By Zach Grady, Channel 7 October 24, 2022
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – We’ve learned the first steps of eminent domain for land along Blind Bay may have been taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Meanwhile, the conservation group wanting to protect the land has a message drivers on State Route 12 are likely to see.
“I think that they’ve heard it all and I don’t think that they’ve listened to any of it,” said Jeff Garnsey, president of Save the River.
The group not listening, according to Garnsey, is U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
It wants to build a new facility on land along Blind Bay.
Save the River and the Thousand Islands Land Trust are fighting the build every step of the way, even trying to buy the land before CBP can. The newest arrow in the conservation groups’ quiver is a bright blue billboard along State Route 12 in the town of Orleans.
“Where the river hits the land, that’s where the two organizations really meet. We both have, obviously, the environment in mind,” said Garnsey.
Thousand Islands Land Trust Executive Director Jake Tibbles says his organization has heard back from CBP, but not about the billboard.
“We haven’t received any sort of communications from CBP with respect to the billboard, but we have been forwarded a letter from Blind Bay Associates, the current owner of Blind Bay,” he said.
That letter is from Customs and Border Protection, saying it’ll be seeking a temporary right of entry to the Blind Bay land to do an environmental assessment within the next 90 days. Both TILT and Save the River fear this is the first step of using eminent domain.
“It’s disregard for the opinion of the locals, and it’s a disregard for what it is that makes our place paradise. What are they here to protect if it’s not the people and the paradise,” said Garnsey.
In statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, “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.”