St. Lawrence River

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Every island in the Thousand Island has a story. Today we're looking at Grindstone Island, the fourth largest in the St. Lawrence River. 

Grindstone is considered part Clayton and can be seen from the village's main street, but it’s only accessible by boat. A large community lives there during the summer and a few stick it out all year. 

There's no grocery store on the island but there is a dance hall and a Methodist Church. One Sunday in the summer, the United Methodist Church has a service outside on the banks of Aunt Jane's Bay.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Every island between Clayton and Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands has its own story.

Occident Island has been owned by the same family for over 115 years.

On a bright summer day, Phyllis Gardner picks me up on a little dock in Fisher’s Landing, a few miles from Clayton. She invited me to see the place she’s come back to every summer since she was a little girl.

We go at full speed, zipping past shoals hidden under the St. Lawrence River. Phyllis knows this river night or day. She points out the rocky shores as we pass.

Courtesy: Save the River

On June 23, 1976, an oil barge called the NEPCO-140 ran into a shoal on the St. Lawrence River, spilling 300,000 gallons of crude into the heart of the Thousand Islands. The "Slick of ‘76" remains one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

That tragic incident changed how local residents viewed the St. Lawrence River. Many felt a strong urge to protect it from future catastrophes.

Save the River

On June 23, 1976, an oil barge called the NEPC-140 ran into a shoal on the St. Lawrence River, spilling 300,000 gallons of crude into the heart of the Thousand Islands. On this, the 40th anniversary, the ”Slick of ‘76” remains one of the largest inland oil spills in the United States.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working towards outlawing boaters from dumping their sewage into the St. Lawrence River. The agency says the river could be designated a “no discharge zone.”

It’s been against the law since the 1970s to dump untreated sewage in U.S. waterways like the St. Lawrence River. But John Martin, with the EPA, says the new proposal would also apply to treated sewage.

“A lot of times boaters for whatever reason will dump untreated sewage into the water. Of course that’s not very easy to enforce if you own a very small vessel,” Marin said.

ceedub13 / Flickr, Creative Commons

A non-profit says The St. Lawrence River is one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country. American Rivers say the fish and wildlife of the St. Lawrence will remain in jeopardy until the U.S. and Canada approves a plan for controlling its water levels.

Adam W. / Flickr

 

Canada’s federal government has ordered the city of Montreal to halt its plan to dump about 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the effect on the river would be “likely significant."

The city of Montreal was all ready to begin releasing the untreated waste water into the St. Lawrence on Sunday, despite widespread protests, including a petition from city residents with 90,000 signatures, and pleas to rethink the plan from New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro).

Adam W. / Flickr

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is speaking out against Montreal’s plan to dump 2 billion gallons of sewage into the St. Lawrence River next weekend.  Schumer is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sit down with the Canadian government.

Doug Kerr / Flickr, Creative Commons

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre spoke to the Canadian media Monday explaining that over the weekend, he and city officials had re-examined their plan to release wastewater in the river. He told reporters that despite strong opposition, the plan has to continue.

“Is there a way to take some option in between? Can we use some temporary ways instead of sending that to the River? The answer is no,” Coderre said.

Adam W. / Flickr

Canadian media outlets report that the city of Montreal is suspending its plan to dump over two billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. This comes after city officials received a stream of phone calls when the city’s plans to dump the wastewater became public.

Dennis McCarthy

If you cross the international border between the U.S. and Canada by land, there’s an official border crossing.

But if you're traveling across the border on a boat in the St. Lawrence River, the process isn’t so clear.

The border  splits the river, threading through the Thousand Islands.

For over a century, this was a “soft” border, barely acknowledged by generations of boaters.

Kate O'Connell / WXXI

Crude oil from the Midwest is moving by pipeline and rail across the U.S., including parts of the North Country.  Some companies are interested in shipping oil to East Coast refineries by way of the St. Lawrence River.

At a conference organized last weekend by the Thousand Islands-based group, Save the River, environmentalists and state officials voiced concern over the potential of a catastrophic oil spill.

Coalition promoting water level plan for Lake Ontario

Dec 10, 2014
Gino Geruntino / WRVO

A coalition of land owners, elected officials, environmental groups and others are launching a campaign calling on the governments of the U.S.  and Canada to move ahead with the latest plan, called Plan 2014, to regular water levels on Lake Ontario.

Proponents say Plan 2014 would restore Lake Ontario to more natural levels by controlling dams along the St. Lawrence River.

Leah Landry / WRVO News File Photo

Boosters of a controversial plan to ease the regulation of Lake Ontario water levels are continuing their push to get the federal government to agree to the proposal. The outdoor sports community is lining up behind Plan 2014.

Plan 2014 eliminates a 50-year-old policy of regulating water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Proponents want lake levels to go up and down naturally, which they say would bring back some of the wildlife damaged by the practice.

Julia Botero / WRVO

Local politicians, environmentalists and business owners gathered in Clayton Wednesday to urge Washington, D.C. to adopt a new plan to manage water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

The current plan is 55 years old. This new one promises to restore wetlands and wildlife to the waterways while also extending the boating season. But the issue has been debated for over a decade.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Both sides in the debate over a plan to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario are stepping up lobbying efforts. Plan 2014 pits property owners against environmentalists and sportsmen.

At the center of the debate are wetlands, like the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area in South Sandy Creek.

Bob Jordan is a sportsman who’s been boating, fishing and trapping in these streams and marshes all his life, and doesn’t see a healthy ecosystem when he looks across the marshy area near the shore of Lake Ontario.

Ray Sawhillv / Flickr

The International Joint Commission says its recommendations to help restore some of the natural water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway will also benefit the lake's wetland wildlife. According to the commission, Plan 2014 will help Lake Ontario get closer to its natural ebb and flow throughout the year.

Commissioner Dereth Glance says Plan 2014 strikes a balance between the current plan and the lakes original water levels about 60 years ago.
 

Ray Sawhillv / Flickr

The organization responsible for regulating water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is holding a series of public hearings in upstate New York and Canada this week, presenting a new management plan. The International Joint Commission, or IJC, attracted criticism for its last draft of the plan, called Bv7, which aimed to alter water levels to decrease environmental damage around the Great Lake.

Another new St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario water levels plan

Jun 14, 2013
Photo: Jenni Werndorf

People along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario will get a chance to weigh in on a new water levels plan next month.

Regulators say the plan, called “Plan 2014,” still helps the environment by returning more natural ebbs and flows to the water bodies. But they would have caused more shoreline damage on Lake Ontario.

Why low Lake Ontario levels mean high St. Lawrence levels

May 18, 2013
Photo courtesy New York Power Authority

For quite some time, the Great Lakes -- from Superior to Ontario -- have been at historically low water levels. So many people were surprised  this week that regulators are lowering the gates at the Iroquois Dam near Ogdensburg because the St. Lawrence River is too high.

Construction of the giant hydropower dam near Massena in the 1950s forever tamed the once wild St. Lawrence River. It allowed engineers to harness the river’s natural ebb and flow for energy production and to protect homes and ports at the same time. But in the process, it hurt the indigenous plants and animals that depend on those highs and lows to survive. The environmental group Save The River has been leading a charge to persuade the agency that controls water levels to return more natural ebbs and flows to the St. Lawrence. One way is by giving the younger generation of River residents a hands-on lesson.

A new global observation technology has been developed to help recreational boaters on the St. Lawrence River.

This new tool, developed by New York Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Observing System, allows recreational boaters to access information about the river's current as well as water depth. Dave White with New York Sea Grant explained how this technology works.

Jamie Henderson / Flickr

The new water levels proposal for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario has garnered some criticism from a group of state lawmakers along the lake's southern shore. This week they asked the governor to oppose the plan.

Last week, Congressman Bill Owens came out in favor of the proposal and said he'd ask for Governor Andrew Cuomo's support. Both Owens and environmental advocates say the opposition's arguments aren't based on the facts of the new plan.

State lawmakers representing communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario are lining up against a plan to regulate water levels in the lake, and in the St. Lawrence River system.