Blind Bay advocates warn of unsafe debris in ecosystem

By Brian Dwyer for Spectrum News Originally published 7/26/2023


A recent cleanup day at Blind Bay revealed Tires, dock wood, plastics and even Styrofoam.


“A lot of it,” 1000 Islands Land Trust Executive Director Jake Tibbles said. “If it’s not nailed down or secured during wind events, it ends up in the river and then floats down to the next property owners or the next shoreline.”


Recently, Tibbles’ agency bought the property known as Blind Bay.


“You know, that means getting out there, cleaning up the shorelines, planting trees, enhancing the native habitat, ensure that the land can be the best that it can be,” Tibbles says of good ownership.


It’s a responsibility the trust does not take lightly, whether it’s for the people that live, work and play around here, or for the fish and wildlife that call the bay home.


“Yeah. This is one of the most prolific historic muskie spawning sites on the Upper St. Lawrence River,” Tibbles said of Blind Bay.


It’s not only prolific, but also very rare, as it’s one of only a few muskie spawning sites in the area.


“Two weeks ago, staff from the biological station actually caught about a 54-inch female muskie that was carrying eggs. And they were able to actually pull a portion of the eggs from that female. And then they will be used for the restocking program this summer,” Tibbles added.


That’s what makes these clean up events — with agencies like Save the River — so important. It’s to keep things out of the water, out of the habitat, that can do damage to the ecosystem.


Many things pulled from the water are full of Styrofoam pellets which can do great harm.


“Billets like this actually break open,” Tibbles said. “This material actually floats out, polluting the environment. Fish and birds eat it. A lot of times they don’t pass it, so they end up dying. So we try to keep this stuff out of the environment.”


The cleanup is also meant as a way to highlight another important issue: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is looking for a new home station in Jefferson County. The Land Trust and Save the River, fear through eminent domain, the CBP could sue the land trust for access to the land, and eventually build on it.


“This is a slow-moving issue. And so the more that we’re able to keep it in front of the general public, but also provide opportunities for them to stay engaged and to help out, that’s just that’s just another thing that we need to stay committed,” Tibbles said of the recent number of public events TILT has held at the bay.


Despite the concern, CBP has continued to say it has not yet decided on any spot for its new home.

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