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Orleans County

Extension receives historic Johnny Appleseed tree

Posted 1 June 2019 at 8:04 am

Press release and photos from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Eric Andrews and Louisa Shiffer are shown with the tree they donated to Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

KNOWLESVILLE – Johnny Appleseed may not have originally planted his apple trees in Western New York, but Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension now has an original Appleseed tree on its grounds thanks to a donation from Albion native Eric Andrews.

The Cooperative Extension on Tuesday and Wednesday hosted Conservation Field Days, where every 6th grader in the county cycles through various ecologically themed stations. Andrews presented at one of the stations on Tuesday, introducing the students to the life and legend of Johnny Appleseed, then heading outside to have each class help dig and plant the apple tree.

“Our original idea was to create a scholarship program with these Johnny Appleseed trees as the award,” Andrews said. “First we wanted to see if there would be any public interest in the project, so we thought of Orleans CCE as a central location for planting the first one.”

Andrews is a local history and botany enthusiast, with a focused interest on heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.

“Eric is so passionate about the history and preservation of these heirloom varieties,” said Louisa Shiffer, Andrews’ long-time partner and co-presenter at Conservation Field Days. “He grows acres of some of the most obscure varieties of fruits and vegetables, saving seed each year to make sure these varieties are not lost.”

Andrews purchased the tree from Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA. The nurserymen at Raintree were able to trace the roots of this particular variety all the way to an old homestead in Ohio, where the original tree was planted by Johnny Appleseed sometime in the 1820s. Cuttings were taken from this original tree and grafted onto rootstocks to enable exact copies of the variety to be sold to anyone interested in a piece of the history and legend of Johnny Appleseed.

“We live in one of the best areas in the world for growing apples, and we should be proud of that,” Andrews said. “We thought with this project that we could generate interest in something that we do really well in Orleans County. Technology, computers, movies can happen anywhere, but we can grow the best apples in the world right here in Western New York.”

The tree is planted in a recently renovated area of a garden just east of the OCCCE office on Rt. 31 in Albion. A plaque describing the history of the tree will be placed next to it so fairgoers and participants can get a glimpse of the legacy of an early American icon.

Sixth graders from Clifford Wise Middle School in Medina break ground for the new apple tree.

The group fills in the hole after the tree is placed.

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Fairgrounds hosts 6th graders for 51st annual Conservation Field Days

Staff Reports Posted 31 May 2019 at 5:42 pm

Photo courtesy of Kristina Gabalski, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – Daena Ford of Braddock Bay Raptor Research returned this year with live raptors during the 51stannual Conservation Field Days at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. This phot shows students learning about a Merlin, a small falcon, which hunts small birds for food.

The Fairgrounds hosted the event on Tuesday and Wednesday with sixth-graders from all five districts in Orleans County.

They learn about conservation-related topics including the environment, wildlife, tick safety, wild edibles, raptors, bird migrations and other issues.

Mike Elam of the Orleans County Federation of Sportsmen teaches students about Lake Sturgeon with the help of materials from NY Sturgeon for Tomorrow.

Rachael Kiefer, a leader of an Orleans County 4-H dog club and member of the Orleans County 4-H Dog Program Development Committee, teaches students about dog handling, training and agility skills.

Students closely examine “fake” bagels in search of ticks as they learn about tick safety and avoiding Lyme Disease.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service shared many examples of macroinvertebrates – organisms large enough to be seen by the naked eye and lacking a backbone, which inhabit all types of running waters.

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Independence Party endorses Bourke for sheriff, others for town offices

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 May 2019 at 8:05 am

ALBION – Chris Bourke has secured the Independence Party line in his campaign to be Orleans County’s next sheriff. Bourke, the current undersheriff, is running for sheriff against Brett Sobieraski, a Rochester Police Department sergeant who lives in Kent. Randy Bower, the current sheriff, isn’t seeking re-election.

Bourke and Sobieraski will square off June 25 in a Republican Primary. Bourke also has the Conservative Party line in the Nov. 5 general election.

The Executive Committee of the Independence Party met April 6 in Albany and endorsed the following as Independence Party candidates, even though they are not enrolled members of the party:

Chris Bourke of Waterport for sheriff, a county-wide election.

In Murray, the Independence Party is backing Robert Miller for town supervisor, and Lloyd Christ and Neil Valentine for Town Board. There is also an opportunity to ballot on the June 25 primary for the town supervisor and a Town Council position.

Miller also faces a Republican Primary on June 25 against Joe Sidonio, while Christ and Valentine have been challenged in a Republican Primary by Dirk Lammes Jr. Sidonio and Lammes also are endorsed by the Conservative Party.

In Barre, the Independence Party endorsed Sean Pogue for town supervisor, and Bradlee Diesel and Margaret Swan for Town Board.

Those three face a general election challenge from independent “Citizens for Change” party candidates, including Jerry Solazzo for town supervisor, and Kerri Richardson and Cindy Burnside for Town Council positions. Richardson also is endorsed by the Conservative Party.  In addition, LuAnn Tierney is backed by the Democratic Party for a town council seat.

• There is also an Independence primary on June 25 in the town of Shelby which is part of the 144th Assembly District. Registered Independence Party members in Shelby can vote for a delegate to the Eighth Judicial District, either Darla Schultz Bubar or Ciara Haylett. Voters will also pick an alternate delegate, either Brian Michael or David Haylett Jr.

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Office for the Aging seeks volunteer drivers to take seniors to appointments

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 May 2019 at 4:12 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Office for the Aging has started a new program matching volunteer drivers with homebound seniors who need transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store and social outings.

The OFA started the program on April 5 and now has 12 drivers and 20 riders. The agency wants to expand the program, said Susie Miller, assistant director. Drivers are entitled to mileage reimbursement and are under the county’s liability insurance.

Seniors often feel isolated and can become depressed and have their health deteriorate if they don’t get to appointments and connect with other people, Miller said.

The agency suggests riders make a $5 donation for trips within the county and $15 outside Orleans, but that isn’t required.

The Office for the Aging also is encouraging seniors to try the RTS public transportation.

For more information about the volunteer program, either as a driver or rider, contact the OFA at (585) 589-3191.

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Schumer, Gillibrand want FEMA disaster declaration for Lake Ontario flooding

Posted 30 May 2019 at 11:44 am

Press Release, US. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stand ready to quickly approve any request from New York State for a major disaster declaration for communities affected by flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The senators explained that the communities surrounding Lake Ontario are now facing a repeat of 2017’s historic and devastating flooding, if not a worse situation, as indicated by the U.S.-Canada International Joint Commission, which warned on May 27 that water levels of Lake Ontario stood at 248.85 feet and would likely reach or exceed the 2017 record high within the next few days.

Therefore, in a letter to Acting FEMA Administrator Peter T. Gaynor, Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA stand ready to approve any forthcoming requests from the state for a disaster declaration for municipalities affected by Lake Ontario’s flooding.

“As Lake Ontario’s water levels continue to climb and the associated damages get more and more severe, the feds must stand ready to immediately step in and do everything they can to help,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I’m putting FEMA on notice now to be ready to support any requests for federal assistance from New York State so that Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities have the resources they need to confront any challenge. With the risk of further damages escalating by the day, we must have all hands on deck.”

If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. After any severe storm, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across storm-impacted counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration.

“Two years ago, we saw how severe flooding from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure along the shorelines,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Today, these communities are once again in danger from more extreme flooding, and we must do everything we can to protect these communities. I am calling on FEMA to quickly approve requests for federal assistance from these shoreline communities, and I will continue to do everything I can to help our communities get the urgent support they need.”

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the flooding of Lake Ontario is already having a severe impact on the surrounding communities and that should it continue, it could become even worse. Currently, eight New York State counties – Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence – are currently under a state-imposed Declaration of Emergency.

The senators said the flooding is already forcing businesses to shut down, damaging property and public infrastructure, and has eroded away land and shoreline protections. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that even after Lake Ontario’s water level crests, it will take many weeks throughout the remaining summer months for the water to drop, which may likely make it difficult to get a full accounting of damage incurred. Therefore, the senators asked FEMA to prepare to work with New York State and be as flexible as possible should the state submit an expedited request for disaster assistance for the communities impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding.

Schumer and Gillibrand have been pushing emergency preparation measures along Lake Ontario for months this flooding season. In March of this year, Schumer voiced his support for the confirmation of Jane L. Corwin, Robert C. Sisson and Lance V. Yohe to the IJC, to ensure the Commission was appropriately staffed to address the rising Lake Ontario water levels, and earlier this month announced their successful confirmation.

Also this May, Schumer announced that following his push, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an official Declaration of Emergency to activate its Emergency Operations Center to join with state and local efforts to assist Lake Ontario communities in the event of flooding. Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the IJC and International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board of Control to assess and take all actions possible to mitigate flood risks to surrounding communities, including the appropriate maximization of outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.

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First meeting held to develop waterfront plan for canal in Orleans County

Photos by Tom Rivers: Ed Flynn, project manager of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for the canal communities in Orleans County, leads Tuesday’s meeting. Flynn works as a planner with LaBella. He is joined by Barbara Johnston, a principal planner with Labella. They are meeting with, clockwise from back right: Tom Lampo, planner with Orleans County; Jim Bensley, director of the county’s Planning Department; County Legislator Ken DeRoller; Chris Van Dusen, Murray representative; Tyler Allport, Gaines town councilman and Gaines representative; and Mark Bower, Holley representative.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 May 2019 at 4:45 pm

ALBION – The steering committee for the waterfront development plan for seven Erie Canal municipalities held its kickoff meeting on Tuesday, and set a goal for identifying projects in the coming months that can boost the local economy and better utilize the canal.

Orleans County received a $62,000 state grant in December to develop a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for the canal communities outside the Village of Medina. That includes the towns of Shelby, Ridgeway, Gaines, Albion and Murray, and the villages of Albion and Holley.

The state recently added a new sign promoting the Empire State Trail, the towpath and trail system of the canal. This photo was taken during the winter near the Main Street lift bridge in Albion. A steering committee said the canal needs mile markers and more signage about services available in the canal towns.

Medina is working on its own LWRP and has been meeting for several months on the plan.

The county has hired LaBella as a consultant for the plan for the seven municipalities. The first meeting on Tuesday followed several years of effort to get the communities together to work on a plan.

Each of the municipalities has a representative who will weigh in on current strengths and weaknesses of the canal, and opportunities to make the historic waterway and towpath a bigger asset.

“This is the right time for us,” said County Legislator Ken DeRoller.

The state is looking to spend more money to promote the canal and make it a better resource for the canal communities. The canal’s new caretaker, the New York Power Authority, also has shown a commitment to improving the canal infrastructure, DeRoller said.

Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature have made money available for the canal communities in recent years for economic development projects. The Orleans communities have tapped few of those funds, partly because there isn’t a waterfront revitalization plan in place.

The steering committee for the LWRP will be looking for ways to improve trail access, perhaps add a boat or kayak launch, improve signage (mile markers and information about services) and also try to identify economic development projects with businesses near the canal.

The committee will have three public sessions in the coming months with a goal to have the plan complete in about a year.

That document can then be used to help the municipalities pursue grant funding through the state.

The steering committee members include: Ken DeRoller, Orleans County; Jake Olles, Town of Albion; Samuel Robinson, Village of Albion; Tyler Allport, Town of Gaines; Mark Bower, Village of Holley; Chris Van Dusen, Town of Murray; Mary Woodruff, Town of Ridgeway; and Ed Houseknecht, Town of Shelby.

Only half of the group attended the first meeting. DeRoller said this is a great opportunity for the communities to brainstorm ways to capitalize on the canal, which a nationally known brand passing through the county.

The plan also will look at opportunities 500 feet from the canal in the towns, and 1,000 feet from the canal in the villages.

The committee considered some of the strengths of the canal in Orleans County. They noted the county has seven of the 16 lift bridges on the canal, intact historic downtowns, and other historic assets (Cobblestone Museum, Courthouse Square, historic cemeteries).

DeRoller said the recent opening of 39 Problems in Albion and Holley Falls Bar & Grill are important sites for the downtowns, and desired places for tourists.

The county has a strong agricultural sector that siphons from the canal during dry periods when crops need water.

DeRoller also pushed for a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for the Lake Ontario waterfront in Kendall, Carlton and Yates. He said the county is fortunate to have the lake and canal. The LWRPs should help the communities to better utilize the lake and canal.

“I’m really interested in anything having to do with water,” DeRoller said.

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Libertarian candidate is running for county legislator

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 May 2019 at 8:10 am

CARLTON – A Libertarian Party candidate is believed to be making the party’s first-ever run for the Orleans County Legislature.

Chase Tkach

Chase Tkach, 23, of Oak Orchard Road in Carlton is challenging Don Allport for an at-large position on the Legislature. That is a county-wide position for someone who lives in central Orleans. Allport is a Republican and has served on the Legislature for more than a decade.

“I am motivated to become the At-Large Legislator of this county because I see so much beautiful potential for this county that remains untapped,” Tkach said.

She attended the March 27 County Legislature and was disappointed the group opposed a push to legalize recreational marijuana.

She favors legalizing marijuana, without taxing it, and would encourage farmers to grow it if the state legalizes marijuana.

Tkach supports releasing inmates charged with non-violent marijuana possession charges.

“The war on drugs is ineffective, unfair and immoral,” she said.

She said she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and opposes the state’s SAFE Act and Red Flag law.

She also opposes subsidies for wind and solar energy projects.

“I would like to lower Orleans taxes substantially,” she said. “Taxation is theft.”

Tkach said she would donate half of the legislator’s annual salary of about $12,000 to the Stop ALD Foundation. Her son suffers Adrenoleukodystrophy, a brain disorder that destroys myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds the brain’s neurons.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Chase Tkach, back to camera, meets Larry Sharpe, Libertarian Party candidate for governor, at the Orleans County 4-H Fair last July. Her father, Jeremy McCauley, holds his grandson, Nikolay Tkach. Nikolay’s mother is Chase Tkach, who is running for Orleans County Legislature and was active in Sharpe’s campaign.

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IJC members say too late to react to high lake level this year

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jane Corwin, a newly appointed member of the International Joint Commission, said she is determined to have a plan that works in regulating the Lake Ontario water levels. She is speaking with reporters at the Greece Town Hall after meeting with officials from six counties along the south shore.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 May 2019 at 6:35 pm

‘If it is the new normal we need to come up with a new plan because this isn’t working.’ –  IJC commissioner Jane Corwin

GREECE – Four newly appointed members of the International Joint Commission, three representing the United States and one from Canada – heard from elected officials from Orleans County and other south shore communities about the impacts of flooding from Lake Ontario.

The IJC commissioners met at Greece Town Hall with officials for 90 minutes before going into Greece communities to see flooded roads, yards and homes and businesses fending off water with sandbags and pumps.

The IJC is tasked with regulating water levels. The commission has used a new plan for regulating the water levels the past three years, the first change in more than a half century.

A property owner has sandbags inside large grain bags along the shore in Kendall by Monroe-Orleans Countyline Road.

Two of the three years – 2017 and now 2019 – have seen major flooding along the lakeshore.

“I would just ask for patience,” said new IJC commissioner Jane Corwin, who is the U.S. section chair. “I know that isn’t easy for people evacuating their homes and losing their businesses.”

Pierre Béland, the IJC’s Canadian section chair, said Mother Nature is most at fault for the high lake levels, not a plan for regulating the lake.

She and the new commissioners just started the job less than two weeks ago. They want to see how much of the flooding is attributable to Plan 2014 and how much is from melting snow and rainfall.

Pierre Béland, the IJC’s Canadian section chair, said the high lake levels are due to rain and the high water levels in the other Great Lakes.

“These is no plan that would have relieved better than 2014,” Béland told reporters at Greece Town Hall. “There is no way to get more water out of the system without flooding other people.”

But there have been other wet springs and winters with lots of snow. The lake levels only were this high in 2017 and now this year. That has community leaders pointing to the Plan 2014 as a culprit.

Béland said the precipitation is the main cause.

“It’s unique,” he said about the rainfall. “it’s unseen. It hasn’t happened before.”

Corwin said water was let out in the fall at the maximum levels allowed by Plan 2014. But, State Sen. Robert Ortt said the old plan would have let out even more water in the fall, before it’s too late in the spring to respond without flooding the Canadians.

Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, said he supports scrapping Plan 2014 and going back to the plan from the 1950s which resulted in only one flooding event, in the mid 1970s.

“We can’t continue down this road,” Collins said.

He attended the closed door session with officials from the six counties.

“Their testimony confirmed what a catastrophe we’ve been dealing with,” Collins said.

Jane Corwin and other local officials and IJC members meet with reporters after a closed-door session at the Greece Town Hall to discuss the impact of the high waters.

In Orleans County, no roads have been closed yet due to flooding.  Several roads have been closed in Hamlin and Greece in neighboring Monroe County.

Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, attended the session today with the IJC commissioners. She said the IJC’s new representatives will work to have a better plan in place long-term. Unfortunately, that won’t help with this year’s flooding, Johnson said.

“We want more of a quick fix,” she said.

Johnson is thankful Corwin, a former state Assemblywoman from Clarence, is on the IJC. Her Assembly district included parts of Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties.

The shoreline at Oak Orchard Harbor by the lighthouse takes a beating today from the waves.

“She knows our area,” Johnson said. “She knows our lake. She has sailed our lake.”

The three lakeshore towns in Orleans – Carlton, Kendall and Yates – have all declared a state of emergency due to the high lake levels. The towns have worked with residents to put sandbags by the shoreline.

Inmates and the National Guard have helped to fill and stack sandbags. The state also has brought in AquaDams, which are large tubes filled with water.

Corwin said she is impressed by the collaboration among the local governments, and the state and federal agencies.

The IJC commissioners will find answers for the cause of the flooding, to see if it’s mainly from precipitation that can’t be handled or if Plan 2014 is at fault, too, Corwin said.

“Is this the new normal or is it an extended flooding level like 2017?” she said. “If it is the new normal we need to come up with a new plan because this isn’t working.”

In the meantime, Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, said the lakeshore communities are suffering economically, as well as from the flooding. He reminded the community that many businesses are still open and would welcome support from their customers.

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County Leg asks Trump to renegotiate Plan 2014 for regulating water levels

Photo by Tom Rivers: Bruce Schmidt, a resident of Gaines and Carlton, speaks in support of a resolution asking the Trump administration to renegotiate Plan 2014 for regulating Lake Ontario water levels.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 May 2019 at 1:22 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature last week passed an official resolution asking President Donald Trump to immediately renegotiate Plan 2014, an agreement for regulating Lake Ontario water levels between Canada and United States.

The plan took effect in December 2016. Since then there was record-high lake levels in 2017. Now the lake is an inch away from the record height and the Legislature said the high waters and flooding are devastating residences, businesses and government infrastructure.

The County Legislature went on the record several times opposing Plan 2014 before the document was approved.

Not only has the high water chewed away at shoreline, it has hurt the sportsfishing industry, valued at $12 million annually in Orleans and $30 million annually in Niagara County. Legislators said.

Orleans County and the three lakeshore towns of Yates, Carlton and Kendall have all issued states of emergency due to the current high lake levels.

“The implementation of Plan 2014 has proven an absolute disaster to the southern shore of Lake Ontario, that based on the 2017 high water event we expended $95 million dollars of state taxpayer dollars, plus FEMA funds along with other resources to reinforce property that has had been extremely altered and are right back in 2019 with another devastation that is playing out right now,” the Legislature states in the resolution.

The local lawmakers called on the International Joint Commission, the group that regulates the water levels, “to immediately suspend Plan 2014 and re-implement previous regulatory rules.”

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New IJC commissioners will meet lakeshore officials in Greece today

Photo by Cheryl Wertman: The sun sets on Sunday evening at Lakeside Beach State Park in Carlton. The high water levels at Lake Ontario have closed some beaches and marinas on the southshore of the lake.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 May 2019 at 8:11 am

The new members of the International Joint Commission, the body of Canadian and American officials who control the Lake Ontario water levels, will meet today with elected officials from shoreline communities.

That “listening session” is invite-only and includes the three new IJC members for the United States: Jane Corwin, Robert Sisson and Lance Yohe. Corwin is the section chairwoman and a former state assemblywoman from Clarence. Her district included portions of Erie and Niagara counties, as well as the town of Shelby in Orleans County.

The three IJC members will also be joined today by Pierre Béland, the Canadian section chairman.

The listening session will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Greece Town Hall. The IJC commissioners will then be available to meet the media and will go to the shoreline to see the flooding.

“Despite having just been confirmed, these commissioners are already hard at work learning about the high water levels in our community and the devastation being caused,” Congressman Chris Collins said in a statement. “Western New York finally has a voice with Jane Corwin serving as the U.S. Chair and, I applaud all the commissioners for taking the time to listen to our concerns as elected officials.”

Governor Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for eight counties on the Lake Ontario southshore anticipating damage similar to 2017. Collins faults the Plan 2014, the first change in regulating water levels in a half century, for the flooding in 2017 and now this year.

“Federal, state and local officials, as well both Republicans and Democrats all agree that Plan 2014 is a disaster and needs to be terminated,” Collins said. “This new IJC needs a more rational approach when it comes to managing Lake Ontario water levels.”

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