By 7 News Staff, August 9, 2023
CLAYTON, New York (WWNY) – U.S. Customs And Border Patrol will look at sites other than Blind Bay for their new station, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney announced Wednesday morning.
The announcement does not mean Blind Bay has been dropped as a potential site. But Tenney’s announcement is the surest sign so far that Customs is rethinking its plans in the face of united opposition locally to using Blind Bay.
“We have made it extraordinarily clear that the North Country does not want this station constructed in Blind Bay. It is vital we find a solution that works for all parties so the CBP can continue in its critical mission of protecting our border and keeping our community safe. Thankfully, CBP (Customs) has acknowledged the issues raised by our community and is now looking at additional sites for their relocation,” Tenney said in a statement.
In early 2022, Customs started preliminary work to access and survey the property located at Blind Bay to replace its aging facility on Wellesley Island.
After Customs released its environmental assessment of the site in February 2022, community members near and around the property voiced strong opposition to the construction of a facility on the site, including expressing concern about the facility’s potential impact on Muskellunge spawning in the area.
Customs “has also committed to a more transparent relocation process, acknowledging the need to improve the agency’s dialogue with the communities it protects. I thank CBP for their efforts and I will continue fighting for a solution that keeps our communities safe and protects the natural beauty and ecological wealth of the North Country, Tenney said.
“We are hopeful that they’re going to find an alternative site that is not environmentally sensitive, and that will allow us to save Blind Bay which is a true environmental treasure,” said Save the River Executive Director John Peach.
Peach and other opponents of the Blind Bay site are encouraged by the news, but acknowledge the battle for Blind Bay isn’t over since CBP hasn’t dropped the proposed location.
“We recognize that there is a legal process that Customs and Border Protection has to follow, and that does create kind of this slow-moving uncertainty,” said Thousand Islands Land Trust Executive Director Jake Tibbles.
Both state Assemblyman Scott Gray and state Senator Mark Walczyk say meetings with CPB have been successful.
“The first meeting, we just kind of staked out our ground, and we reiterated what the community has been saying. The second meeting, there was progress,” said Gray (R. – 116th District).
“They’ve assured us communication will be better moving forward and want to work with local stakeholders to see what opposition is out there before they look for other sites, which makes a lot of sense,” said Walczyk (R. – 49th District).
The following is a statement from CBP:
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.