • the event organizers noted RSVPs from Watertown, Cape Vincent, Redwood, Potsdam, Canton, Fort Drum, Edwards, LaRay, Carthage, Clayton, Adams, Hounsfield, Rutland, Chaumont, Pulaski, Brownville, Sackets Harbor, Cranberry Lake, Antwerp, Rodman, West Carthage, DeKalb, Massena, Lowville, Plattsburgh, Waddington, Lorraine, Lyme, Ogdensburg, Alexandria Bay, Gouverneur, Bombay, Lyonsdale, Theresa, Diana and Watson (all in the River region) and Brentwood, Rochester, Staten Island, Hanover, Worthington, Ithaca, NY, Fresno, CA, Albuquerque, NM, and Bellmead, TX.
  • media coverage of the event: Watertown Daily Times, 7 News Fox 28
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