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nature & waterways

Governor says expanded no-wake zone in effect through Sept. 2

Photo by Tom Rivers: These boats were out on Lake Ontario near Point Breeze last June 30, 2016.

Posted 3 August 2017 at 5:31 pm

Press Release, Gov. Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has authorized the Commissioner of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to extend the 5 mile per hour boating speed limit on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River through Saturday, September 2. Vessels operating within 600 feet of shore must observe the 5 mile per hour speed limit to reduce impacts to shoreline residences and infrastructure caused by wave action and to promote safe boating.

“High water continues to impact homeowners and businesses along the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and by extending the no-wake zone for an additional month, we can ensure boaters are helping to protect New York’s vulnerable shorelines,” Governor Cuomo said. “As part of the state’s ongoing response to coastal flooding in the region, this 5 mile per hour speed limit will help keep both communities and residents along the shoreline safe.”

Reduced speeds are necessary to ensure safe boating, as many hidden hazards and debris have been covered by elevated water levels and can threaten boaters. By extending the speed limit for an additional month, boat wakes and wave action will remain low along the Lake Ontario and St Lawrence shores. Waves created by boat wakes can exacerbate shoreline erosion, further threatening residential and municipal infrastructure. Local municipalities may issue tickets carrying fines of up to $250 per infraction to recreational boaters violating the 5 mph speed limit within 600 feet of shore.

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “We urge boaters heading to their favorite destinations on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to be good stewards of our state’s coastal environment. By following the reduced speed limits, boaters are helping prevent more erosion along the coastline and ensure the safety of all boaters from any potential accidents.”

Under normal conditions, boaters are required to obey the 5 mile per hour speed limit within 100 feet of the shore, dock, pier, raft, float, or anchored boat. When no speed limit is posted, vessels must always be operated in such a fashion so as not to endanger others. A vessel must be able to stop safely within the clear space ahead and a vessel operator is always responsible for any damage caused by the vessel’s wake.

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Spectacular garden in Albion will be featured on tour Saturday

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: The garden at the Riley family home in Albion, located off Braley Street near Butts Road by the canal, will be featured on a tour Saturday.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 14 July 2017 at 12:35 pm

ALBION – The volunteer master gardeners at the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension are planning a garden party on Saturday at the home of long-time Albion resident Jeanette Riley.

Participants will be able to stroll and explore the extensive gardens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as they enjoy festivities.

“We will have Zambistro’s catering, LynOaken/Leonard Oakes Estate Winery wine tasting, gardening-related lectures, and much more,” Master Gardener Kim Hazel said.

Jeanette Riley discusses her garden with Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Don O’Keefe in preparation for the Garden Party event on Saturday.

The Garden Party is a first-time event for Master Gardeners and takes the place of summer garden tours of years past.

Jeanette’s gardens were featured on the 2016 Master Gardener Garden Paths tour and offer multiple garden rooms filled with both native and unusual plants, garden ornaments, seating, gazebos, arbors and garden outbuildings, one which is constructed to include a tree trunk as part of one of its walls.

Lighting plays a major roll in ornamentation and night-time illumination in the garden. This ornate lantern looks just as beautiful in daylight as in moonlight. Note the crown embellishing the top of the post.

Jeanette said her family didn’t get serious about putting in gardens until about  20 years ago. Now, the expansive yard, which backs up to the Erie Canal, offers a seemingly endless Eden and reflects the love of the Riley family for gardening and for each other.

In fact, Jeanette said her greatest joy comes from, “being able to work with my mother and brother in the garden.”

Jeanette, her mother Alma and brother Willie have been most involved in creating and maintaing the garden, but it is enjoyed by all of Alma’s children (she has 10) and now her grandchildren when they come home for visits.

A gargoyle perches high above the garden pathway.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program which offers educational workshops, trainings, youth horticulture programs and more.

More information is available at A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

There is ample evidence throughout the garden that the Riley’s enjoy reflecting their sense of humor. Here, a sanding frog statue supports an armillary sphere.

An amazing variety of bird houses not only add charm to Jeanette’s garden, they also welcome the birds.

Small, intriguing details can be found throughout Jeanette’s garden. Here, a rustic planter in the shape of a face gazes upward and sports a crown of succulents.

A clock rises above the varied plantings and reminds gardeners anytime is a good time to be in the garden.

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Collins pleased $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in budget bill

Posted 14 July 2017 at 7:13 am

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) applauded the release of the FY18 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that includes $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

“The Great Lakes are the largest system of fresh water in the world and it is our responsibility to make sure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy,” said Collins. “I applaud the House Committee on Appropriations for recognizing the importance of the Great Lakes, which are a vital economic and environmental asset for Western New York.”

The GLRI’s projects focus on significant problems facing the Great Lakes and the biggest threats to the ecosystem. Current projects focus on:

• Cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern

• Preventing and controlling invasive species

• Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful/nuisance algal blooms

• Restoring habitat to protect native species

“The GLRI has long-term, strategic goals and needs the certainty that funding will continue for such significant projects,” said Collins. “I fully support all of the GLRI’s hard work to tackle these challenges and protect our vast resource.”

For more information on the GLRI, click here.

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200 years ago today, construction started on the Erie Canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 July 2017 at 10:03 am

File photos by Tom Rivers

This photo from Sept. 23, 2015 shows a canal boat named Canandaigua out cruising on the Erie Canal along Presbyterian Road at the widewaters section in Gaines.

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the Erie Canal’s construction. Construction started in Rome. It would take about eight years to complete the project, going 363 miles across the state.

“200 years ago, on this very day, ground was broken for the construction of America’s most iconic and enduring man-made waterway – the Erie Canal. Happy Bicentennial!” – NYS Canal Corporation tweeted today

Rome will recreate the ceremonial groundbreaking on July 22.

The tugboat Syracuse carries inspectors and officials from the State Canal Corp. on the Erie Canal in Albion on Sept. 14, 2016. The inspectors headed east after passing under the Ingersoll Street lift bridge in Albion. They were doing the annual inspection of lift bridges, locks, navigational aids, embankments and some other canal infrastructure.

A small sign on a tree in a ditch in Holley notes that this was part of the original Erie Canal loop that meandered to the Public Square area of Holley. This is a rare section of the original canal loop. The canal was widened several times after the original construction was completed in 1825.

The state veered the canal from a relatively straight line in Holley in 1823 due to the high banks and engineering challenge in dealing with Sandy Creek. The Erie Canal used to loop about 2,000 feet towards the Public Square.

There was an unusually deep ravine formed by the east branch of Sandy Creek, which presented a difficult engineering problem for builders of the original Erie Canal in the early 1820s, according to display on the north side of the canal by the Holley lift bridge. The State Canal Corp. put up that display about “The Holley Loop.”

This historical marker is next to the railroad depot used by the Murray-Holley Historical Society near the former Save-A-Lot. The original canal went near the depot and Public Square and some stone and remnants are still visible in the community.

Rather than try to build the canal on the ravine, engineers opted to take a sharp turn near the current lift bridge and cross over a relatively narrow section of the creek.

“The sharp curve required boaters to slow down, which made a promising location for canal-oriented busiensses,” according to the state display. “The Village of Holley grew at this bend in the canal.”

The canal was widened throughout the 363-mile-long system from 1905 to 1918 and much of the original canal was replaced by the wider and deeper canal.

But in Holley, some of the original remained because it wasn’t touched as part of the Barge Canal widening in the early 1900s.

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Master Gardeners do extreme makeover at former Girl Scout camp in Ridgeway

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 18 June 2017 at 1:19 pm

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Mike Snyder (standing second from left) and Gloria Brent (standing third from right), pose with Master Gardener volunteers who helped with an extreme makeover for their garden on Saturday.

RIDGEWAY – Master Gardener with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County spent Saturday morning installing a garden at the Ridgeway home of Gloria Brent and Mike Snyder, the winners of the 2016 Master Gardener Garden Makeover drawing.

Gloria and Mike own the former Oak Orchard Girl Scout camp and are working to create a park-like landscape on a portion of the property near where they someday will build a new home. They chose to have the garden installed in that area of their yard, just outside a wooded area.

The couple won the makeover/installation last September in a drawing held during the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

“She jumped up and down with the phone in her hands,”  Mike says of his wife’s reaction to winning. “She really wants to get into gardening.”

The garden area is shown before planting. Topsoil was brought in and Master Gardener volunteers added composted manure and peat moss to the site.

Brent and Snyder obtained their tickets at the Master Gardener booth during the 2016 Orleans County 4-H Fair.

“I walked up to the booth looking for knowledge about gardening, which I am going to start as a hobby,” Gloria said.

A Master Gardener explained about the Makeover drawing –  in which the winner receives design advice, plant material from Sara’s Garden Center in Brockport, and installation by Master Gardeners of a new garden (or garden renovation) on their property.  The entire makeover is valued at over $1,000.

Gloria asked if it was possible for her to simply pay for help, but was told Master Gardeners cannot do that.

So she obtained five tickets in order to, “have the best chance of winning,” she said.

Both Gloria and Mike say they are thrilled with the results and will use the new garden as inspiration for additional plantings.

Tickets for the 2017 Master Gardener Makeover are currently available from Master Gardeners for a donation of $10. Tickets will also be available at the Master Gardener booth at this year’s Orleans County 4-H Fair, July 24-29.  This year’s drawing will be held Saturday, September 9, during the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale on the 4-H Fairgrounds.

Landscape fabric is placed over the topsoil.

Mike Snyder uses heavy equipment to move a large cauldron to the garden site for placement.

Master Gardener volunteers Alex Greene and Don O’Keefe help place a large rock moved from the property to become part of the garden design.

Gloria and Mike decided to tilt the cauldron for a better view of the plants which would be placed inside. The antique is a family heirloom of Mike’s. It originated on his grandfather’s farm in Albion and was used by the family for watering cows in the pasture. Gloria and Mike wanted it to be a part of the garden in memory of Mike’s mom.

The cauldron is planted with annual flowers. Mike and Gloria will be able to change the contents each year, if they choose to do so.

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DEC advises motorists to be alert for turtles crossing the road

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from April 3 shows a painted turtle on Albion-Eagle Harbor Road in Gaines.

Posted 27 May 2017 at 9:18 am

Drivers asked to consider helping turtles cross the road; Use caution with snapping turtles

Press Release, DEC

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding the public that the state’s native turtles are on the move in May and June seeking sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs.

Drivers that see a turtle on the road should use caution and should not swerve suddenly or leave their lane of travel, but take care to avoid hitting turtles while driving.

In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year when they are struck by vehicles as the turtles migrate to their nesting areas. New York’s 11 native species of land turtles are in decline, and turtles can take more than 10 years to reach breeding age. The reptiles lay just one small clutch of eggs each year, which means the loss of a breeding female can have a significant effect on the local turtle population.

This time of year, it is especially important to be on the lookout for turtles and to drive cautiously, particularly on roads near rivers and marshy areas. If a turtle is spotted on the road or near the shoulder, drivers should safely stop their vehicle and consider moving the turtle to the side of the road in the direction the reptile is facing.

Picking the turtle up by its tail may frighten or injure the reptile. Most turtles can be picked up by the side of their shells.

It’s important to use extreme caution when moving snapping turtles; either pick the turtle up at the rear of the shell near the tail using two hands, or slide a car mat under the turtle to drag the turtle across the road. Do not take the turtle into personal possession. All native turtles are protected by law and cannot be collected without a permit.

Boaters urged to show extra caution due to debris in lake and tributaries

Posted 27 May 2017 at 8:50 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A boater passes through the channel at Oak Orchard Harbor at Point Breeze in this photo from May 28, 2015. Boaters are being asked to respect a 500-foot no-wake zone near the shore due to high Lake Ontario waters.

Press Release, Orleans County Undersheriff Chris Bourke

(Editor’s Note: The article was updated to say the state boat launch on Archibald Road is closed due to high water levels.)

Orleans County Sheriff’s Undersheriff Christopher Bourke would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the 2017 boating and fishing season is upon us and the Sheriff’s Office Marine Division is in service and ready to assist people enjoying the waterways of Orleans County this summer.

Despite Lake Ontario and the rivers being at an all-time high, small craft boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing is allowable and has not been restricted in any way. Sheriff Randy Bower is asking boaters to take into consideration the erosion occurring along shoreline properties and to respect a 500 feet no-wake zone when near shore. The lakes and rivers have debris in them so extra caution should be taken so as to not damage your vessel or equipment.

Many privately owned marinas are open but may be partially underwater so it is best to contact them for launching and docking arrangements. The Orleans County Launch at Point Breeze is open, as well as the boat launches at Lake Alice, Glenwood Lake and the Erie Canal. (The state boat launch on Archibald Road is closed due to high water levels.)

The Orleans County Marine Park on Point Breeze Road is also open and ready for the season with our newly constructed playground for children, pavilions, picnic tables and bathroom facilities.

Please call 585-589-3102 or check out the Orleans County Tourism website and Facebook page for updates on dock rental at the Marine Park as well as upcoming summer activities such as our fantastic “Tuesday Night in the Park” Summer Concert Series, Classic Car Cruise Nights and great family events.

Also please refer to the Tourism webpage and Facebook page for their weekly fishing report as Orleans County continues to be one of the premier fishing destinations in the country.

For any questions regarding upcoming boater’s safety classes, requests for vessels safety checks, or general questions for the Sheriff’s Marine Division, you may call the Marine Office at 585-682-4366.

The Sheriff’s Office wishes everyone a safe summer.

Conservation Field Days give students a chance to learn about many earth-friendly topics

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Megan McAnn, a Soil and Water Technician, discusses the impact of soil erosion on the environment – both in farm fields and in cities and towns.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 25 May 2017 at 11:21 am

KNOWLESVILLE – Sixth-graders from all five school districts in Orleans County are taking part in the annual Orleans 4-H Conservation Field Days on Wednesday and today.

The event at Orleans County Fairgrounds in Knowlesville brings Cornell Cooperative Extension and many agencies in the community together. It’s a hands-on, outdoors event that allows students to interact with professionals and experts from many fields, including environmental conservation, wildlife management, energy conservation, horticulture and water/boating safety with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.

“The students get a lot out of it,” said Orleans County 4-H Program Coordinator Missy Call. “It sticks with them, many people as adults remember their Conservation Field Days experience. It’s a great tradition that we are proud to keep going.”

Bob Barrus and Tyler Barrus of the Orleans County Sheriffs Department, discuss water and boating safety with students.

Students visit the log cabin on the fairgrounds and learn about the use of hunting and trapping in wildlife management. Mark Gregoire discusses the need for wildlife management and how it effects the environment.

Meaghan Boice-Green of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation helps students learn about “energy contenders.”  Students had a chance to see if their “energy company” could come out ahead in the battle for natural resources.

Siblings Andrew (back to camera) and Claudia Drechsel of Holley returned to Conservation Field Days with their heritage sheep. Both are 4-Hers and students at Holley Middle School/High School. They shared their knowledge of heritage breeds, what makes them unique and why it is important to preserve heritage breeds.

The Drechsels brought samples of the sheep’s wool for students to touch and hold. The Drechsels discussed how sheep’s wool is processed.

One of the most popular stations is station #10 – “Conserve electricity – turn off Xbox and play with a dog”.  4-Hers in the Orleans County 4-H Dog Program teach students about dog agility. Here “Gemma” runs through an obstacle course with the help of Amber Kiefer.

Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Judy Larkin shows students from Lyndonville Central School worms working to compost food scraps. Master Gardeners discussed backyard composting and vermi-composting (worm composting) – which utilizes a worm bin.

Other topics covered by educational stations included a wildlife habitat walk, green power/energy conservation, rabies with the Orleans County Health Department, mammal identification with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Sunrise Bees with information on the importance of honeybees in agricultural production as well as the importance of beekeeping to human survival.

Students from Holley, Lyndonville and Medina Central Schools visited the fairgrounds on Wednesday. Students from Kendall and Albion Central Schools will participate in Conservation Field Days today.

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Hawley touts free recreational boating on canal this year

Staff Reports Posted 23 May 2017 at 8:04 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: The lights are on early in the morning at this large canal vessel in Albion. This photo was taken in October 2014.

The Erie Canal opened for its 193rd boating season on Friday. The season continues until Oct. 11 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“In celebration of the bicentennial and tremendous heritage of the canal, I am pleased to announce that permit fees for recreational vessels will be waived this year and the New York State Canal Corporation will be hosting a series of events in towns along the canal from Albany to Buffalo,” State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said in a news release. “I encourage all of my constituents to attend one of these fun events this summer and learn more about the Erie Canal and its history by visiting  or”

The canal opened in 1825, following eight years of construction. This year is the start of an bicentennial celebration because construction started in 1817.

“The Erie Canal is one example of how New York has been a leader in innovation, commerce and transportation for centuries,” Hawley said. “My Assembly District alone contains 56 percent of all lift bridges on the Erie Canal system and I have seen firsthand how thriving communities like Brockport, Medina, Albion, Holley, Murray, Ridgeway, Sweden, Gaines and Hulberton have benefited and will continue to benefit from the increased tourism and commerce.”

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$10 million for municipalities to repair roads, public water infrastructure damaged from Lake Ontario flooding, erosion

Posted 22 May 2017 at 10:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A section of Thompson Drive at the western end of Kendall has been eaten up by Lake Ontario.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $10 million in state funding is available to assist eligible local municipalities that have been impacted by the recent flooding along the Lake Ontario coastline. The new investment program will support flood recovery efforts, including repairs to flood walls, roads, sidewalks, and culverts, as well as public water and sewer infrastructure.

The funding is available through New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The program will be open to applications for funding from municipal governments in counties that were identified in Governor Cuomo’s May 2, 2017 emergency declaration.

Earlier this month, the Governor declared a State of Emergency in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wayne counties for the region in order to expedite repairs to impacted structures and construction of shoreline stabilization projects. Additionally, staff from the Lake Ontario Rapid Response Team continue to be deployed to assist residents and monitor response efforts along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

“As Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River continue to slowly rise, we must do everything in our power to ease the financial and personal toll on our families and communities, while fortifying our infrastructure to ensure its continued viability,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this available funding, we are ramping up our multi-agency response efforts to help these communities and provide the assistance that they need now.”

Since the end of April, more than 1.2 million sandbags have been deployed to help localities mitigate against damage to their homes and businesses, along with 11 sandbagging machines – at least one in each effected county. In addition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed field teams to provide on-the-ground technical assistance and coordination with state and local emergency management personnel.

“Our communities on Lake Ontario are working hard to fight off flood damage to roads, floodwalls and the public water infrastructure in several locations along the lakefront spanning from Jefferson County to Niagara,” Lieutenant Governor Hochul said during the announcement in Fair Haven today. “Governor Cuomo has committed $10 million in state funding to help make needed infrastructure repairs in these communities, and we will continue our ongoing support in manpower, sandbagging and assistance at our Mobile Command Center.”

Report Suspected Price Gouging

The Governor is asking residents to report suspected price gouging to the Lake Ontario Flood Assistance Hotline at 866-244-3839. The hotline is available for residents and businesses concerned about potential price gouging or other exploitative practices by service providers in the area. If you believe you are being charged excessive prices for any essential consumer goods or services during the present disaster situation, you are urged to call the hotline and staff will connect you to the Department of State Division of Consumer Protection.

Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers

In addition, the state will continue to deploy Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers staffed by Department of Financial Services personnel who can help residents navigate the insurance claim process. Since the deployment of the Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers, over 700 individuals have asked for insurance assistance at the various locations in the eight affected counties.

Department of Environmental Conservation experts are also available at the Mobile Command Centers to help answer questions on the Storm Recovery General Permit, describe the specific types of repair and stabilization work authorized, and provide assistance in completing the application form. In certain instances, based on the available information provided by applicants, DEC will provide permits on-site or expedite further review and field visits necessary to issue permits. To obtain the required authorization under this General Permit, residents should come prepared by reading the General Permit and Application Instructions; determine whether or not the proposed work is within the scope of the General Permit; fill out the Application for General Permit GP-0-17-006 and provide drawings, plans, photos (if available) and a location map.

In addition, DEC has deployed a team of experienced coastal engineers to Lake Ontario to meet with property owners, conduct site visits and offer technical assistance. DEC’s engineers stand ready to work with property owners so that protective structures can be repaired and homeowners can take appropriate actions expeditiously. To date, DEC has issued 247 permits.

The NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers will be at the below locations over the next five days. In addition, those who are not able to visit the Emergency Response Mobile Command Center can call the Department of Financial Service’s Disaster Hotline at 1-800-339-1759, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 p.m. for help with insurance-related issues.

The NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center will be back in Orleans County in Carlton on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Orleans County Marine Park, Point Breeze Road (Route 98).

Regional Resource Deployment

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Emergency Management continues to coordinate with county and local partners in monitoring the rising levels of Lake Ontario and additional resources from other state stockpiles have been shifted to locations in Monroe county in the event that conditions worsen. To date, more than 1.2 million sandbags have been deployed to affected communities to help mitigate flooding.

Currently, assets have been deployed to Orleans County, including 130,000 sandbags distributed, 1 sandbagger, 52 National Guard members, State sandbagging operation at 14410 Route 31 in Albion, 3 Department of Corrections and Community Supervision inmate crews with two in the Town of Kendall and one in the Town of Carlton.

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