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PRESS RELEASE

AUDUBON NEW YORK CITIZENS CAMPAIGN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT NEW YORK LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS SAVE THE RIVER THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
For immediate release:
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
For more information contact:
Brian Smith, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 716-831-3206, bsmith@citizenscampaign.org

LAKE ONTARIO AND ST. LAWRENCE RIVER WATER LEVELS: FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!

Groups praise Governor’s leadership to provide funding; decry scapegoating of Plan 2014

Buffalo, NY—Environmental organizations are calling for decision makers to seek science-based solutions to high water levels along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and are pushing back against irresponsible and misleading claims that Plan 2014 is to blame. All of the experts—from the International Joint Commission, to the Army Corps of Engineers, to a well-known critic of Plan 2014 that serves on the International Lake Ontario-St Lawrence River Board —agree that current conditions are due to heavy precipitation and snowmelt entering the lake and river, and not Plan 2014.

The groups are applauding Governor Cuomo and the NY Legislature for providing much needed resources and funding to assist the people, communities, and businesses impacted by the severe weather. At the same time, they also encourage policymakers to continue to focus on appropriate solutions, and not scapegoat Plan 2014.

“We commend the Governor for his leadership to address recent flooding with much-needed funding for residents, municipalities, and businesses. These resources are critical to address the flooding caused by record precipitation entering the lake and river,” said Brian Smith, Associate Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “What we need now is continued support from the state, along with support from the federal government, to put us on a path forward that will allow our shoreline communities to become more resilient, reduce risk to people during these events, and move people and infrastructure out of harm’s way.”

Many politicians, in an effort to avoid the real vulnerabilities of shoreline living, have ignored the science on lake levels for years, and their continued anti-Plan 2014 rhetoric is not unexpected. Environmental organizations, however, were particularly concerned and disappointed with recent comments made in Greece by Governor Cuomo, essentially blaming the International Joint Commission for the problem.

“Throughout his time in office Governor Cuomo has demonstrated time after time that he makes decisions based on sound science and objective analysis. Unfortunately, the Governor’s suggestion that the IJC is to blame for recent flooding is not at all supported by science. Moving forward, we hope that the Governor will continue with his leadership to implement evidence-based solutions to the devastating impacts shoreline property owners are facing. Scapegoating Plan 2014 is not supported by science, nor does it help New Yorkers,” continued Smith.

"The solution to this year's high water is not a return to a plan under which the same conditions have repeatedly occurred. Instead we need to use our resources and political will to assist those impacted now and ensure what we build takes Nature's role and the reality of dynamic water bodies and shorelines into account," said Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper & Executive Director, Save The River.

“Plan 2014, is an environmentally sound and science-based approach for regulating Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River water levels and flows, which promotes the return of wetlands including habitat for threatened species like the Black Tern and Least Bittern,” said Mike Burger, Director of Conservation and Science at Audubon New York. “Audubon New York continues to be fully supportive of Plan 2014 and would like to remind our New York representatives that this approach achieves a balance of benefits for all interests, in a cost effective and scientifically sound way. We encourage the newly announced funds to be used to further efforts to achieve a sustainable solution.”

"While it is expedient to blame Plan 2014 for the recent flooding caused by heavy rainfall and snowmelt, suggesting regulators return to outdated, unscientific water levels would only exacerbate the situation, said Marcia Bystryn, President of NYLCV. “ Plan 2014 is a well-researched and widely supported effort to undo decades of negative environmental consequences of tightly regulating Lake Ontario’s water levels and restore wildlife habitat for numerous species, including state and federally-designated endangered species. The Plan protects shoreline property, while increasing renewable hydropower electricity production. NYLCV is pleased that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have responded quickly with relief to address this crisis, however, we are asking our leaders to focus on better management of Plan 2014 rather than misleading the public and eroding its confidence in the International Joint Commission."

Plan 2014 went into effect on January 7, 2017 after over 10 years of scientific study and stakeholder input. The new plan does a skillful job of balancing all of society’s needs – hydropower, shoreline protection along Lake Ontario and in Montreal, commercial shipping, outdoor recreation like boating and fishing, and the need for a healthy environment in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

This modern, balanced plan will restore up to 64,000 acres of wetlands along the lake and river, continue commercial shipping, rebound populations of fish and wildlife such as the Northern Pike and Black Tern, increase hydroelectric power production by $5.3 million annually, boost revenue from recreational activity along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario by $9.1 million annually, and continue over 50 years of significant shoreline protection.

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Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) empowers communities and advocates solutions for our shared environment and public health and is supported by over 80,000 members throughout New York State and Connecticut. www.citizenscampaign.org

updated by bsmith  5/31/17