Save The River Hosts International Joint Commissioners
On Friday, June 28, 2019 Save The River hosted three of the six new commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC) this morning, including both the U.S. and Canadian section chairs. The meeting began with Save The River Board president Captain Jeff Garnsey taking the commissioners and staff for a boat tour departing from Clayton’s village docks to show the commissioners the village waterfront and how businesses are coping with the high water. Moving upriver the tour paused to float in Grindstone Island’s Flynn Bay where Jeff, a fifth-generation fishing guide, explained that the bay is one of the area’s most important northern pike and muskellunge hatcheries and the return of more natural water levels, supported by Plan 2014, will reduce the dense mat of cattails that have choked the bay’s shorelines and prevented these prized sport fish from reaching their historical breeding grounds.
Jeff’s knowledge was supplemented by Tom Brown, Rob Campany, and Tony David all of whom are members of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB).
Upon returning to shore, we met in our conference room where I began the roundtable discussion by reading Save The River’s opening remarks (Click here to read). Congresswoman Elise Stefanik then addressed the group by phone to voice her longtime support of Plan 2014, the importance of fact-based assessments in the adaptive management process, and the need to address property owners concerns.
The group discussed the importance of the adaptive management component of Plan 2014, the need to listen to property owner’s concerns, the value of providing readily accessible education about the true causes of high water levels, and the vital importance of working together to build more resilient communities.
In attendance at the meeting were: Jeff Garnsey – Save The River’s Board President and owner of Classic Island Cruises, myself, Jane Corwin – U.S. Section Chair of the IJC, Pierre Béland – Canadian Section Chair of the IJC, Lance Yohe – U.S. Commissioner of the IJC, Wayne Jenkinson – Senior Engineer Adviser of the IJC, Paul Allen – Programs and Communication for the IJC, Frank Bevacqua – Public Information Officer for the IJC, Tom Brown – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Rob Campany – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Phil Reed – Jefferson County Legislator, Rick Gregware – Save The River Board Director and owner of Northern Marine, Inc., Ann Ward – Save The River Board Director, Norma Zimmer – Mayor of the Village of Clayton, Tony David – Board Member of the ILOSLRB, Eric Mower – Eric Mower + Associates, Jim Howe – Executive Director of the Central and Western NY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Bobby Cantwell – Jefferson County Legislator, Patricia Shulenburg – Program Manager of Save The River, and Margaret Hummel – Outreach Coordinator of Save The River.
I have a great deal of empathy for everyone suffering from the effects of the high water. As I have previously shared, my family’s property is taking a beating with our boathouse significantly underwater – I wear boots to and from the boat every day. But we must recognize that this is a long term situation with the Great Lakes being at or near record high levels and experiencing record or above average precipitation caused by climate change. We all need to think about how we can make both our personal and municipal properties more resilient using environmentally sound methods whenever possible.
Thank you to our members for your support of Save The River, and the River. Let’s do everything we can to support our local businesses this year.
I hope to see you soon on the River.
-John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River
2019 Historic High Water Levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario
A message from John Peach, Executive Director of Save The River and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper:
This statement from our partners at The Nature Conservancy parallels Save The River’s position on the current water levels plan. Plan 2014 replaced the outdated Plan 1958D, which was drawn up when environmental science was in its infancy. For the first time, the water level regulations plan gave a voice to the environment, recreational boating, and provided for adaptive management to review and make recommended changes to the plan as time goes on.
Since it became apparent earlier this spring that the River was facing another extremely high water year, Save The River has been working with legislators and regulators to help our members and River residents have a better understanding of the causes. We hosted a boat tour and roundtable discussion with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, River residents, local business owners and elected officials. We also spent a morning showing Government Accounting Office officials the environmental benefits and shoreline mitigation efforts that will result from more natural water level fluctuations.
This year’s high water has been caused by record or near record water levels in all of the Great Lakes coupled with above average rainfall in the Great Lakes and Ottawa River Basins. The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board acted responsibly by discharging the fourth highest recorded average outflows of water from the Moses- Saunders Dam from December 2018 through March 2019. However, once the flooding of the Ottawa River began to flood Montreal and displace thousands of families from their homes, the only responsible course of action for the Board was to slow the flow of water through the dam. To exacerbate Montreal’s flooded conditions with increased outflows would have been morally unacceptable to all residents on both sides of the border.
The historic high water is frustrating to all of us living and working on the River. I believe that we would all be better served to work together to help communities and residents understand and plan to adapt to future extreme water levels, rather than political posturing to curry favor with voters and shoreline residents.