Washington, DC — Eight months after American Rivers named the St. Lawrence River one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ for 2008, there is new hope for the River’s future.
This fall, thanks to thousands of comment letters from citizens, the International Joint Commission rejected an outdated plan for managing the St. Lawrence River’s dams, and called for a new plan that supports more natural river flows, fish and wildlife, and recreation benefits. The IJC has called for a formal consultation process with the US and Canadian federal governments that includes representatives from New York State and the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The IJC is scheduled to announce a new regulation plan, along with a restoration plan, by June 2009.
The health and vitality of this iconic North American waterway have been harmed by outdated management of the Moses-Saunders Dam that dates back to the Eisenhower Administration. Constructed in 1958 for 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 an era where environmental impacts weren’t taken into consideration. Fifty years later, the 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
Water level management plans for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are set by the IJC. Both the United States and Canada have equal representation on the six-member panel. 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, a concept 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 Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as numerous scientists, environmental groups, and federal, state and local lawmakers.
The new and difficult challenges presented by global warming make the immediate implementation of a more natural plan all the more imperative. Warmer water temperatures, which in turn increase evaporation resulting in significantly lower water levels could threaten water supply, water quality, shipping, recreation and wildlife in the watershed. This plan will increase community resiliency and allow both business and the environment to adapt to the coming changes.
“The Great Lakes are home to almost 25 percent of the world’s fresh water,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “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.”
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.