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Schumer Joins Call for CBP to Drop Blind Bay Station Construction Plans | Jefferson County

ORLEANS — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has joined the appeal against the planned U.S. Customs and Border Protection patrol post at Blind Bay.

The New York Democrat sent a letter to CBP’s Acting Environmental Branch Chief John P. Petrilla on Tuesday, asking that the agency consider a different site for the project.

In plans released in February, a company working for CBP detailed plans to build a large administrative and patrol center on 19 acres of land on the bay just south of Fishers Point mobile park. The station would provide space for 75 officers in a 17,300 square foot main administration building, with 15,800 in constructed support space. A 15,100 square foot parking garage, kennel, marine storage, dock and ramp, fuel island and car wash would also be installed.

Conservationists, local business owners, and local and state elected officials have voiced their opposition to such a large facility in Blind Bay. In his letter, Senator Schumer echoed many of their points. To date, Senator Schumer is the most senior elected official to have spoken on the Blind Bay station project.

Blind Bay is one of the few remaining muskellunge breeding grounds in the Thousand Islands, and the endangered fish are slowly making a comeback, according to research conducted at the Thousand Islands Biological Station by SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry.

“This habitat has been used in recovery efforts to restore fish populations impacted by habitat loss and invasive species,” the senator’s letter read. “These critical fish and wildlife habitats that exist in the shallow, undeveloped bay support shoreline protection, flood reduction, biodiversity and nature education to name but a few of their benefits. .”

The senator said construction of the facility, particularly the marina, wharf and ramp, would require significant dredging of Blind Bay and put these endangered and protected species at risk.

“The proposed docks at the new facility would require extensive dredging which would damage the uniquely important habitat,” he said. “Dock structures are also known to attract devastating invasive species such as zebra mussels.”

Local tourist businesses, including Thousand Islands Park directly across the river from Blind Bay, have expressed concern that an industrial facility will be built on what was a very natural stretch of coastline of the St. Lawrence. TI Park officials said the bright lights, increased ship traffic, and overall look of a CBP station would clash strongly with the character of their community.

“Hotels, attractions and more than 300 homes are across the river from the proposed new facility,” Senator Schumer said in his letter. “People live (in) and visit this part of the Thousand Islands to enjoy the natural beauty. The proposed multi-building industrial facility that requires a significant amount of lighting would detract from the natural beauty that the North Country offers.

Senator Schumer said building such a facility at this site would undo much of the multimillion-dollar investment Orleans and Jefferson County have made to maintain the waterfront in its current shape.

Senator Schumer said he agreed that CBP needed a new station in the Thousand Islands. The agency said its current facilities on the Isle of Wellesley are three times their capacity and have fallen into a state of disrepair that cannot be corrected by refurbishment.

“I agree that a new, larger facility is needed to perform your vital services,” Senator Schumer said. “However, I strongly urge you to consider and choose a different location that could meet agency needs without harming wildlife ecosystems, tourism, and the daily lives of Blind Bay area residents.”

Save the River executive director John Peach said Tuesday he appreciated Senator Schumer’s letter of objection. Save the River sent the initial letter of objection regarding the Blind Bay CBP station and organized much of the local push against the facility.

Mr Peach said he thought Senator Schumer got the message perfectly.

“Senator Schumer understands the importance of muskellunge and the whole environment to the St. Lawrence River,” he said.

He said he thinks Senator Schumer’s voice adds more credibility to their own opposition to the planned installation, which is only growing. Mr. Peach said more than 900 people have signed a letter that Save the River plans to send to CBP, reiterating their opposition to the project.

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