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nature & waterways

Boats return for another season on Erie Canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 May 2018 at 12:37 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A boat passes by the Ingersoll Street lift bridge on Friday afternoon in Albion. Friday was opening day for the western end of the canal, including the section in Orleans County.

The Canal Corporation is waiving tolls again this year for recreational vessels as the state continues to commemorate 200 years of Erie Canal history. The Erie Canal was under construction from 1817 to 1825. This year is the canal’s 194th season.

2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal, when the expansion of the Erie Canal was complete in 1918.

The standard hours of operation for the 2018 season are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lift bridges in Orleans County have extended hours until 10 p.m. from May 18 to Sept. 12.

The canal’s navigation season continues until Oct. 10.

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Canal opens for 194th season with no tolls for recreational boaters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2018 at 9:40 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: It was quiet while it was raining this morning on the Erie Canal in Albion, where these vessels are tied up near the Ingersoll Street lift bridge.

The Erie Canal opens at 10 a.m. today for its 194th season.

The Canal Corporation is waiving tolls again this year for recreational vessels as the state continues to commemorate 200 years of Erie Canal history. The Erie Canal was under construction from 1817 to 1825.

The Canal Corp. also waived the tolls last year. Those tolls are normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal, when the expansion of the Erie Canal was complete in 1918.

The standard hours of operation for the 2018 season are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lift bridges in Orleans County have extended hours until 10 p.m. from May 18 to Sept. 12.

The canal’s navigation season continues until Oct. 10.

Update: The Erie Canal section in Orleans County doesn’t open until May 18.

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Governor introduces bill to ban plastic bags

Posted 23 April 2018 at 4:58 pm

‘The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment.’ – Governor Cuomo

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today introduced a program bill that would ban all single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale in New York State. This action follows the release of the New York State Plastic Bags Task Force report in January, which outlined the environmental impact of plastic bags, single-use bag reduction measures, and proposed actions that the state could take to reduce pollution and protect New York’s natural resources, including a ban on single-use plastic bags.

“The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment,” Governor Cuomo said. “As the old proverb goes: ‘We did not inherit the earth, we are merely borrowing it from our children,’ and with this action we are helping to leave a stronger, cleaner and greener New York for all.”

As communities and states across the country continue to struggle with the ecological and financial costs associated with the use of plastic bags, New York is taking action to implement legislation that will ban plastic bags statewide. The Governor launched the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force in March 2017 to conduct a study and develop a comprehensive solution to the use and disposal of plastic bags and how best to deter their environmental impact. The Task Force is led by State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos along with co-chairs Senator Thomas O’Mara and Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

The Task Force conducted a survey of more than a dozen municipalities in New York State that currently have plastic bag laws. The Task Force also encouraged public comment on the issue and received 558 responses between March and December 2017. The full report is available by clicking here.

Based on recommendations included in the report, the Governor is introducing a program bill that would ban the provision of single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale, and would provide the Department of Environmental Conservation with exclusive jurisdiction over all matters related to plastic bags and film plastic recycling. The bill exempts garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods, such as fruits and sliced meats. The bill would go into effect on January 1, 2019.

In addition to the legislation, the state will undertake an education and outreach campaign to increase consumer awareness of single-use bags and their harmful impact on the environment. Education efforts will also seek to educate consumers of the impact plastic bags have on the environment and the waste stream, and promote use of reusable bags.

Plastic Bag Environmental Impacts

A ban on single-use plastic carryout bags will significantly reduce waste and environmental impacts. New York City alone estimates a savings of $12.5 million in disposal costs by reducing the number of single-use plastic bags. These costs do not include the significant cleanup costs to remove plastic through litter collection programs and beach and ocean cleanup efforts. In addition, the ban will reduce the raw materials and natural resources used to make, transport, and recycle these bags. Fewer carryout bags given away at checkout could result in decreased recycling and disposal costs for municipalities and municipal recycling facilities.

Currently, 10 cities, towns, and villages in New York have enacted plastic bag bans. One municipality has a plastic bag ban with a fee on single-use paper bags and bags that qualify as reusable, including 2.25 mil flexible plastic bags. The City of Long Beach has a single-use plastic bag fee in place and Suffolk County’s single-use plastic bag fee took effect on January 1, 2018.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originated on land, which includes plastic bags, and in New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, which contributes to pollution both on and off land. These bags do not biodegrade and they persist for years.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo is taking real, enforceable action today to reduce the scourge of plastic bag waste blighting our communities, state lands, and waters. From Buffalo to the Adirondack Park, and from the Catskills to the Long Island Sound, plastic bag waste is degrading our natural resources and forcing municipalities to spend precious resources to address it. Today’s announcement reinforces the Governor’s standing as an innovative, forward-thinking environmental leader.”

Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said, “Plastic pollution has become a serious threat to our lakes, rivers and marine environment as well as public health. Scientists are finding plastic pollution in shellfish and finfish, making its way to our dinner plates. Giving up plastic bags and using reusable bags is one easy, reasonable step each member of the public can take to help combat the plastic pollution epidemic. It is time for everyone to get on the plastic bag ‘ban wagon.’ We are thrilled Governor Cuomo has introduced this bill and is providing national leadership to address plastic pollution.”

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7 finalists named in $2.5 million ‘Reimagine the Canals’ competition

Posted 10 April 2018 at 12:43 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office 

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Brown Street bridge in Albion, which has been closed for about six years, is pictured on March 30.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that seven finalists have been chosen for the $2.5 million Reimagine the Canals Competition, which seeks innovative ideas to transform the State’s Canal System.

The competition, managed by the Canal Corporation and the New York Power Authority, seeks new approaches for how to both use the canals as an engine for economic development and also to become a hub for tourism and recreation.

“This competition to bring new life into the historic Canal System is occurring in the same year as the System’s centennial, and it’s clear from the creativity in these entries that the future for the next century is very bright,” Governor Cuomo said. “With the contributions from these finalists, our canals will continue to serve a transformative role in helping the Upstate economy thrive.”

The seven finalists were drawn from a field of 145 entries from nine countries and nine states and were announced today in Syracuse during a celebration at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Each of the teams will receive up to $50,000 to further develop their entries for the next stage.

Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, which operates the state Canal System as a subsidiary, said, “The response to this competition is amazing and it is clear the judges had some tough choices to make. Picking the final winners will be just as difficult, but we are confident we’ll have some great ideas for the Canal System that can be put into action.”

Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation Director said, “These entries embrace the passion and pride in the Canal System that is prevalent in the 225 communities it passes through. They honor the heritage of the canals while at the same time offering bold ideas that can make the canals a vital force in the upstate economy and give people more reasons to visit.”

Final submissions will be due in early July. The winners, who will receive between $250,000 and $1.5 million to plan and implement their projects, are slated to be announced in the early fall.

The programs and initiatives are intended to promote the Canal System and its trails as a tourist destination and recreational asset for New York residents and visitors; sustainable economic development along the Canal System; the Canal System’s heritage; and the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal Corporation. Additionally, the competition sought entries on two separate tracks, one for infrastructure; the other for programs that have the potential to increase recreation use and tourism.

The finalists are:

• Go the Distance: this initiative will look to develop overnight accommodations for recreational users of the canal system. The team includes the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor from Waterford, NY; Gray Slate Partners from Troy, NY; 2K Design from Clifton Park, NY and Dorgan Architecture & Planning from Storrs, Conn.

• Canal Winterlocks: seeks to develop winter-time uses for the Erie Canal, potentially including skating, hockey, winter festivals and cross-country skiing. The team includes Clare Lyster Urbanism and Architecture and John Ronan Architects, both from Chicago and Urban Engineers from Philadelphia.

• Great Erie Canal Race: a multi-day race for many types of watercraft, with a component for bikers and hikers. The team, led by Parks and Trails New York, includes Joe Gustainis from Caledonia, NY and Karthik Namasivayam from Pittsford, NY, as advisors.

• Intra-Works: installations of art and sculpture to forge a cultural identity that links up the Canal System. The team includes the architecture and planning firms Collective Studio from New York City and WRT and Interface, both from Philadelphia.

• Pocket Neighborhoods: a model for canal-side neighborhoods that have the Erie Canal as the core of their identity. The team includes the Madison County Planning Department and Stream Collaborative, an architecture firm in Ithaca.

• Western New York Irrigation: this plan will build off the canal’s water infrastructure to expand its irrigation capabilities. The team includes SUNY ESF Professor Stephen Shaw, C&S Companies of Syracuse and the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

• Upstate Archipelago: this team is developing designs for resilient water landscapes that also provide public recreation space and wildlife habitat. The team includes Cornell Design, Ithaca; Cornell Cooperative Extension and H+N+S, a landscape architecture firm based in the Netherlands.

The New York State Canal System, formerly known as the Barge Canal, opened on May 15, 1918. To mark the occasion, the Canal Corporation will waive tolls for the 2018 navigation season, which begins May 15 on the eastern Erie Canal and May 18 on the rest of the 524-mile system. The original Erie Canal was completed in 1825.

For more information about the competition, go to

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With arrival of spring, DEC warns that black bears are on the move

Posted 6 April 2018 at 3:43 pm

Press Release, Department of Environmental Conservation

File photo: A black bear is pictured in Kendall on West Kendall Road in this photo from Aug. 11, 2014.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today issued guidance on how to prevent negative encounters with black bears. Nearly all negative bear encounters in New York are the result of hungry bears being attracted to human food sources. The simplest way to avoid a nuisance encounter is to remove potential food sources, which usually results in the bear moving on.

New York’s black bears emerge from the winter denning period and need to replenish their nutrients and body fat. To do so, they may travel long distances to preferred habitats that vary from season to season. Bears must often cross roads or pass through developed areas to find these different habitat types, and they often find human food readily accessible if homeowners do not take necessary precautions.

Not every bear that passes through a developed area is a problem bear, but readily available human food sources can quickly turn them into one. Bears can obtain all of the food they need from the forest but they are intelligent and opportunistic animals that will find and consume whatever food they can find most easily. Bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters, barbecue grills, unsecured out-buildings or vehicles containing food or waste all are potential attractants to bears.

Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is very difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be illegally killed, or may become a threat to public safety.

In some cases, DEC is asked to relocate these bears. However, bear relocations are rarely effective at solving the problem and can be dangerous. Relocated bears often return to their original capture site, or may simply continue their bad habits at a new location. Additionally, if the circumstances that led to the original problem are not corrected, other bears may be attracted to the site and the human/bear conflicts will persist.

It is dangerous and illegal to intentionally feed bears. The incidental, indirect feeding of black bears, such as with bird feeders or garbage, is also unlawful after a written warning has been issued by DEC.

Occasionally, a bear becomes so habituated to human environments and conditioned to human foods that its behavior creates a clear threat to public safety and property. It is in the best interest of both bears and people for bears to get their food solely from wild sources.

To reduce the chance of negative black bear encounters around your home, DEC recommends these simple precautions:

• Never feed bears! It is illegal, dangerous and detrimental to bears.

• If you believe bears are being fed in your area, or suspect a nuisance bear situation, report it to DEC immediately.

• Take down bird feeders after April 1. Birds do not need supplemental food in the spring and summer, when natural foods are most abundant (even if you believe your birdfeeder to be inaccessible to bears, the birds will drop seed on the ground, which attracts bears to your yard).

• Clean off barbecue grills before night fall (don’t forget the grease trap), and if possible, store grills inside when not in use.

• Store garbage in a secure building or location, secure can lids with ropes/bungees/chains, never over-fill cans, and dispose of garbage as frequently as possible.

• If you live in an area where bears may occur, put garbage containers out by the curb just before the scheduled pick-up – never the night before.

• If you live in a densely populated bear area, consider using a certified bear-resistant garbage container.

• Clean garbage cans frequently with ammonia products.

• Do not burn garbage: it is illegal and can attract bears.

• Do not add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost pile.

• Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed outside, immediately remove all uneaten food and dishes.

• It is important to appreciate and respect black bears as wild animals, from a distance.

To learn more about New York’s black bears, visit the DEC website or look for the DEC’s DVD: ‘Living with New York Black Bears’ available at most local public libraries in New York.

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106k Chinook, 21k steelhead delivered to Oak Orchard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 April 2018 at 3:50 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – The fishing community at Point Breeze welcomed more than 100,000 fish today. The Department of Environmental Conservation delivered Steelhead and Chinook salmon from the Altmar Hatchery.

The top photo shows volunteers working with the DEC to release 106,500 Chinook salmon into pens by Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina.

There also were 21,000 steelhead released into the Oak Orchard River at the Bridges near Captain’s Cove and Narby’s Superette and Tackle.

The 106,500 Chinook salmon were released into pens, where they will spend the next 3 to 3 ½ weeks. The extra time in the pens will allow the fish to double in size and also imprint on the Oak Orchard, making it far more likely they will return to the Oak Orchard when they are mature in about 3 to 4 years.

Right now the fish are only about 2 inches long. When they are mature, they should be 25 to 30 pounds – or bigger.

The team of charter boat captains and other Point Breeze stakeholders started the pen-rearing project in 1998. Bob Songin, center, led the effort. He passed the leaderships reins about three years ago but continues to help with the pen rearing.

Since the pen rearing, charter boat captains say they noticed a big change with more fish in the Oak Orchard and in Lake Ontario near Orleans County.

“It’s made a huge difference,” said Mike Lavender, a charter boat captain locally for 25 years. “The return rate has definitely increased.”

Daniel Wik, left, and Mike Lavander, owner of Intimidator Sportfishing, move one of the pens to a different dock. The fish will be fed often while in the pens. The pens keep the fish safe from predators while the Chinook grow in the next month.

Volunteers assist the DEC in releasing the fish this afternoon.

Mary Duckworth offered to help with the fish stocking today. She and her husband enjoy fishing and they wanted to provide some assistance.

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Hunters harvested 4,000 deer in Orleans County in 2017

Staff Reports Posted 3 April 2018 at 4:11 pm

Rifles allowed for first time in 2017 for big game hunting in Orleans

File photo by Tom Rivers: These deer are pictured on Nov. 20, 2014 when they were close to the road on the west side of Route 279 in Gaines, just south of Route 104.

Hunters in Orleans County harvested 3,949 deer in 2017, which was up from 3,586 in 2016, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

This past big game hunting season between November 15 and December 7 was the first time hunters could legally use rifles for deer and bear hunting, after votes of support from the County Legislature and State Legislature.

In Orleans the harvested deer breakdown by town for 2017 includes:

Albion – 311

Barre – 695

Carlton – 324

Clarendon – 425

Gaines – 271

Kendall – 203

Murray – 366

Ridgeway – 506

Shelby – 503

Yates – 345

The DEC released a report today on deer harvested in 2017. There were 203,427 deer harvested in the state last year, which is down from the 213,061 in 2016. The 203,427 includes 107,804 adult males and 15,805 male fawns, as well as 67,702 adult females and 12,116 female fawns.

The 2017 estimated deer take includes 95,623 antlerless deer and 107,804 antlered bucks, an estimated five percent fewer deer than the previous year. Statewide, this represents a 10-percent decline in antlerless harvest and a buck harvest nearly identical to 2016.

The decline in antlerless harvest occurred despite DEC issuing more antlerless permits last season. DEC wildlife biologists have noted two important and encouraging items that emerged from the 2017 deer harvest. First, with 53.3 percent of the adult buck harvest averaging 2.5 years or older, hunters took an estimated 57,494 older bucks, setting a record in total number and greatest percentage of older bucks in the harvest.

“This is great news for New York hunters,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Many hunters are choosing to voluntarily Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow, and all hunters are now having greater opportunity to see and take older, larger bucks.”

State-wide the most deer ever harvested in a year happened in 2002 with 308,216. There were 230,100 deer harvested n 2010, 295,859 in 2000, 190,810 in 1990, 136,255 in 1980, 65,013 in 1970 and 45,755 in 1960.

Click here to see the full report on 2017.

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DEC has residential burn ban in effect until May 14

Posted 3 April 2018 at 8:38 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Richard Barnard, right, and Amanda Dixon work to put out a brush fire on May 3, 2015 on Route 98 in Barre.

Press Release, DEC

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos reminds residents that with spring here and conditions for wildfires heightened, residential brush burning is prohibited 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,” DEC Commissioner Seggos said. “New York prohibits residential burning during the 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.”

Warming temperatures in the spring can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise. 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 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. The 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 occur.

In the eight-year period since the ban was established, the average number of spring fires per year decreased by 36.7 percent, from 2,649 in 2009, to 1,677 in 2016.

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.

Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack and Catskill parks, are designated “fire towns.”

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 by clicking here.

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13th annual Canal Cleanup set for April 21

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2018 at 8:38 am

More groups are urged to register to pick up trash

Photo by Tom Rivers: Gary Kent and volunteers from the Albion Betterment Committee pick up trash along the canal last April 22.

The 13th annual Canal Clean Sweep is scheduled for April 21, and volunteers are planning to pick up trash at canal spots in Orleans County and beyond.

The NYS Canal Corporation and Parks & Trails New York welcomes more volunteers for the effort. Organizations have already signed up to clean sections of the Canalway Trail, canalside parks, and in other public areas throughout the Canal corridor.

The Clean Sweep website already lists numerous groups for the April 21 cleanup, including two from Orleans.

The Kendall Masonic Lodge will meet in Holley, starting at 9 a.m. at gazebo by canal. The Sons of the American Legion in Medina will also gather at 9 a.m. at Legion Post to pick up trash by the canal from the American Legion to the Bates Road Launch Ramp.

More groups are welcome to sign up for the event in other parts of the canal. Click here to register.

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With trees down, canal starts to reseed banks

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 February 2018 at 7:46 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Some of parts of the Ere Canal banks where trees were cut down late last year have been hydro-seeded in recent days. These photos show a section in Albion just west of the Brown Street bridge.

The seeding caught some people by surprise because the banks are littered with branches and chunks of trees.

The Canal Corp. stated on its website that brush and trees will be removed from the site or may be chipped on site.

“Eventually the tree stumps will be excavated and removed and the affected area will be regraded. As the work progresses, all disturbed areas will be restored by establishing a grass surface that the Canal Corporation will maintain,” the Canal Corp. stated on a Q and A about the tree-clearing project.

The canal hired a contractor to take down trees from Medina to Fairport. The trees have roots that can burrow into the soil, going under the towpath and reaching the canal walls. That can make the canal vulnerable to leaks and weaken the walls, Canal Corp. officials said.

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