Proposed Blind Bay CBP facility fires up environmental concerns

By Isabella Colello, ABC 50 on October 7, 2022

ORLEANS, N.Y. (WWTI) — Controversy surrounding the proposed Customs and Border Protection Facility in Blind Bay has community members concerned once again.

This is following CBP’s announcement in September 2022, confirming the agency’s plans to move forward in assessing the 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.

CBP originally released its draft “Environmental Assessment and Finding No Significant Impact” report in early 2022. However, it received pushback from community members and environmental organizations as Blind Bay is considered a “sanctuary” by wildlife experts.

During the review period earlier this year, CBP said it received more than 1,000 comments on the initial draft, which local organizations say they believe are all comments in opposition.

“We know there have been over a thousand emails and letters to CBP opposing them using this site,” Save The River Executive Director John Peach said. “And we have not heard of one in favor of CBP coming to this site.”

According to the Thousand Islands Land Trust, the land is home to various marsh birds, amphibians and 50 different species of fish, including the muskellunge.

Blind Bay is also one of the last muskellunge spawning grounds on the St. Lawrence River. Peach said the main concern is the invasive nature of the proposed project, as many of the Blind Bay ecosystems are on the bottom of the River.

“Just what we see out here, they’d have to dredge another four-plus feet,” Peach explained. “It would really wipe out everything Blind Bay has grown to become.”

This is an opinion also shared by local leaders, including Town of Alexandria Supervisor Brent Sweet.

“I just don’t understand how we can do all of those things and now we’re talking about going in and just tearing this place apart,” Sweet added.

The Thousand Islands Land Trust currently owns over 700 feet of undeveloped waterfront in Blind Bay. TILT is also in the process of acquiring the remainder of the undeveloped waterfront to conserve the Bay, but TILT Executive Director Jake Tibbles believes it wouldn’t stop CBP from using the site.

“There’s still a likelihood that CBP determines that Blind Bay is their preferred site and initiates imminent domain procedures,” Tibbles said.

An imminent domain would give all control of the Bay to CBP. The agency confirmed in a press release that it will conduct additional environmental surveys and evaluate alternate sites.

These results will be documented in a draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment that is expected to be available in 2023.

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