By Cornwall Seaway News, August 19, 2023
Over 100 members of the River community turned out in torrential rains to attend the Save Blind Bay event hosted by Brad & Nancy Kowalczk on the shores of Blind Bay. Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) Executive Director, Jake Tibbles, and Save The River® Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper® Executive Director, John Peach, updated the attendees on the status of the Save Blind Bay Coalition’s efforts to prevent Customs & Border Protection’s (CBP) effort to take Blind Bay through eminent domain for its proposed 48,000 square foot industrial-scale facility.
Peach informed the group “Blind Bay is one of the most historic muskie spawning and breeding grounds and an environmental treasure. This critical habitat is essential to supporting biodiversity in the River and across its shorelines. TILT did the entire River community and environment a great service when they stepped in to purchase the property. In addition, the Town of Alexandria has offered a site at the Bonnie Castle Recreation Center, which seems to address CBP’s needs and at the same time avoids significant impact to the River ecosystem.”
“In my more than 50 years of working as an advocate for the environment, this is the first time I have seen full backing from the community to stop a project that would cause damage to the environment. It is also unique that the River community has been able to offer CBP an alternative project site. STR believes that Saving Blind Bay is as important as its founding issue of blocking winter navigation.”
“There is no doubt that if CBP is successful in taking Blind Bay through eminent domain, the environment will be irreparably harmed. Blind Bay is just too vulnerable and ecologically important. Building a facility in this untouched natural bay will divide habitats and migration routes and create noise and light pollution similar to what is now observed at the Port of Entry. Simply put, this part of our River will sadly be forever changed.”
Jake Tibbles updated the group on the legal status of Save Blind Bay. “The Thousand Islands Land Trust’s acquisition of the Blind Bay property, positioned TILT, Save The River and the River community to legally defend against eminent domain. Since TILT acquired the land in November of last year, we have successfully kept CBP from accessing the property. Unfortunately, CBP continues to push for access and claims that Blind Bay is their preferred site for the proposed facility.”
“Just this week, CBP officials stated both verbally and in writing that if TILT does not voluntarily comply with demands for access, then CBP will proceed with filing in federal district court. The court filing will be led by the Department of Justice. Even with recent developments around potential alternative sites, we are convinced that CBP will continue to pursue Blind Bay.”
“In my year as TILT’s Executive Director, there has not been a more urgent time for the River community to come together. That is why TILT and Save The River are leading an effort to raise critical legal defense funds to ensure that we have the necessary resources to defend against CBP’s attempt to take Blind Bay.”
Both Save The River and TILT had significant praise from the many elected officials who have weighed into the Save Blind Bay issue. Representative Claudia Tenney and Senator Chuck Schumer have both taken a position in support of saving Blind Bay. Jefferson County Legislator Phil Reed, NYS Senator Mark Walczyk and Assemblyman Scott Gray were all in attendance and voiced their strong support to save this environmental treasure. The townships of Orleans, Alexandria and Clayton have passed resolutions of support for Blind Bay.