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Save The River Reports on Week 3 of Beach Watch Program

July 24th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY (July 24, 2014) - Save The River’s Beach Watch Program is in the process of monitoring popular summer swimming locations on the River from July 7th through August 25th Save The River reports all samples passed in Week 3.

For the 2014 sampling season Save The River volunteers are collecting water quality samples at six swimming areas along the River: Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Frink Dock in Clayton, Round Island in Clayton, Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Save The River’s unique program provides a glimpse of the water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. Sampling dates for this year are July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, and August 25.

As in previous years, Save The River will be testing for e. coli bacteria in all of our swimming locations and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. Save The River The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save the River offices, website and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the T.I. Sun.

Additionally, Save The River is currently looking for volunteers to help with the Beach Watch Program at Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, NY. Water samples would need to be taken Monday morning and brought to the Save The River office in Clayton by 9:30am. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Save The River.

For more information please contact the Save The River office at (315)-686-2010 or visit www.savetheriver.org.

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Push to Protect Waterways from Microplastics Continues

July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey
Push to Protect Waterways from Microplastics Continues
See more at: http://ow.ly/zviWo.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to add microbeads to their list of Great Lakes contaminants. If added, the EPA would likely address the problem in their upcoming action plan. A move that Save The River is thankful for.

“She has been very good on all issues related to water quality in the Great Lakes and her support shows that there’s a broader interest on the federal level,” said Save The River Executive Director Lee Willbanks.

But the non-profit said that getting the contaminant added to the list is just the first step. They want the state to ban microbeads and microplastics from products. They can be found in everything from face cream, to shampoos, and even on the tips of brushes.

“Because we believe that a bill, in the long run, will be more important,” said Willbanks. “But, both go hand in hand.”

Although the ban was presented to state lawmakers this year, it wasn’t passed before the end of session. Proponents of the bill are hoping it’ll become law when they return. They said the ban is desperately needed because the material is damaging the food chain.

“They accumulate the chemicals that are in the water and then they’re eaten by the fish because they look like small food particles,” said Willbanks.

Those fish are then eaten be larger fish, moving the toxic material upward. Supporters said it’s the reason why they won’t give up their fight.

Published on July 22nd, 2014 by the Watertown Daily Times

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Plan 2014 must be enacted

July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Our communities, economy and the environment experienced a significant win last month.

After five hard-fought years and a $20 million study that engaged nearly 200 stakeholder representatives and thousands of citizens, the International Joint Commission took unanimous, historic action to protect the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and the North Country. It sent a new water regulation plan, now called Plan 2014, to the U.S. and Canadian federal governments for approval.

This action stands as one of the singular most important policy decisions of our lifetime. It is the direct result of efforts by north country citizens to bolster our environment and our recreation-based economy. Our leaders and neighbors should be proud of the role they have played in this historic step.

The benefits of Plan 2014 are well researched and well documented.

This new plan will restore wetlands, beaches and other coastal habitats that have been degraded by current regulation. To name a few of the ecological benefits: Wet meadows will increase by 40 percent; northern pike populations will increase by 39 percent; and marsh-nesting birds will make a comeback.

These environmental benefits lead to direct economic advances that benefit our region’s recreation-based economy and quality of life. Healthier lake and river wetlands will support stronger populations of native fish and wildlife, improving the area’s hunting, angling and wildlife-viewing opportunities.

The Nature Conservancy estimates economic benefits, just from improved wildlife recreation, of $4 million to $9.1 million per year, every year.

The battle is not over.

Opponents to the plan remain vocal, repeating mischaracterizations about the process and the plan without offering solutions. New York state has yet to publicly support the plan and may not due to election year politics.

And the parent agency of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. has openly opposed the plan, stating the environment “cannot be accommodated” if doing so is detrimental to commercial shipping.

These factors cast shadows and doubts upon what should be a straightforward task: approval of the plan by the U.S. and Canadian federal governments without delay.

There is hope.

The opponents may be vocal, but their dissent is not widespread. While the opposition is largely located along the south shore of Lake Ontario, so are thousands of supporters of the plan.

For example, the IJC has received 1,000 letters and more than 3,000 petition signatures in favor of Plan 2014 (then called Bv7) from the south shore’s Monroe County.

New York under previous governors has endorsed a modern plan, and we are hopeful it will again under Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have expressed support for Plan 2014 as a balanced solution.

Alone among federal agencies is the Seaway, whose opposition is particularly confounding given the IJC’s conclusion that commercial navigation will not be harmed by Plan 2014. We do hold out hope as the Seaway’s new administrator, Betty Sutton, has repeatedly stated she puts a high value on the environment.

In an interview with the North Country Public Radio last August, she stated: “I am a person who rejects the kind of thinking that we sometimes hear — that it’s either the environment or jobs, jobs or the environment. I’m a person who believes it’s really important that we protect the great assets that we have. … I reject, ‘You’re either for the commercial aspects of the Seaway or you’re for the environment.’”

Administrator Sutton and the Seaway should seize this historic opportunity and accept the science that shows that the current plan is harming the environment and in turn our region’s economy, and that Plan 2014 is necessary to reverse that harm. We will welcome the Seaway’s support for a balanced approach to water levels management.

In the forefront of everyone’s mind who cares about the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and the economies that depend on them should be this sobering statement from the IJC’s report: “If such an opportunity is lost due to delayed implementation of Plan 2014, then the next opportunity may not arise for decades.”

Our communities need this. In the river region, our economy is directly tied to our environment.

Plan 2014 will improve both. We can no longer claim that we don’t understand the effects of our outdated water levels plan — we have the data and knowledge we need to restore the lake and river.

Now we just need the wisdom and will to leave a healthy, vital and thriving river to the generations that follow.

The IJC has done its part; now our federal officials must do theirs and implement Plan 2014 immediately.

North Country Perspective by Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director

Published by the Watertown Daily Times on July 22, 2014

Restoring the Common Tern in the Islands

July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey
Meet our newest Riverkeeper volunteers, Patti, Jennifer, and Nathan, they are dressed and ready for the part.
Don’t miss out on your chance to attend a Riverkeeper Volunteer Training. We still have openings in our next training on Wednesday, July 30th from 6-7pm at the Save The River office in Clayton. To register call 315-686-2010. See you there!

Tern1Once a very plentiful part of our waterbird population in the St Lawrence River Valley, the Common Tern has dropped to significantly low levels, due to a loss of nesting habitat and the expansion of Ring-billed Gulls. As a result of this dramatic decline in numbers, the Common Tern was listed as a threatened species in New York State. Save The River (STR) and the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) have formed a cooperative effort, in conjunction with Dr. Lee Harper, of Riveredge Associates, to monitor Common Tern nesting areas on the River. Residents from the Chippewa Bay area have also been very involved in helping to monitor and restore Tern habitat.

STR first became involved in 1997, with TILT volunteering the use of their Eagle Wing Shoals and Tidd Island soon thereafter. TILT maintains some of the last natural nesting shoals, still utilized by Common Terns, on the Upper St. Lawrence River.

Tern 2

All of the date collected by STR and TILT’s volunteers is gathered on standardized reporting format and reported the o the season to Dr. Harper. This critically important information helps Dr. Harper plan for habitat restoration efforts. Most of the navcells have now been encircled by plastic netting, which helps to keep young chicks from jumping off the high cells into the River before they can fly. A necessary tool at chick banding time is a small fish net to retrieve “jumpers” who jump into the water. The Eagle Wings shoals located just off Clayton, has been covered with a polypropylene line grid, installed each spring and broken down late summer by TILT and STR volunteers. Holes are drilled into the granite and steel bars are stuck into the holes to anchor the grid. It is an intense fun day long effort. TILT transports the crew out to the islands in their fantastic work boat, lunch is provided for all volunteers. And more volunteers are always welcome!

To read the entire article visit thousandislandslife.com.

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Save The River Reports on Week 2 of Beach Watch Program

July 17th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY (July 17, 2014) - Save The River’s Beach Watch Program is in the process of monitoring popular summer swimming locations on the River from July 7th through August 25th. Save The River reports all samples passed in Week 2.

For the 2014 sampling season Save The River volunteers are collecting water quality samples at six swimming areas along the River: Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Frink Dock in Clayton, Round Island in Clayton, Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Save The River’s unique program provides a glimpse of the water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. Sampling dates for this year are July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, and August 25.

As in previous years, Save The River will be testing for e. coli bacteria in all of our swimming locations and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. Save The River The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save the River offices, website and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the T.I. Sun.

Additionally, Save The River is currently looking for volunteers to help with the Beach Watch Program at Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, NY. Water samples would need to be taken Monday morning and brought to the Save The River office in Clayton by 9:30am. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Save The River.

For more information please contact the Save The River office at (315)-686-2010 or visit www.savetheriver.org.

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Information about blue-green algae available

July 11th, 2014 | Posted by Lee

Concerned about the possibility of blue-green algae in your favorite waterhole? Suspect a blue-green algae bloom? Want to receive weekly updates? Want to know what you should do if there is a bloom?

No blue-green algae blooms have been reported on the St. Lawrence River this summer. But conditions can change and it is wise to pay attention. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has an extensive website with updates on blue-green algae.safe_image

“Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers. Blue-green algae can form harmful algae blooms that discolor the water or produce floating rafts or scums on the surface of the water. These can cause health risks to people and animals when they are exposed to them.”

For more information about blue-green algae visit NYS DEC’s blue-green algae website. Of course, Save The River will post information on algae blooms on the River should they occur. And check out our weekly BeachWatch posts and the SwimGuide.

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Save The River Reports on Week 1 of Beach Watch Program

July 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

Clayton, NY (July 7, 2014) - Save The River’s Beach Watch Program is in the process of monitoring popular summer swimming locations on the River from July 7th through August 25th Save The River reports all samples passed in Week 1.

For the 2014 sampling season Save The River volunteers are collecting water quality samples at six swimming areas along the River: Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, Potter’s Beach on Grindstone Island, Frink Dock in Clayton, Round Island in Clayton, Lake of the Isles on Wellesley Island, and Scenic View Park in Alexandria Bay. Save The River’s unique program provides a glimpse of the water quality at popular swimming areas during the peak recreational swimming season. Sampling dates for this year are July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4, August 11, August 18, and August 25.

As in previous years, Save The River will be testing for e. coli bacteria in all of our swimming locations and will compare water quality results with state and federal regulations. Save The River The results will be made available to the public each week with a pass/ fail system that is available at the Save the River offices, website and by following Save The River on Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be posted on www.swimguide.org and in the T.I. Sun.

Additionally, Save The River is currently looking for volunteers to help with the Beach Watch Program at Wilson Beach in Cape Vincent, NY. Water samples would need to be taken Monday morning and brought to the Save The River office in Clayton by 9:30am. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Save The River.

For more information please contact the Save The River office at (315)-686-2010 or visit www.savetheriver.org.

The Buffalo News Endorses Plan 2014

July 7th, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

If there is one thing that the residents and business owners of Western New York should agree on, it is that they have a compelling interest in the health of the Great Lakes. In particular, Lakes Erie and Ontario are engines benefiting the economy, recreation and overall quality of life in this area while also providing a reliable source of water.

That’s why the work of the International Joint Commission is so important and why the agency wants to allow the level of Lake Ontario to fluctuate more than it does now, rising a few inches higher in spring and fall.

The plan deserves broad support – as do some worried residents of Niagara and Orleans counties. Those shoreline property owners are almost alone in opposing this plan, and while their concerns are legitimate and deserve attention, they also shouldn’t be allowed to block a well-considered plan that appears to do a good job of balancing a variety of important interests.

For 13 years, the commission – composed of American and Canadian members – has studied the environmental issues that artificial water levels have created on Lake Ontario since the construction of Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the St. Lawrence River in the 1950s. That project created an inexpensive supply of power and helped make the St. Lawrence Seaway navigable.

But the dam also allowed engineers to control the water level of Lake Ontario, and when those levels were agreed upon, no consideration was given to the effects on the environment, whose influences were poorly, if at all, understood.

But there has been a price. Lower lake levels have harmed wetlands along the shore, for example. Wetlands are natural pollution filters and they also provide habitat to amphibians, birds, mammals and fish. The degrading of those wetlands has damaged the health of the lake and of the creatures that make their homes there.

A better balance is necessary. The environment deserves a place at the table when considering the manipulation of lake levels, as do boating, fishing, shipping, power generation, recreation and, yes, the interests of homeowners along the lake shore.

In fact, according to members of the IJC, of all those interested parties, only homeowners along the southwestern shore of the lake are vocally opposed to what is known as Plan 2014.

Their concern is about the potential for flooding and property erosion, both of which can already occur as lake levels are managed today.

The criticism has been fierce. One group, the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, went so far as to call the IJC’s work “government at its worst.” On its face, that’s not the case, given the amount of time the IJC has spent on this issue, including many public hearings. The fact is that homeowners on this part of the lake, virtually alone among those interested in this issue, believe they are better off with the status quo than with the proposed change that factors in environmental needs.

And, frankly, who can blame them? Their properties were purchased, improved and maintained based on a set of facts that may now be changing. This is a federal issue, ultimately to be agreed upon or rejected by the national governments of the United States and Canada. Those governments – mainly Washington – need to offer some level of protection to those property owners to help them prepare for and cope with the changes envisioned in Plan 2014.

These changes are worth making, to protect the lake that helps to define and improve life in this area. The benefits are such that the plan should be adopted, providing assistance to property owners along the southwestern shoreline and, if necessary, over their objections.

Published by Buffalo News on July 6th on buffalonews.com

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Syracuse Post-Standard Endorses Plan 2014

July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Lindsey

It’s time to approve a new plan that effectively manages water levels on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River, while taking steps to restore the natural health of the waterways.

We endorse Plan 2014, a proposal developed and recently endorsed by the International Joint Commission, a panel of U.S. and Canadian representatives charged with preventing and resolving conflicts concerning shared use of waters on the countries’ borders.

No amount of regulation will satisfy everyone and it’s clear that continuing the status quo is a poor option. Plan 2014 will help restore the ecological balance of the lake and the upper river, while minimizing the negative effects on shoreline residents’ property and municipal infrastructure such as seawalls and breakwaters along the lake’s coast.

The plan is the culmination of 14 years of studies costing more than $20 million, and follows numerous public hearings and more than 5,500 written comments from both sides of the border. It still must be approved by the U.S. and Canadian governments.
The current plan was put in place in the late 1950s to help stabilize the water levels that naturally varied as much as 8 feet during the course of a year – and at times more due to huge storms and ice jams.

The control mechanism of the water levels has been, and will continue to be the Moses-Saunders dam on the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg (Cornwall on the Canadian side), which under the current plan has been used to try and keep the water level variation within a range of about 4 ½ feet annually. However, Mother Nature is unpredictable and that variation has often averaged more like 6.2 feet.

Regardless, the current plan and its absence of naturally occurring highs and lows killed many native plants in the lake’s 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands. The result is congested “cornfields” of cattails with little, or no open water in these wetlands that are supposed to act as “kidneys” for the lake by filtering out pollutants. In addition, wildlife such as ducks, terns and muskrats have decreased and northern pike spawning areas have also disappeared.

Studies have concluded that Plan 2014 would help reverse these trends. Conservation groups and organizations across the board – including bird watchers, anglers, water fowl hunters and trappers — have endorsed it. The Nature Conservancy calls the plan “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the health of Great Lake.”

Opponents, such as a string of municipalities along the lake’s southern shore and the Lake Ontario Restoration Alliance, insist Plan 2014 will have serious consequences for the southern shore and that while the lake’s environment is important, so is its overall economy and land values.Plan 2014 would add about 2 inches to the upper range to what’s in place now, and about 8 inches to the lower range. It would also include “triggers” that would allow the IJC to take emergency action during high water or low water conditions – that is, requiring the dam system to either let more water out, or keep it more back, depending on the circumstances.

The IJC commissioners noted and studies have concluded that Plan 2014 will result in little or no change to the lake’s overall economy, shipping or recreational boating. However, it will likely increase erosion and other coastal damage by an estimated 13 percent for landowners, municipalities and businesses – and that such damage would occur sooner with this new set of regulations.

We sympathize with those who would be negatively affected by Plan 2014. Studies have concluded, though, that coastal damage and flooding will occur under either plan. The biggest impact of Plan 2014, said the studies, would be damage to shoreline protection structures, which could be delayed by building them several inches higher.

Providing financial aid for such work, in addition to possibly helping private property owners affected, is an issue apart from the plan that could be taken up with state, provincial or federal lawmakers from both countries. In addition, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at where homes and other structures can be built along the lake’s shore if damage is inevitable. Tougher restrictions have evolved over the years concerning individuals who choose to build in flood plains along rivers. Why not along Lake Ontario?

Apart from all that, Plan 2014 makes sense because it looks at the big picture, the long-term picture. It’s the right thing to do to make one of the Great Lakes even greater.

We endorse Plan 2014, a proposal developed and recently endorsed by the International Joint Commission, a panel of U.S. and Canadian representatives charged with preventing and resolving conflicts concerning shared use of waters on the countries’ borders.

The plan has been forwarded to the executive branches of both governments. On the U.S. side, the State Department is coordinating an inter-agency review and development of a position. We encourage Secretary of State John Kerry to move the plan forward.

Published by the Syracuse Post- Standard on July 3rd on syracuse.com

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Fifty six years ago

July 1st, 2014 | Posted by Lee

Inundation DayFifty six years ago today the face of the river was changed forever to create a deep draft navigation channel, submerging hundreds of shoreline residences on the US and Canadian banks of the St. Lawrence River. “Inundation Day” – as it was called, was also the beginning of 56 years of damaging water levels regulation. It’s time for a change.

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