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nature & waterways

Orleans turns into snow-covered county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2016 at 10:08 am

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Photos by Tom Rivers

It’s white-out conditions at times driving in Orleans County today, with snow and wind making it difficult to see. This picture shows Main Street in Albion looking north towards the lift bridge on the Erie Canal at about 8:45 a.m.

Three school districts – Albion, Holley and Medina – cancelled school today and two others – Lyndonville and Kendall – are on two-hour delays.

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A wreath on the door of the First Presbyterian Church has been blasted with snow.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Orleans, Niagara and Monroe counties until 5 a.m. on Friday. About 3-5 inches of snow is expected today with another 2 to 4 inches overnight. The snow, combined with 25 to 35 mile per hour winds and gusts up to 50 mph, will produce significant blowing and drifting snow.

“Strong winds and blowing snow will produce very difficult travel conditions at times with greatly reduced visibility and snow-covered roads,” the Weather Service said. “Wind chills dropping below zero will increase the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.”

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An Albion Department of Public Works plow truck pushes snow off Main Street this morning.

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A man with a snowblower crosses Main Street near the Holy Family Parish.

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Ox, key to pioneer power, makes appearance this weekend at Murray Christmas tree farm

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2016 at 7:39 pm

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Photos by Tom Rivers

MURRAY – Arden, a male ox, was at Jim Ritchie’s Christmas tree farm at the corner of Route 104 and Norway Road today.

Arden, an Irish dexter ox, will be back at the farm on Sunday hauling Christmas trees.

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The ox is owned by Dawn Meier, right, of Tuthill Road in Albion. Meier and her daughter Amie Kenneally are pictured with Arden this afternoon.

Meier wanted the public to see the ox. She said oxen were critical for pioneers, clearing land about 200 years ago. They also provided much-needed power for settling the state and creating the 363-mile-long Erie Canal, which opened in 1825.

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Arden gives Brooklyn Drennen a ride in the snow.

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IJC moving ahead with controversial plan for Lake Ontario water levels

Staff Reports Posted 8 December 2016 at 2:25 pm
File photo by Tom Rivers: The lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park in Barker is pictured in this photo when the sun was setting in early August.

File photo by Tom Rivers: The lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park in Barker is pictured in this photo when the sun was setting in early August.

A plan for regulating water levels at Lake Ontario is going forward despite outcries from many elected officials along the south shore of the lake, who fear water levels will have bigger swings, leading to erosion and threatening tourism industries.

Commissioners of the International Joint Commission today signed an updated order of approval regulating water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The updated order makes it possible for the IJC to approve Plan 2014, a new regulation plan for determining the flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam located on the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, NY. The updated order and plan replace a system of regulating flows developed in the 1950s.

“Plan 2014 is a modern plan for managing water levels and flows that will restore the health and diversity of coastal wetlands, perform better under changing climate conditions and continue to protect against extreme high and low water levels,” US Section Chair Lana Pollack said in a news release.


‘As long as I am a Member of Congress, I will fight to block any and all funding paths this plan needs to be implemented.’ – Congressman Chris Collins


Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is among the many elected officials who have been opposing the plan.

“As long as I am a Member of Congress, I will fight to block any and all funding paths this plan needs to be implemented,” Collins said in a statement today. “Additionally, the incoming Republican Administration will know from Day One how important it is to eliminate Plan 2014 once and for all.”

Collins vowed to “do everything in my power to protect the taxpayers, homeowners and small businesses along the Lake Ontario shoreline that are set to be devastated by this bureaucratic disaster.”

Plan 2014 will continue to protect shoreline property and will retain, essentially unchanged, the environmental conditions and coastal protections on the lower St. Lawrence River, below the Moses-Saunders Dam, the IJC stated today.

The plan will improve ecosystem health and diversity on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River and provide net economic benefits, according to the IJC.

The plan will foster conditions needed to restore 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The plan will also frequently extend the recreational boating season, better maintain system-wide levels for navigation and increase hydropower production, the IJC said.

Plan 2014 is the result of more than 16 years of scientific study, public engagement and governmental review.

During the five-year Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study (2000-2006), technical experts and stakeholders together built evaluation models and tested hundreds of alternatives, with public participation throughout the process. The IJC continued to optimize alternatives developed during the study and held public meetings in 2012 and public hearings in 2013 before proposing Plan 2014 to the two federal governments.

“We are pleased that Plan 2014 will bring system-wide improvements, with consideration of ecosystem health and recreational boating along with shoreline communities, commercial navigation and  hydropower production,” said Canadian Section Chair Gordon Walker.

The IJC plans to implement the plan starting in January 2017.

For more information on the IJC, click here.

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Fog rolls in on Thanksgiving

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2016 at 7:29 pm

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Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County was blanketed in fog this afternoon. This photo is looking north on Transit Road in Albion near the intersection with Route 31.

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A tractor is pictured in a field along Fetcher Chapel Road in Shelby.

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Some trees stand out in the fog along Route 63 in Shelby by the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

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This row of trees is shown on the refuge in Shelby.

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Some livestock were also out on Fletcher Chapel Road in Shelby.

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The East Shelby Community Bible Church is still a landmark in the fog on East Shelby Road in Shelby.

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This barn is located along West Countyhouse Road in Albion near the Shelby border.

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Canal closes on Sunday after 192nd season

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 November 2016 at 3:09 pm

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Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Tugboats and tenders are lined up on the Erie Canal in Albion today, the second to last day of the 192nd navigational season on the historic waterway.

The canal closes for the season at 5 p.m. on Sunday. All recreational vessels must exit the canal system before 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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Supermoon is brightest and largest since 1948

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 November 2016 at 10:34 pm

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Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – The Oak Orchard Lighthouse is pictured at about 9 tonight with the supermoon shining bright. This is the bright and largest the the moon has appeared since 1948, according to NASA.

There won’t be another supermoon like this until 2034, NASA said.

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The former Barbary Coast restaurant, now the home of Gene Haines, is pictured at Point Breeze tonight. Haines hosted a meeting for the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association about the the Lake Ontario State Parkway. About 100 people attended the meeting.

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The top of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Albion is pictured with the supermoon.

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The church is visible in the dark with the bright moon in the sky.

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This is the top of the steeple on the First Baptist Church in Albion.

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The moon shines bright through these branches in an Albion backyard.

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Trees have shed leaves at fast pace in past week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 November 2016 at 6:04 pm

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ALBION – These photos were taken near the same spot on the Erie Canal Towpath in Albion between the Ingersoll Street and Brown Street bridges. It’s just west of where Sandy Creek runs under the Erie Canal. (I don’t think they at the same exact location, but pretty close.)

The top photo was taken today at about 1 p.m. and shows trees with few leaves. The bottom picture shows a striking change over eight days. The lower photo was taken on Nov. 6, when the trees were full of vibrant colors.

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Mt. Albion workers tackle big job of removing leaves

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 November 2016 at 3:11 pm

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ALBION – Parts of Mount Albion Cemetery look like a blanket of orange, red and yellow leaves.

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The cemetery’s workers have been making long piles of leaves and then sucking them up with a vacuum truck. Kenny Blank, one of the cemetery’s workers, was clearing leaves on the east side of the cemetery this afternoon.

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Blank and the cemetery workers are busy trying to clear the historic cemetery, home to many tall mature trees, from numerous leaves.

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Many leaves are yet to fall at Mount Albion.

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The tower at Mount Albion, a memorial that was built in 1876 to the nearly 500 Orleans County soldiers killed during the Civil War, is more visible now that the trees are shedding leaves.

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Mount Albion is even more stunning in the fall, with the blast of colors from the fall foliage.

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Fall colors on display with more to come

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2016 at 9:45 pm

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ALBION – The the leaves are putting on a colorful display in Orleans County, although there is still a lot of green out. We still have time to enjoy fall before winter rears its head.

I was out for a jog/walk today along the canal in Albion. (A little jaunt was needed after the Patriots dismantled the Bills.)

The top photo shows the canal and towpath looking east from the Brown Street bridge.

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These leaves were on a path near the canal that leads to Brown Street.

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Several tugboats and tenders are tied up in Albion between the Main Street and Ingersoll Street lift bridges. The canal season ends on Nov. 20.

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This is the spot where Sandy Creek runs under the Erie Canal. This is just north of the canal. Community Action of Orleans & Genesee is on the south side of the canal.

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Here is that path from the canal to Brown Street.

There are still some 60-degree days in the forecast. Monday (Halloween) will reach a high of 47, followed by a high of 69 on Tuesday and a high of 68 on Wednesday. Thursday is forecast for a high of 59, followed by Friday topping out at 49, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

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Orleans wants plan in place for dredging Oak Orchard Harbor

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 October 2016 at 7:24 pm
File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from August 2014.

File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from August 2014.

POINT BREEZE – Orleans County legislators want to reignite a push for a dredging plan for harbors on the southshore of Lake Ontario.

The harbors haven’t been dredged on a timely basis the past decade, leaving a buildup of sediment and silt that can make some channels impassable for larger boats.

The Oak Orchard Harbor was last dredged in 2014. It went 10 years between dredgings. County officials said the harbor should be cleared of sentiment every three to five years.

Orleans wants to partner with other southshore counties to come up with a plan for cyclical dredging, said Legislator Lynne Johnson, R-Lyndonville.

Niagara County already is interested in the project, and so is Wayne County. If there are multiple counties in a dredging plan that could help with convince companies with dredging equipment to offer a better price for the sediment removal, Johnson said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been determining the dredging schedule, and in recent years the Corps has given priority to busier harbors, rather than those that are primary for recreation, such as Oak Orchard’s.

The Oak Orchard Harbor was dredged when federal funds from Superstorm Sandy were directed for the job.

Congress hasn’t set aside money on a regular basis to clean out recreational harbors like the Oak Orchard. During low lake-level years, boats can run aground in the harbor. That happened to the Oak Orchard in 2012.

A clogged harbor makes the county’s fishing and recreational boating industries vulnerable. The harbor generates about $7 million in economic activity for the county, resulting in 117 direct and indirect jobs. It also yields $283,484 in sales tax revenue for the county with the same sales tax for the state, according to a consultant, Frank Sciremammano of FES Environmental and Marine Consultants.

Sciremammano worked with six southshore counties on a plan for regular harbor maintenance and dredging back in 2014. The Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging the Genesee River and the Port of Oswego, which are both commercial harbors, but the recreational harbors have languished.

“We need to have a plan, a cyclical schedule,” Johnson said today. “We don’t want to wait 10 years before we have our harbor dredged again.”

The federal money from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy took some of the urgency away for the harbor dredging plan. But Johnson said the county wants to push the plan again.

Orleans and Niagara (and perhaps Wayne and others) intend to seek state funding from the Department of State. That money may go to a contractor with dredging equipment, Johnson said.

The Oak Orchard Harbor is important for the fishing industry, which is the county’s top tourism draw. It’s also popular with many recreational boaters.

“We need to capitalize on the tourism and fishing industries,” she said.

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