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EPA Accepting Public Comments on Proposal to Ban the Dumping of Sewage from Boats into the St. Lawrence River

April 14th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
EPA Accepting Public Comments on Proposal to Ban the
Dumping of Sewage from Boats into the St. Lawrence River
Contact: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj@epa.gov
(New York, N.Y. – March 24, 2016)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that a “no discharge zone” can be established for the New York State portion of the St. Lawrence River. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation petitioned the EPA to prohibit boats from discharging sewage into the river by establishing a “no discharge zone” for the area. The EPA has reviewed the state petition and found that there are adequate facilities around the St. Lawrence for boats to pump out their sewage, rather than dumping it in the water.
“It’s astonishing that in 2016, boaters can dump raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Declaring this area of the St. Lawrence a “no discharge zone” would provide cleaner water for people who use this river,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “The EPA and New York State looked carefully at the information and agree that the St. Lawrence has enough facilities to remove treated waste from all types of vessels and keep it from entering the river.”
Sewage discharges from boats can contain harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which have a negative impact on water quality, pose a risk to people’s health and damage fish and wildlife. The EPA is encouraging the public to comment on its proposed approval until April 25, 2016.
The proposed “no discharge zone” for the New York State portion of the St. Lawrence River stretches from Tibbetts Point on Lake Ontario to the western edge of Lake Saint Francis, not including those waters that lie within the exterior borders of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Reservation. The proposed “no discharge zone” encompasses approximately 112 river miles and shoreline, including numerous tributaries, harbors and embayments of the river— including Eel Bay, Lake of the Isles and Goose Bay— and other formally designated habitats and waterways of local, state and national significance.
This action is part of an EPA/New York State Department of Environmental Conservation strategy to eliminate the discharge of sewage from boats into the state’s waterways. New York State water bodies that have already been established as “no discharge zones” include Lakes Erie, Ontario, Champlain, and George, the New York State Canal System and the Hudson River, among others.
EPA’s determination is available in the Federal Register at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/
For more information about “no discharge zones,” visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/water/ndz/index.html
To comment on the proposed EPA approval, email, fax or mail comments to Moses Chang at chang.moses@epa.gov, Fax: (212) 637-3891. Mailing address: Moses Chang, U.S. EPA Region 2,  290 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866.

Support EPA’s designation of the St. Lawrence River as a “No Discharge Zone”.


Even treated sewage from boats, which can contain chemicals harmful to aquatic life and humans, has no place in the St. Lawrence.Kid in the River (credit Coley Baker)


The EPA has proposed a ban on the dumping of sewage from boats into the St. Lawrence River, and is accepting comments through April 25th.


Tell the EPA you support the ban and agree that the New York portion of the St. Lawrence River should be designated a “No Discharge Zone”.


Send your comments to: Moses Chang at chang.moses@epa.gov

or the following:

U.S. EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, 24th Floor,

New York, NY 10007-1866


Sample comments:


I support the EPA’s proposed no discharge zone for the New York section of the Upper St. Lawrence River. Sewage has no place in the River.


Sewage from boats should not be dumped in the St. Lawrence River, since it can pose a risk to people’s health, and impair aquatic life and habitats.


The existing pumpout stations on the Upper St. Lawrence River are more than adequate to provide alternatives to dumping sewage from boats.


The full proposal can be viewed here: http://ow.ly/10DwbA

Watertown Daily TImes article covering this proposal can be viewed here: http://ow.ly/103Ldg

photo credit: Coley Baker

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Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Executive Director named Freshwater Hero and Citizen Advocate of the Year

March 30th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Executive Director Recognized as Freshwater Hero and Citizen Advocate of the Year
Freshwater Future has added Lee Willbanks to its 2016 list of Freshwater Heroes and honored him with the distinction of Citizen Advocate of the Year.
Based in Michigan, the Freshwater Future has a singular and vitally important mission: to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.
This month the organization issued its list of Freshwater Heroes. The list includes extraordinary groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond to protect what they hold dear—our waters.
In naming him Citizen Advocate of the Year, Freshwater Heroes said the following about Lee: “From on-the-water monitoring and restoration efforts, to educating the next generation of river champions, to his persistent and passionate advocacy on complex policy issues like aquatic invasive species and regulation of water levels, you can trust that Lee is there, standing up for the St. Lawrence, each and every day.”
For more: http://ow.ly/1067E4

Freshwater Future has added Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River’s Executive Director, to its 2016 list of Freshwater Heroes and honored him with the distinction of Citizen Advocate of the Year.

Based in Michigan, Freshwater Future has a singular and vitally important mission: to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.

This month the organization issued its list of Freshwater Heroes. The list includes extraordinary groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond to protect what they hold dear—our waters.

In naming him Citizen Advocate of the Year, Freshwater Heroes said the following about Lee: “From on-the-water monitoring and restoration efforts, to educating the next generation of river champions, to his persistent and passionate advocacy on complex policy issues like aquatic invasive species and regulation of water levels, you can trust that Lee is there, standing up for the St. Lawrence, each and every day.”

2016 Freshwater Future Freshwater Hero Award
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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 info@savetheriver.org or 315-686-2010.

2016 Riverkeeper

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Thousand Islands ranked No. 1 on list of nation’s archipelagos

January 27th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

From today’s Watertown Daily Times editorial page, “Promoting the Thousand Islands as a wonderful tourist destination recently became a little easier. . . By focusing on water quality and watershed issues, members of Save the River do their part to attract visitors.” It is worth a full read.

With a super shout out to Save The River, the editorial correctly mentions our members. They are full-time and seasonal residents, boaters, kayakers, swimmers, anglers, divers, birders, hunters, scientists, artists, teachers, students of all ages, public figures, business owners, Canadian and American. And they are members because they believe in our mission to protect and preserve the St. Lawrence River.

Even so, we are not in this alone, and the River region (and Save The River) is blessed to have a tremendous number of groups and agencies all working to keep the land and water clean and sustaining for generations. A partial list of those we partner with: Waterkeeper AllianceThousand Islands Land TrustIndian River Lakes ConservancyMinna Anthony Common Nature Center – FriendsNew York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic PreservationIJC – International Joint CommissionAudubon New YorkDucks UnlimitedLake Ontario WaterkeeperWWF-CanadaSUNY-ESFAlgonquin to Adirondacks CollaborativeClarkson UniversityHealing Our Waters – Great Lakes CoalitionAntique Boat MuseumThe Nature Conservancy in New YorkWilson Hill Wildlife Management AreaSt. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental SciencesAlliance for the Great LakesThousand Islands Tourism CouncilAquatarium, and so many others.

We all have a place on the River and we all have a role in using it sustainably, and ensuring it is swimmable, drinkable and fishable to seven generations.

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“How invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever”

December 31st, 2015 | Posted by Lee

MJS GREATLAKESExcellent series by Dan Egan in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first published July 26, 2014.

On the day the last ship has left and the Seaway locks are closed just briefly to the outside world it’s a good time to look at one of the most significant and ongoing impacts international shipping has had on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The whole series is worth the time to understand the nature of the invasion, the invaders and what might be next.

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Soon to be no more!

December 30th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Soon to be no more! “One tube of exfoliating facewash can contain more than 350,000 microbeads and it’s estimated that 2.9 trillion microbeads enter U.S. waterways annually.”
Yesterday the President signed the microbeads ban. Thank you Senator Kirsten Gillibrand​ and Rep. Elise Stefanik​ for sponsoring this important piece of legislation.
There is still more to do. Plastic pollution from a raft of other sources continues. “Microbeads are a small part of the much larger problem of marine debris. As more people consume more products that are made of substances that do not biodegrade easily, if at all, the volume of plastics that end up in our waterways continues to grow,” says Steve Cohen writing in the Huffington Post.
For the bigger picture, read Microbeads, Marine Debris, Regulation and the Precautionary Principle, http://ow.ly/WshYz

Soon to be no more! “One tube of exfoliating facewash can contain more than 350,000 microbeads and it’s estimated that 2.9 trillion microbeads enter U.S. waterways annually.”

Yesterday the President signed the microbeads ban. Thank you Senator Kirsten Gillibrand​ and Rep. Elise Stefanik​ for sponsoring this important piece of legislation.5 Gyres Microbeads Twitter

There is still more to do. Plastic pollution from a raft of other sources continues. “Microbeads are a small part of the much larger problem of marine debris. As more people consume more products that are made of substances that do not biodegrade easily, if at all, the volume of plastics that end up in our waterways continues to grow,” says Steve Cohen writing in the Huffington Post.

For the bigger picture, read Microbeads, Marine Debris, Regulation and the Precautionary Principle.

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Remembering the River means working to protect it for future generations

November 21st, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Jodrey Pic

41 years ago today the Roy A. Jodrey went down off Alexandria Bay after hitting Pullman Shoal. Over the years she has been the source of contamination from slowly leaking oil left in the port side day tank.

In 2002 a major effort was undertaken to remove the remaining oil. The amount removed was far less than what was expected to be on board. Concern over any oil being left to leak comes from fact that one-quart of oil will foul 150,000 – 250,000 gallons of freshwater. However, since the clean up effort no leaking fuel has been observed.

Ironically on the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Jodrey – eleven years ago – the Seaway corporations and shippers decided to re-brand the St. Lawrence River “Highway H2O”. Doing so created a clever marketing tool, but it also reduced one of North America’s most significant waterways to just another piece of infrastructure.

Recent efforts by the Seaway corporations to market the River as a highway for crude oil – both tar sands and Bakken (“bomb train”) crude – require all of us concerned about the health of the River to focus on andOil Collage fight the threat these cargoes pose to it.

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, we must take steps to protect our River before it’s too late.

Save The River has been fighting to protect the vulnerable natural and human environment on the St. Lawrence River for its entire 37 year history. Join us and support our work on the River by becoming a member today.

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Save The River Honors Its Exceptional Volunteers

August 7th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Thursday night we held our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority’s Rift Camp to honor our cadre of over 500 volunteers.
While each and every one of our volunteers is a valuable member of our team and key to our many successes, each year Save The River does recognize a ‘Volunteer of the Year’, volunteers who have consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty in their volunteer work and whose assistance has advanced Save The River’s efforts to protect the St. Lawrence River in a significant way.
This year’s Save The River Volunteer of the Year is The Thousand Island High School’s SAFE (Student Activists for the Environment) Club members and their faculty advisor. These dedicated students – Ashley Byers, Lexi Cassidy, Noah Crandal, John Hunter, McKenna Schnauber and Maura Warren and their advisor, Eleanor Thomas, were chosen in recognition of the club’s outstanding efforts in addressing and raising awareness to their school, their community and New York State’s elected leaders about the threat of microbead pollution in the St. Lawrence River.
This year SAFE set high goals for itself and succeeded in achieving them. They brought awareness of the threat of microbead pollution to the River by conducting a school-wide campaign; creating informative posters, creating a social media campaign using the hashtag “TIBeatsBeads” circulating a student petition.  They also wrote several letters to elected officials expressing their strong support for legislation in the New York State Senate, the Microbead-Free Waters Act, and they traveled to Albany May 5th where they participated with representatives of numerous groups from across New York in the Microbead Lobby Day meeting with several elected officials, including New York State Senator Patty Ritchie.
With a summer staff that swells to only 7, including our 2 interns, we simply could not accomplish our many programmatic, educational and advocacy goals without the active support of our many volunteers.
Some of the notable statistics about our volunteers, they:
– accumulated an estimated 2,000 hours of service;
– came from as far as Lisbon, New York and Ottawa, Ontario;
– over 240 who trained to become Riverkeeper volunteers
– over 30 teachers from area schools who educated more than 1,000 students this year alone (over 3,000 over the life of the In the Schools program);
– mark over 80 of the most dangerous shoals on the River;
– collect water samples at 6 of the region’s most popular swimming locations;
– assist with the Common Tern Monitoring collaboration with the
Thousand Islands Land Trust;
– help with Winter Conference, Rock for the River and Run for the
River; and
– work behind the scenes at the office working on countless mailings and projects.

IMG_0443

Thursday night we held our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority’s Rift Camp to honor our cadre of over 500 volunteers.

While each and every one of our volunteers is a valuable member of our team and key to our many successes, each year Save The River does recognize a ‘Volunteer of the Year’, volunteers who have consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty in their volunteer work and whose assistance has advanced Save The River’s efforts to protect the St. Lawrence River in a significant way.

This year’s Save The River Volunteer of the Year is The Thousand Island High School’s SAFE (Student Activists for the Environment) Club members and their facultyadvisor. These dedicated students – Ashley Byers, Lexi Cassidy, Noah Crandal, John Hunter, McKenna Schnauberand Maura Warren and their advisor, Eleanor Thomas, were chosen in recognition of the club’s outstanding efforts in addressing and raising awareness to their school, their community and New York State’s elected leaders about the threat of microbead pollution in the St. Lawrence River.

This year SAFE set high goals for itself and succeeded in achieving them. They brought awareness of the threat of microbead pollution to the River by conducting a school-wide campaign; creating informative posters, creating a social media campaign using the hashtag “TIBeatsBeads” circulating a student petition.  They also wrote several letters to elected officials expressing their strong support for legislation in the New York State Senate, the Microbead-Free Waters Act, and they traveled to Albany May 5th where they participated with representatives of numerous groups from across New York in the Microbead Lobby Day meeting with several elected officials, including New York State Senator Patty Ritchie.

With a summer staff that swells to only 7, including our 2 interns, we simply could not accomplish our many programmatic, educational and advocacy goals without the active support of our many volunteers.

Some of the notable statistics about our volunteers, they:
– accumulated an estimated 2,000 hours of service;
– came from as far as Lisbon, New York and Ottawa, Ontario;
– over 240 who trained to become Riverkeeper volunteers
– over 30 teachers from area schools who educated more than 1,000 students this year alone (over 3,000 over the life of the In the Schools program);
– mark over 80 of the most dangerous shoals on the River;
– collect water samples at 6 of the region’s most popular swimming locations;
– assist with the Common Tern Monitoring collaboration with the
Thousand Islands Land Trust;
– help with Winter Conference, Rock for the River and Run for the
River; and
– work behind the scenes at the office working on countless mailings and projects.

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Invasive Species Awareness Week Ends, But Not the Invasions?

July 18th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Heard of Caspian Sea Kilka? Black Sea Silverstripe? Black-striped Pipefish? Monkey (not Round) Goby?

Not yet? But maybe soon. These may be the next wave of invaders to swarm the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes.

Which of these is next?

Which of these is next?

Groundbreaking research by scientists at Buffalo State College, translating (from Russian) and analyzing previously unpublished research on Ponto-Caspian fish species, have identified these four species among forty-two as having a high risk potential of surviving current treatment methods and successfully establishing breeding populations in our already overtaxed and reeling waterbodies.

The Seaway and international shippers frequently state: “Since the latest measures [salt water flushes of ballast water tanks] were introduced in 2006, no new aquatic nuisance species have been discovered in the Great Lakes due to shipping.” Chamber of Marine Commerce

This new research calls the longterm effectiveness of salt water flushes into question. To quote the scientists, “Our results also indicate that ballast water exchange, if carried out according to current regulations governing shipping in the Great Lakes, should reduce but not eliminate the probability of future introductions of invasive Ponto-Caspian fishes.”

Their alarming conclusion, “Our updated listing of high-risk Ponto-Caspian fishes includes five species identified previously (the Black and Caspian Sea sprat, Eurasian minnow, big-scale sand smelt, European perch, and monkey goby) and five additional species (the Black sea shad, Caspian tyulka, Volga dwarf goby, Caspian bighead goby, and black-striped pipefish). Of these ten species, four (the monkey goby, big-scale sand smelt, Caspian tyulka, and black-striped pipefish) are likely to survive ballast water exchange as eggs, larvae, or adults based on salinity tolerances. The black-striped pipefish has spread rapidly throughout Europe and could cause significant ecological changes in the Great Lakes, and it is unlike anything currently found in the Great Lakes.

These conclusions make it imperative that the most stringent means possible must be put in place to protect our River and the Great Lakes from the next wave of unwanted invasives. Although very late to the game, the EPA and Coast Guard regulations to control vessel discharge must not be weakened by misguided Congressional efforts to do so. We will keep you posted and raise the alert to see that does not happen.

Summary of the Buffalo State research here: http://www.lakescientist.com/research-summary-updated-invasion-risk-assessment-for-ponto-caspian-fishes-to-the-great-lakes/

Fact Sheet prepared by New York Sea Grant here: http://blog.savetheriver.org/wp-content/uploads/Predicted-Fish-Invaders-fact-sheet-March-16-2015.pdf

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RIverkeeper Volunteers Learn to Spot Invasives

July 17th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Learn about invasive species on the River and how to report them by becoming a Riverkeeper Volunteer.

Recent Riverkeeper Volunteers

Recent Riverkeeper Volunteers

The next Riverkeeper Volunteer Monitor Training is Wednesday, July 29th at 6pm at the Save The River office. Space is limited so sign up today! Call 315-686-2010 or email info@savetheriver.org

Save The River’s new 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.

Riverkeeper volunteers will be trained to keep an eye out for pollution, wildlife die-offs and subtle changes in the River ecosystem that can indicate changes in River health. Volunteers will also learn how to assess pollution problems and how to effectively report these problems to the proper authorities.

Volunteers who attend a training session will receive all the materials needed to participate in the program as well as a Save The River t-shirt.

Save The River’s new 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.
Riverkeeper volunteers will be trained to keep an eye out for pollution, wildlife die-offs and subtle changes in the River ecosystem that can indicate changes in River health. Volunteers will also learn how to assess pollution problems and how to effectively report these problems to the proper authorities.
Volunteers who attend a training session will receive all the materials needed to participate in the program as well as a Save The River t-shirt.
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