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nature & waterways

Task Force named to reimagine the Canal Corridor

Posted 10 June 2019 at 10:27 am

Press Release, New York Power Authority

Photo by Tom Rivers: Fireworks go off in Holley near the canal and lift bridge last June 3, 2018 when the village capped its annual June Fest celebration.

ALBANY – The members of a task force established to reimagine the Erie Canal were announced on Friday. The panel will make sweeping recommendations to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Board of Trustees of the New York State Canal Corporation as to how this historic waterway can be used to address resilience challenges and leverage economic development and recreational opportunities along its 363-mile route.

The task force will lead the Reimagine the Canals initiative announced last month by Governor Cuomo, who is seeking new opportunities for the 195-year-old waterway, which helped transform New York from an agrarian state to an industrial powerhouse, to directly benefit the communities it travels through. It is expected the panel will develop a set of strategic recommendations for the canal system to be presented to the Governor.

“This is a unique opportunity to improve upon one of New York’s most valuable assets,” said Joanie Mahoney, chair of the task force. “With the experts we have to serve on the task force, I know the future of the Erie Canal is in very good hands.”

The task force will focus on several areas affecting the Erie Canal, including:

• Potential new uses to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers

• How the Canal can support and enhance economic development

• New opportunities to enhance recreation and tourism

• Ways the Canal can mitigate impacts from flooding and ice jams, improve resiliency and restore ecosystems in canal communities

• Opportunities to use Canal infrastructure to expand irrigation for Western New York farms

In addition to serving as task force chair, Mahoney, New York State Thruway Authority chair and former Onondaga County Executive, will serve as regional lead for the central region. Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy will be regional lead for the Western region, while former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens will be regional lead for the Mohawk Valley.

The task force is slated to hold its first meeting later this month. Several public meetings, to be held across the state this summer, will be announced soon. The task force is expected to present its recommendations to Governor Cuomo by the end of the year.

John Robinson, a member of the new canal task force, is pictured on June 30, 2015 on his third ride along the Erie Canal, going 363 miles from Buffalo to Albany. He is pictured with his wife Andrea. They are close to the Main Street lift bridge in Albion. Robinson used an adaptive-use bicycle to make the trip on the towpath. He runs a business, Our Ability, which promotes inclusivity in the workplace for people with disabilities in the workplace.

The task force members are drawn from a variety of fields with active stakes in the canal’s future, including maritime recreation, tourism, agriculture, historic preservation, resilience and environmental conservation. They are:

• Michael Arcuri, Arcuri Ward Law, Utica

• Leslie Becraft-Corrigan, General Manager, Winter Harbor Marina, Brewerton

• Andy Beers, Director, Empire State Trail/Hudson River Valley Greenway

• David Buicko, President & CEO, Galesi Group

• John Courain, Operations Director, Genesee Waterways Center

• Marie Cramer, Canal New York

• Maureen Doyle, President, Central NY Waterways

• Robin Dropkin, Executive Director, Parks and Trails New York

• John Garver, Professor, Geology, Union College

• Stuart Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer, the Nature Conservancy

• Chris Lajewski, National Audubon Society

• Ross Levi, Executive Director of Tourism, Empire State Development (I Love NY)

• Cornelius Murphy, Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

• Bill Nechamen, Executive Director, NYS Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association

• Derrick Pratt, Program Director, Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum

• Bob Radliff, Executive Director, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

• John Robinson, CEO, Our Ability

• Bruce Van Hise, Executive Director, Corn Hill Waterfront & Navigation Foundation

• Jeff Williams, Public Policy Director, New York Farm Bureau

Ex-Officio Members

• Richard Ball, NYS Agriculture and Markets Commissioner

• Eric Kulleseid, NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner

• Rossana Rosado, NYS Secretary of State

• Basil Seggos, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner

• Brian Stratton, NYS Canal Corporation Director

• Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development President and CEO

Helping guide the task force will be the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a part of the State University of New York. It will oversee the series of public meetings across the canal region, where residents, business owners, municipal leaders and other stakeholders can offer their ideas and insights about the Canal’s future.

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Lakeshore flood watch in effect Sunday to Tuesday

Photo by Tom Rivers: A dock in the Oak Orchard Harbor is shown on a foggy Tuesday afternoon. The water levels are up this year in Lake Ontario and tributaries.

Staff Reports Posted 31 May 2019 at 12:54 pm

A lakeshore flood watch is in effect from 6 p.m. Sunday until 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

The flood watch includes the counties of Orleans, Niagara, Monroe, Wayne, northern Cayuga and Oswego counties.

“The combination of very high lake levels and moderate to strong northwest winds will result in greater wave action and an increase in lakeshore flooding on the southern shoreline of Lake Ontario,” the Weather Service said.

Lakeshore flooding may increase, especially in bays, inlets, and other low-lying areas along the shoreline with wave action producing an increase in shoreline erosion, the Weather Service said.

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Erie Canal has been refilled for upcoming navigational season

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 May 2019 at 1:44 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Main Street lift bridge is pictured with a full Erie Canal on Friday. The canal was filled with water last week.

The canal will open for its navigational season on May 17. The tolls for recreational vessels have once again been waived this year.

This year the boating season on the canal will run from May 17 to Oct. 16.

One of the tenders, a small tugboat, is pictured at the canal in Albion on Friday.

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Governor, on Earth Day, signs legislation banning single-use plastic bags

Posted 22 April 2019 at 2:32 pm

‘We’re putting an end to this blight on our environment.’ – Gov. Cuomo

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on today on Earth Day that bans the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York starting in March 2020, a significant step to reduce pollution and protect fish and wildlife.

“Single-use” plastic bags do not degrade and often wind up as litter on lands and in waters, harming birds or wildlife that ingest the plastic. It is estimated that New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually, and nationwide studies show that approximately 50 percent of single-use plastic bags end up as litter. In addition to preventing plastic bag litter in our environment, this ban will also help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal, from petroleum used to produce the bags to emissions from the transportation of bags to landfills.

“You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage,” Governor Cuomo said. “Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we’re putting an end to this blight on our environment.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure the roll-out of this initiative does not disproportionately impact low and moderate income and environmental justice communities through the distribution of reusable bags.

The legislation signed today bans the provision of single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale, and provides DEC exclusive jurisdiction over all matters related to plastic bags. Under the new law, garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods, such as fruits and sliced meats are exempt from the ban.

Counties or cities will also be permitted to charge a 5-cent fee for single-use paper bags. Three cents from the fee will go to the Environmental Protection Fund, while the other two cents will go to the locality to pay for distribution of reusable bags.

New York joins California and Hawaii as the only states where single-use plastic bags are banned.

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Several groups will be part of canal cleanup this weekend

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2019 at 11:02 am

Provided photo: Medina Boy Scout Troop 35 and Cub Scout Pack 35 are pictured last April by the Canal Culvert as part of the “Canal Clean Sweep.” The Scouts will be back at the site on Saturday picking up trash and litter.

Several groups will be part of the annual “Canal Clean Sweep” this weekend in Orleans County. The state-wide effort is promoted by the NYS Canal Corp. and Parks & Trails NY. The annual event happens near Earth Day, which is actually today.

There will be cleanup efforts in Holley, Albion, Knowlesville and Medina this weekend for the 14th annual Canal Clean Sweep.

This weekend there will be cleanup events at the following locations in Orleans County:

• ALBION – The Lockstone, a business planned on Natasha Wasuck at 160 North Main St., is sponsoring a cleanup at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Volunteers are asked to show up at the Lockstone and then head east and west to pick up trash along the canal.

• HOLLEY – On Saturday, the Masonic Lodge No. 713 in Kendall will start at 9 a.m. at the Holley Canal Park on East Avenue.

Masons will clean the towpath on both sides of the canal from the Canal Park eastward to Countyline Road.

• RIDGEWAY – Boy Scouts from Troop 35 and Cub Scouts from Troop 35 will meet at the Canal Culvert at 9 a.m. Saturday on Culvert Road to pick up garbage in the culvert tunnel and also up on the towpath.

• MEDINA – On Saturday, the Sons of the American Legion will start at 9 a.m. at the Legion Post on North Main Street. They will pick up trash from the Post, heading east to the Bates Road canal launch ramp. The Sons will also work on landscaping at Glenwood Avenue bridge over the Erie Canal.

• MEDINA – The Medina Lions Club also will do its annual environmental cleanup day on May 27, starting at Lions Park on North Gravel Road (Route 63) at 9 a.m.

• MIDDLEPORT – Volunteers are welcome Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Carmen Bridge parking area and then head west to clean to the former Peet Street parking area.

For more on Canal Clean Sweep, click here.

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Bald eagles pictured at Iroquois Wildlife Refuge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2019 at 11:29 am

Photos courtesy of Stephanie DiGiulio

Two bald eagles are pictured today at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Stephanie DiGiulio of Albion took the photos. She was thrilled, as a Albion graduate (home of the Purple Eagles), to take photos of the majestic creatures.

She didn’t want to give out an exact location for the eagles, so they don’t get disturbed from an influx of visitors.

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Pileated Woodpecker makes presence heard in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2019 at 11:48 am

CARLTON – Michael Smith took these photos of a Pileated Woodpecker on Monday, which was pecking away at a maple tree stump in Smith’s front yard on Route 18.

“My wife heard him pecking loudly at the tree from inside the house,” Smith said. “The tree face fits the situation.”

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large woodpecker that can seem like a crow. This woodpecker tends to have a red chest and a red stripe on its cheek.

Click here for more about the Pileated Woodpecker.

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Trout and salmon fishing season starts on April 1

Staff Reports Posted 27 March 2019 at 3:22 pm

DEC will stock 33,670 brown trout in Carlton at Lake Ontario

The trout and salmon fishing season in New York State opens on Monday, April 1.

The Department of Environmental Conservation also will be stocking 2.33 million catchable-size brook, brown and rainbow trout in 311 lakes and ponds and roughly 2,845 miles of streams across the state.

That includes 33,670 brown trout, about 8 to 9 inches long, in Carlton at Lake Ontario.

Spring stockings will include 1.74 million brown trout, 433,855 rainbow trout and 157,200 brook trout. Approximately 97,000 two-year-old brown trout 13 to 14 inches in length are included in the brown trout total.

Stocking supports the state’s growing sportfishing industry, which generates an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity each year.

“New York is home to world-class trout and salmon fishing in virtually every corner of the state,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Heading out on opening day is a cherished tradition for generations of families, and I encourage New Yorkers and visitors alike to get outside and enjoy all the great fishing that our waters have to offer.”

As winter gives way to spring, stream anglers should be prepared to adapt fishing plans and tactics to variable temperatures and flows. In cold weather, bait and lures that can be fished slow and deep often prove effective in rousing sluggish trout. As water temperatures rise, anglers can shift to more active styles of fishing such as dry fly fishing.

“Excitement is building across the state as anglers prepare their gear for one of the most anticipated fishing days on the calendar,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Temperatures are beginning to rise and conditions should improve throughout April and May, as trout and salmon feed more actively on their natural foods. I encourage angling veterans and novices alike to get out there and enjoy New York’s excellent angling opportunities.”

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DEC to hold March 27 meeting on plans for wildlife management areas in Genesee, Orleans

Posted 21 March 2019 at 1:42 pm

Press Release, Department of Environmental Conservation

TOWN OF ALABAMA – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will host a public information session to provide information and answer questions about recently completed habitat management plans for John White Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located in the town of Alabama, Genesee County, and Oak Orchard WMA, located in the towns of Alabama and Oakfield, Genesee County, and the towns of Barre and Shelby, Orleans County.

The session will take place on Wednesday, March 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Town of Alabama Fire Department (Station 1), 2230 Judge Road, in the hamlet of South Alabama. The session will begin with an informal open house from 6:30 to 7 p.m., with DEC staff available for discussion. A formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m.

The fire department is wheelchair accessible. Please contact DEC Biologist Michael Palermo at (585) 226-5383 with any specific requests for accommodations.

“DEC is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitats on the John White and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas to benefit declining wildlife species like black terns, sedge wrens, and least bitterns, and popular game animals like pheasant, turkey, and deer,” said Regional Director Paul D’Amato. “We look forward to engaging with the public about these habitat management plans and continuing to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

John White WMA consists of 329 acres that are primarily grassland in the Town of Alabama. Large grasslands are a relatively scarce habitat type in Western New York, and the grasslands on the WMA are important to several species, including bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, horned larks, northern harriers, and short-eared owls.

Oak Orchard WMA consists of 2,554 acres that are primarily wetland in the towns of Barre and Shelby, Orleans County; towns of Oakfield and Alabama, Genesee County; Town of Newstead, Erie County; and Town of Royalton, Niagara County.

Wetlands on the WMA are extensive and diverse, composed of emergent marsh, scrub-shrub swamp, and forested wetlands. Some large grassland fields also occur on this WMA.

Habitat management goals for both WMAs are to maintain a diversity of wetland and upland habitats that benefit a wide range of resident and migrating wildlife species, including several rare and declining species.

DEC will continue to actively manage these WMAs to benefit wildlife, while using best management practices. Planned management activities include: (1) timber harvests to improve forest health; (2) manipulation of water-levels in wetland impoundments; (3) mowing and replanting of grassland fields; and (4) control of invasive plant species.

The meeting will include a presentation about the history of management on these WMAs, specific activities and locations for the planned management actions, an overview of forest habitat management, and a question and answer period.

The habitat management plan for John White WMA can be found on DEC’s website. The habitat management plan for Oak Orchard WMA can also be found on DEC’s website. For more information about this event please call (585) 226-5383.

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DEC announces brush burning ban from March 16 to May 14

Posted 12 March 2019 at 2:07 pm

Press Release, DEC

File photo by Tom Rivers: Joe Morlino (right) of the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company joined firefighters in battling a brush fire on July 12, 2016 on Ridge Road in Murray, preventing the fire from destroying a house and spreading to a nearby wooded area.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminds residents that with spring approaching conditions for wildfires will become heightened and residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York State.

“While many people associate wildfires with the western United States, the start of spring weather and the potential for dry conditions increases the risk for wildfires in New York,” Seggos said. “New York prohibits residential burning during the coming high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property, and natural resources. The ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and we’re encouraging New Yorkers to put safety first.”

Even though much of the state is currently blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise.

DEC posts daily a fire danger rating map and forecast during fire season on its website and on the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App available on DEC’s website. Currently, wildfire conditions in the state are low risk.

Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris, dead grass, and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.

New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. State regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires in New York occur. Since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6 percent, from 2,649 in 2009, to 1,521 in 2018.

Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave such fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.

Wildfires can be deadly and destructive, and the national annual cost of their consequences can range anywhere from $71.1 to $347.8 billion, according to recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Last year’s Camp Fire in northern California destroyed the city of Paradise and killed more than 80 people, making it the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century. This year, the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the launch of the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign, the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

Violators of the state’s open burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online on DEC’s website.

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