By: Isabella Colello, Inform NNY June 4, 2023
ORLEANS, N.Y. (WWTI) — Advocates have continued their push to “Save Blind Bay.”
Two environmental organizations in the region, the Thousand Islands Land Trust and Save The River joined forces in early June to clean trash out of Blind Bay.
A site both organizations praise for its shoreline and aquatic ecosystems.
“Blind Bay is a signature preserve,” Thousand Islands Land Trust Executive Director Jake Tibbles said at the cleanup. “What I mean by that, is it has characteristics of the overall [St. Lawrence River] ecosystem.”
The cleanup had staff members of each organization dressed in muck boots, in kayaks and in the mud. The team found items such as plastic jugs, tires, waterlogged wood and more.
“Cleanups like this are kind of the bigger picture,” Save The River Assistant Director Lauren Eggleston added. “So you take things like plastic tubs, or little bits of microplastics out of the water and then it opens up the conversations to say ‘well, how did it get there in the first place?’”
But trash is not the only thing that has threatened Blind Bay. The Thousand Islands Land Trust said as per recent communication, its still U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s preferred site for a 48,000-square-foot border patrol facility.
The facility would be equipped with modernized technology on the shores of the St. Lawrence River to support the already-existing facility located on Wellesley Island, based on information from CBP.
“Through our communication, it’s become very apparent that Customs and Border Protection plans to continue to pursue Blind Bay as its preferred site,” Tibbles explained.
The Thousand Islands Land Trust purchased 20.5 acres of waterfront property that is located in the Town of Orleans from Blind Bay Associates in late November 2022. This encompasses the proposed CBP site.
However, Tibbles said Blind Bay is not safe.
“Right now, they are trying to regain legal access to the property in order to conduct required environmental surveys,” Tibbles said. “That surveys aquatics, surveys to determine if there are any illicit or endangered species here on the property.”
In response, CBP Spokesperson Mike Niezgoda released the following statement:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remains looking into feasible properties around the region for a station relocation, but the process is long and any planning is being done without any decisions made as of yet. However, the current Wellesley Island station remains Border Patrol’s sole operational facility in the area. – MIKE NIEZGODA, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, CBP
So for now, Eggleston from Save The River explained that trash cleanups like the one in early June are a step in saving the area from potential development.
“Things like this are rare and we have one here,” she expressed. “So we should work to protect what we have.”