CBP moves ahead with proposed Blind Bay facility project

By Isabella Colello, ABC 50 on September 23, 2022

ORLEANS, N.Y. (WWTI) — Blind Bay is still in the spotlight.

On Friday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that it is preparing a draft Supplement Environmental Assessment for the proposed site in the town of Orleans, otherwise known as “Blind Bay.”

CBP has proposed a 48,000-square-foot facility to be built in Blind Bay. The agency said this facility would accommodate current and near-future staff and operational requirements.

The facility would be equipped with modernized technology and infrastructure on the shores of the St. Lawrence River near the international border with Canada.

Proposed location of a new Customs and Border Protection Facility in Blind Bay

However, this site has become controversial due to claimed environmental impacts.

Back in February during the public review and comment period of its draft “Environmental Assessment and Finding No Significant Impact,” the proposed facility received pushback from the community.

This included community members, elected officials and local organizations including Save The River and Thousand Islands Land Trust issued letters in opposition.

According to Save The River, the previous Draft Environmental Assessment for the Blind Bay facility would be “deficient in many ways” as the area was considered an “untouched” area for wildlife and aquatic ecosystems.

Save The River Executive Director John Peach released the following statement regarding CBP’s plans to move forward:

“Blind Bay is an environmental treasure, and home to 53 species. It is one of the few remaining historic spawning grounds for muskellunge in the Upper St. Lawrence River. CBP has been offered another site by the Town of Alexandria at the old Bonnie Castle Recreation Center that would be much better suited for an industrial-style facility and would have no negative environmental impact on the River. While Save The River fully supports CBP’s mission of protecting our homeland, we will continue to advocate very strongly against CBP’s choice of Blind Bay as its future facility. The Blind Bay site belongs as part of TILT’s preserve. Many organizations and over 1000 local residents also support TILT’s acquisition of Blind Bay and its preservation as an important part of the River’s environment for generations to come.”  

Customs confirmed that it received more than 1,000 comments on the initial draft. But to address any questions and concerns raised in these comments, CBP said it will conduct additional environmental surveys and evaluate alternate sites.

These results will be documented in the draft SEA. CBP said the draft SEA will be available in 2023.

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