By Diane Rutherford, Channel 7 on September 23, 2022
TOWN OF ORLEANS, New York (WWNY) – Despite overwhelming opposition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is still looking at Blind Bay for its new station. People against the project are vowing to fight.
For months now, lawmakers, environmental groups and residents have been telling the federal agency to find a different place to build a new border patrol station. But, we now know the CBP still has its eye on Blind Bay.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to do more studies on the environmental effects of building a 48,000-square-foot facility on the land on the St. Lawrence River. The agency’s initial findings said it would have no significant impact.
“The reason this area is looked at is its proximity to the St. Lawrence River because our Border Patrol agents also patrol with their boats,” said Mike Niezgoda, Public Affairs Officer, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Opponents say the project will hurt wildlife. Blind Bay is described as a critical spawning area for muskies. In fact, the water was stocked recently with 3,000 muskies.
“Make no mistake. This isn’t a give up, pack our bags and go to another bay thing. You have to pick your hill and Blind Bay is that hill,” said Jeff Garnsey, past president, Save The River.
The Thousand Islands Land Trust is in the process of buying the land. The executive director says TILT will bar the CBP from going on the property to do any further environmental impact studies. But, there’s a chance CBP will invoke eminent domain, meaning it could take the property and convert it into public use.
“We are committed to protecting the property and that also means that we are committed to legally defending,” said Jake Tibbles, executive director, Thousand Islands Land Trust.
The CBP prefers the Blind Bay site but does say it’s looking at several other undisclosed locations.
“No one’s been able to tell us what these sites are so it’s causing great concern among the river communities,” said Legislator Phil Reed (R. – District), who represents the towns of Orleans, Alexandria and part of LeRay.
Local officials say they support Customs and Border Protection but oppose where it wants to put its station. They also say they’re turning to lawmakers in Washington to stop the Blind Bay project.