Support Grows for Plan 2014 to Help Protect St. Lawrence River

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. --  The St. Lawrence River is a popular destination for visitors and residents, and for activities from sight-seeing to fishing. That's why many people want to see some changes made.

"The river is controlled by a dam and so the water levels can be artificially constrained, the flows can be constrained," said Lee Willbanks, the upper St. Lawrence riverkeeper and executive director of Save The River. "In 1958, when the dam was built and the plan was put in place, the environment was not considered at all."

Almost 60 years later, activists say the unnatural water flow has had a negative impact on the wetlands and wildlife. Plan 2014 was created as a way to manage the river.

"They're directions to the operators of the gates at the Moses-Saunders Dam to tell them when and how and under what conditions to change the levels that flow through the dam," said Willbanks.

He said it's just a simple list of rules, but the plan still needs approval from the federal government a year after it's creation. However, new support from representative Elise Stefanik may help.

"I believe that protecting our environment is also good for growing our economy in northern New York," said Stefanik. "It's the lifeblood of our economy and I've known that since I was a kid."

Stefanik met with Willbanks and other supporters Wednesday. She is working to build support for the plan through the governor's office, state senators, and assembly men and women. Save the River members and other Plan 2014 supporters hope that with state officials on their side, the federal government will one day join.

At the meeting, group members and Stefanik also discussed other issues, including her plans to host a forum focused on the impact of aquatic invasive species.

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