Schumer joins call for CBP to abandon Blind Bay station construction plans

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Mar. 22—ORLEANS — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has joined the call against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection planned patrol station on Blind Bay.

The New York Democrat on Tuesday sent a letter to CBP's Acting Environmental Branch Chief John P. Petrilla, asking that the agency consider a different site for the project.

In plans released in February, a company working for CBP detailed plans to construct a large administrative and patrol center on a 19-acre plot of land on the bay, just south of the Fishers Point Mobile Park. The station would provide space for 75 agents in a 17,300-square-foot main administrative building, with 15,800 in constructed support space. A 15,100-square-foot parking garage, dog kennel, marine storage, dock and ramp, fuel island and vehicle wash would also be installed.

Environmental advocates, local business owners and elected officials at the local and state levels have voiced their opposition to such a large facility on Blind Bay. In his letter, Sen. Schumer echoed many of their points. To date, Sen. Schumer is the highest-ranking elected official to offer an opinion on the Blind Bay station project.

Blind Bay is one of a handful of muskellunge breeding grounds left in the Thousand Islands, and the endangered fish have slowly been making a comeback, according to research conducted at the Thousand Islands Biological Station by SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry.

"This habitat has been used in recovery efforts to restore fish populations impacted by habitat loss and invasive species," the senator's letter reads. "These critical fish and wildlife habitats that exist in the shallow undeveloped bay support shoreline protection, flood reduction, biodiversity and nature education to name just a few of their benefits."

The senator said the facility's construction, especially the marina, dock and ramp, would require significant dredging of Blind Bay and would put those endangered and protected species at significant risk.

"The proposed docks at the new facility would require extensive dredging that would damage the important, one of a kind habitat," he said. "Dock structures are also known to attract devastating invasive species such as zebra mussels."

Local tourism businesses, including the Thousand Islands Park directly across the river from Blind Bay, have expressed concerns over seeing an industrial facility built on what has been a very natural segment of St. Lawrence shoreline. TI Park officials have said the bright lights, increased water traffic and overall appearance of a CBP station would clash strongly with the character of their community.

"Hotels, attractions and over 300 homes are across the river from the proposed new facility," Sen. Schumer said in his letter. "People live (in) and visit this part of the Thousand Islands to enjoy the natural beauty. The proposed multi-building industrial facility that requires a significant amount of lighting would be a detriment to the natural beauty that the North Country offers."

Sen. Schumer said building such a facility on this site would reverse much of the multi-millions of dollars of investments that Orleans and Jefferson County have made to maintain the waterfront in its current form.

Sen. Schumer said he agrees that CBP needs a new station in the Thousand Islands. The agency has stated its current facilities on Wellesley Island are three times over capacity and have fallen into a state of disrepair that cannot be corrected with renovation.

"I agree that a new and larger facility is needed to carry out your vital services," Sen. Schumer said. "However, I strongly urge you to consider and choose a different location that could the fit the agencies needs without detrimentally impacting the wildlife ecosystems, tourism and everyday life for residents in the Blind Bay area."

Save the River Executive Director John M. Peach said Tuesday that he appreciates Sen. Schumer's letter of opposition. Save the River sent the initial letter of opposition regarding the Blind Bay CBP station, and has been helping to organize the local push against the facility.

Mr. Peach said he believes Sen. Schumer got the message exactly right.

"Sen. Schumer understands the importance of the muskie and the entire environment for the St. Lawrence River," he said.

He said he thinks Sen. Schumer's voice adds more credence to Save the River's opposition against the planned facility, opposition which is only growing. Mr. Peach said over 900 people have signed onto a letter Save the River plans to send to CBP.