The North Country continues to be the focus of intense national political interest as the race for the NY-23rd congressional seat, vacated by Congressman McHugh when he was tapped to become Secretary of the Army, heads to the finish line. The three way race, amongst Republican Dede Scozzafava, Democrat Bill Owens, and Conservative Doug Hoffman, will be decided on Election Day, next Tuesday, November 3. (You can watch the only debate among all three candidates again this Sunday at 7 p.m. on Syracuse’s Newschannel 9 and Watertown’s WWTI.)
Today, North Country Public Radio profiled the lack of discussion during this campaign about regional environmental issues. As Save The River’ s Executive Director notes in the story, the next person elected to fill this seat will have a direct say in issue critical to the St. Lawrence River – from invasive species to funding for restoration programs. To help our members wade through the tons of news coverage on the race, we’ve pulled together statements we’ve seen from the three candidates on River-specific issues. If we’ve missed something, let us know and we’ll add it to the list.
Watertown Daily Times
The Watertown Daily Times got the discussion going a few weeks ago with an editorial highlighting questions they felt the candidates should answer, which included issues such as Seaway expansion, winter navigation and invasive species. The Times profiled Mr. Hoffman’s responses here, and Mr. Owens and Mrs. Scozzafava’s responses here . The Times also posted full, written responses from Mr. Owens and Mrs. Scozzafava. We haven’t found detailed responses from Mr. Hoffman on the Times website, but if its posted and we missed it, let us know. (Thanks to Jude Seymour for posting!)
The questions posed by the Times are wide ranging and touch on everything from Seaway issues to acid rain to wind power. We’ve listed just the River related questions below. Please note that these questions were asked by the Times, not by Save The River.
■ How do you feel about federal attempts to widen and deepen the St. Lawrence Seaway to accommodate larger oceangoing ships?
Dede Scozzafava: I will oppose efforts to widen and deepen the Saint Lawrence Seaway to accommodate oceangoing ships. As demonstrated by past events, this type of project will bring unavoidable environmental consequences to our North Country communities, while others will reap the long-term economic benefits further down the Great Lakes system. Our fishers and boaters will be the long-term losers from such a project. That being said, we must continue to conduct much needed maintenance and ensure that all maintenance efforts be carried out in an environmentally sound way.
Bill Owens: The St. Lawrence Seaway is critical to our local economy and has a significant impact on our day to day lives here in the North Country. Federal officials need to work closely with local officials when it comes to the Seaway so that we’re not infringing on property rights or environmental protections when it comes to the Seaway. Whether we’re addressing winter navigation proposals, considering widening and deepening the Seaway, or dealing with invasive species that are hurting local industry as well as the environment, I will address these and other issues by gathering input from local officials so that whatever federal action is taken has the best interests of Upstate New York in mind at all times.
■ Do you support winter navigation in the Seaway?
DS: I do not support operating the Seaway for 12 months a year.
BO: See above.
■ How would you help protect the waterway from encroachment of invasive species?
DS: The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation has taken an important first step by requiring all ocean-going vessels to flush their ballast water before entering the Seaway System. However, more needs to be done. I will support new requirements, coupled with tax incentives that spur innovation, to advance new technology to reach no ballast on-board standards from large ocean going ships. In the state assembly, I’ve been supportive of efforts addressing various invasive species and their impact on our waterways.
BO: See above.
■ Would you approve of plans to transform the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. into a federal power-marketing entity, as proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio?
DS: No, I do not approve of plans to transform the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), as proposed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur. First, this proposal will drastically change and redefine the mandate of the SLSDC. The hardworking employees of the SLSDC are valued residents of Massena. This plan will shift their core mission away from the North Country. Now is not the time to enact policies that will likely shift jobs outside of our region. Secondly, Rep. Kaptur has made comments indicating that this new entity could be used as a mechanism to expand the physical footprint of the Seaway, which I do not support.
BO: No answer given.
■ Water Levels:
DS: If elected, I will be the only Member of Congress representing the American portion of the St. Lawrence River, as well as a majority of Lake Ontario’s shoreline. Therefore, I will strongly urge the International Joint Commission to select Plan B+ as the appropriate water level management plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. For nearly 50 years, the Moses-Saunders hydro-dam has greatly changed the region’s natural ecosystem, and Plan B+ would allow the Lake and River to return to a state experienced before the dam was constructed while also extending our summer boating season.
BO: No answer given.
North Country Public Radio
Two of the candidates, Mrs. Scozzafava and Mr. Owens, participated in a debate hosted by North Country Public Radio earlier this week, which included a specific question about Seaway expansion. The question is included in a ‘highlights’ reel pulled together by NCPR staff. The full debate is also available.
WSYR Channel 9 Debate
We haven’t had a chance to watch the WSYR debate, which was the only debate that included all three candidates. (And we can’t find it on the WSYR website.) But, the Associated Press report on the debate notes that the candidates did answer questions about the St. Lawrence River water levels issue:
“Scozzafava advocated for the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission to adopt Plan B+, a regulation plan that promised a greater range of water levels along Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River throughout the year.
Owens said he heard people talking about B+, but reserved support on the plan until after he talked to local officials.
Hoffman said of the water levels: “That issue I’m not familiar with,” but said voters were more concerned with other issues, such as taxes.” (Associated Press, 10/30/09)
According to the article, the debate will be re-aired at 7 p.m. Sunday on both Newschannel 9 and WWTI.