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Hatchery and Marina Overhauls, Habitat Repairs Highlight Local Projects in Lake Ontario Settlement

News from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
For more information contact: Yancey Roy, 518-402-8000

Nearly $3 million in improvements for Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties

ALBANY, NY (01/24/2008) New York State will renovate boat launches and marinas, repair critical fish spawning habitat and rebuild the Cape Vincent fish hatchery as part of a $12 million restoration of Lake Ontario fisheries and its tributaries, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

The revitalization plan is being funded with money from the 2006 settlement of the state’s natural resources damages lawsuit against Occidental Chemical Corp. dealing with pollution that devastated sportfishing in Lake Ontario and the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers. DEC, as trustee of New York’s natural resources, developed the restoration plan with public input. In all, the plan will fund 42 projects along Lake Ontario from Niagara to St. Lawrence counties that will enhance fish habitat and research, promote angler outreach and improve public fishing access. The settlement’s impact in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties includes approximately $3 million worth of improvements.

“These projects will reconnect New Yorkers to fishing spots – old and new – and boost their catch, while improving the health of the Lake Ontario fishery,’’ said Grannis, who three decades ago came to Niagara Falls as a New York State assemblyman to help investigate the Love Canal toxic waste disaster. “It’s good news for the fish. It’s good news for anglers. And it’s good news for the communities in the Lake Ontario region.”

The $12 million resolution is one of the largest in the nation for a natural resources damages claim based on recreational fishing losses. The settlement represents the final claim in a lawsuit the state filed against Occidental’s predecessor, Hooker Chemical, in 1983. It addressed damages to the fishery caused by the discharge of dangerous chemicals from the company’s main plant in Niagara Falls and from other sites and facilities either owned or operated by Occidental.

DEC began soliciting ideas for the spending plan in early 2007, holding a series of public meetings across the Lake Ontario region. Approximately 150 proposals were considered and 77 were advanced to a panel that scored the ideas. Of those, 42 were selected: 25 to improve access, 14 to enhance habitat and resources and three to promote fishing in the region.

In Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, hatchery and habitat improvements will help rebuild Walleye, Northern Pike and Muskellunge populations and boost the area as a prime fishing destination. Because access to waterways is key to attracting anglers, the upgrades will enhance fishing for years to come. The improvements will help the local economy, especially the motels, restaurants, tackle shops and guide services that rely on a vibrant fishery.

Local Highlights

  • Hatchery improvements at the Cape Vincent Fisheries Station (Jefferson County) to help launch stocking programs for Walleye, Northern Pike and Muskellunge. In recent years, the village of Cape Vincent and the Lake Ontario Fisheries Coalition have begun repairs at the former federal fish hatchery. DEC, which now owns the facility, anticipates that these stocking programs could provide measurable improvements to Lake Ontario sportfisheries. ($1.4 million)
    A separate project will create interpretive displays of the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence fishery for the aquarium/visitors center at the hatchery. ($40,000)

  • Renovations and a modern boat launch for Golden’s Marina (Lyme, Jefferson County). A boat launch will be constructed on the isthmus to Point Peninsula in the town of Lyme. The marina has been dredged, but a property survey and construction design are needed. ($300,000)

  • Northern Pike Spawning Marsh Rehabilitation. Historic pike spawning grounds have been wrecked by the proliferation of Typha (cattails), especially over the last 15 years. DEC surveys have documented a decline in Northern Pike over that period. Part of the project involves using a special excavator to cut channels in Typha mats and outlet ditches in the Eastern Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River area. ($200,000)
    A separate project will repair a water control structure at Cranberry Creek (near Alexandria Bay, Jefferson County), also to improve northern pike spawning grounds ($50,000).
    Another will fund a research experiment to transplant and grow vegetation and construct breakwaters in shallow marsh habitats ($45,000).

  • Lindsey and Stoney creeks (Jefferson County) angler parking areas. Two five-car parking areas will be built (exact spots to be determined) with footpaths to these Lake Ontario tributaries ($20,000).

  • Fish Island access site (Dexter, Jefferson County). This project will provide floating docks, as well as lighting and boat-ramp improvements. ($45,000)

  • Mud Bay boat launch (Lyme, Jefferson County). This project will include a launch site for small boats only and parking for 10 cars and trailers. ($100,000)

  • Ogdensburg Hatchery upgrades (Lisbon, St. Lawrence County). This project calls for the construction and lining of two additional one-acre ponds to increase walleye production. ($100,000).

  • Morristown boat launch improvements (St. Lawrence County). During fall or low-water conditions, the village boat launch is too short to launch boats safely. This project will lengthen the launch and improve docking. ($50,000)

  • Chaumont Bay launch sites and ice-fishing access. Exact sites to be determined. ($500,000)


    (Note: Several of the selected projects hinge on factors such as land acquisition. If a project proves unworkable, it might be replaced with the next highest-scoring proposal that did not make the initial cut.)

Systemwide

In addition, the restoration plan includes funding for other notable system-wide projects designed to improve research and boost the fishery. Highlights include:

  • Stream bank improvements to an 18-mile stretch of the Salmon River (Oswego County), one of the most extensively fished waterways in the state. Over time, there has been a general build up material in certain channels, creating pools and eroding banks. The grant aims to alleviate problems and take angler traffic away from the more susceptible points. ($500,000)

  • Upgrades to the renowned state-run Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Oswego County. A comprehensive study will evaluate water supply and hatchery practices and develop a plan to improve trout and salmon production at the facility. ($2.2 million)

  • A new automated fish marking trailer that will be used to mark Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout, and possibly other species. The technology, widely used in the Pacific Northwest, will allow DEC to mark and track upwards of 2.5 million fish annually – significantly improving DEC’s ability to monitor and study species in Lake Ontario and its tributaries. ($1.5 million)

  • Sea Lamprey control barriers. This grant will be matched by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to construct “low-head barriers” that block Sea Lamprey migration and spawning in Lake Ontario tributaries. Sea Lampreys, a parasite that attach to a host fish, have contributed to the decline of sportfish, especially lake trout. ($60,000)

  • Walleye spawning habitat fund. DEC staff will use this grant to assess tributaries (including the Oswego River, Little Sandy Creek, Black River and Oswegatchie River) to determine the presence of Walleye and spawning habitat to help improve fish production. ($200,000)

  • Fisheries Promotion Assistance. This grant will be used to develop a new “I Love NY Great Lakes Fishing” brochure to be distributed at sportfishing tournaments, fairs and other public events. While some counties typically promote local fishing sites, currently there is no promotion for the Great Lakes Region as a whole. Approximately 40 percent of the anglers who fish Lake Ontario and the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers are from out of state. ($100,000)