Washington (April 17, 2008) — Tens of millions of people in two countries depend everyday on the St. Lawrence River. The health and vitality of this iconic North American waterway is tarnished due to outdated management plans of the Moses-Saunders Dam that date back to the Eisenhower Administration. Under these policies, the river that supplies drinking water to large sections of the United States and Canada is experiencing degradation undreamed of 50 years ago. It’s no wonder the St. Lawrence River has been named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.
“The St. Lawrence River has been held hostage by the Moses-Saunders Dam since 1958, or 9 years before the advent of color television” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “It’s time for new ideas that benefit the millions of people who depend on the river.”
Constructed in 1958 to harness hydropower and aid commercial navigation on the St. Lawrence River, the Moses-Saunders Dam controls water levels on the river and Lake Ontario. However, the dam was built in a bygone era, where environmental impacts weren’t taken into consideration. 50 years later new ideas and new science shows that the river’s health can be significantly improved, while continuing to serve commercial interests.
“The economics surrounding the river extend far beyond just shipping and hydropower,” said Jennifer Caddick, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are pumped into local economies every year by recreational activities: activities that are slowly being strangled by the Moses-Saunders Dam”
Water level management plans for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are set by the International Joint Commission (IJC). Both the United States and Canada have equal representation on the 6 member panel. After half a century, the antiquated management plan for the dam is up for revision. Research conducted by more than 180 scientists from both countries discovered that the current plan, which severely limits natural water level fluctuations, has significantly reduced the diversity of plant species in river wetlands, which in turn has impacted populations of many fish and other wildlife. However, these conditions can be reversed by allowing the river to have a more natural flow. Such a plan is currently before the IJC; it is known as Plan B+.
“This should be an easy choice for the IJC, because it isn’t an either or decision,” added Wodder. “Communities up and down the banks of the St. Lawrence can have a healthy, thriving St. Lawrence River, and business interests can thrive as well. Plan B+ is a win-win for everyone.”
Plan B+ is widely supported by federal and state agencies, such as the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, and
the New York Departments of Environmental Conservation and State, as well as numerous scientists, environmental groups, and federal, state and local lawmakers. The IJC will be accepting public comments this spring.
“As the IJC considers yet another round of public comment, we will be working closely with our allies, particularly Congressman John McHugh who has been a leader on this issue, to ensure that the IJC fulfils its responsibility to protect the environment and local communities.”
The new and difficult challenges presented by global warming make the immediate implementation of Plan B+ all the more imperative. Warmer water temperatures, more frequent floods and lower water levels could threaten water supply, water quality, shipping, recreation and wildlife in the watershed. This plan will increase community resiliency and best allow both business and the environment adapt to the coming changes.
“The Great Lakes are home to almost 25 percent of the world’s fresh water,” added Wodder. “Given all we know about the coming impacts of global warming, we simply can’t afford to be destroying the St. Lawrence River and watershed.”
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible result.
Numerous organizations and officials released statements in reaction to the selection of the St. Lawrence River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers including:
Statement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Statement from Healing Our Waters Coalition
Statement from Great Lakes United