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NYPA awards two grants for St. Lawrence River studies

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MASSENA—Two projects that will contribute to the greater understanding of and appreciation for the St. Lawrence River ecosystem were awarded funding earlier this year from the St. Lawrence River Research and Education Fund (SLRREF) which was established by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) as part of its relicensing of the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project in 2003.

The projects were approved by the SLRREF board and were funded for a total of $23,762. The funded projects were submitted by Clarkson University and Save the River. The projects will also receive a total of $56,985 in matching funds from other sources.

Since 2007, when SLRREF was initiated, 18 projects have been approved for nearly $244,000 in NYPA funding through SLRREF. With matching grants of more than $216,000 from others, total funding for the projects is approximately $460,000. A complete list of projects and grants is available at www.nypa.gov/facilities/slrref/SLRREFProjects.html.

“As a board member for the St. Lawrence Research and Education Fund, it’s been very rewarding to be part of the careful work it has undertaken to select the best environmental research and education proposals from among the many we receive,” said Maria Toirac, NYPA’s senior relicensing and implementation specialist. “The two proposals selected in this round are ideal examples of the kind of projects that will lead to a better understanding of the complex St. Lawrence River ecosystem and help create new mechanisms of support for protection of the River’s ecosystem.”

The SLRREF board consists of representatives of the Power Authority, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services, the St. Lawrence County Planning Office, the Northern New York Audubon Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local municipalities.

Clarkson University will use its $19,162 funding to study the ecological conditions of wetlands in places along the St. Lawrence River where water quality and biodiversity are thought to be compromised. The grant will allow student and faculty researchers from Clarkson University to measure the degree of wetland impairment and environmental degradation and the effectiveness of the wetland restoration and mitigation projects.

Tom A. Langen, associate professor of Biology at Clarkson University, said, “The St. Lawrence River near Massena is one of the 39 environmental Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes region, and one of only six located in New York state. The research findings, accomplished with the assistance of Power Authority funding, will help stakeholders concerned about the environmental condition of the St. Lawrence River, to prioritize areas of concern, and more efficiently allocate scarce resources to the wetland areas that need them most.”

Save the River was awarded a grant of $4,600 to build on a program previously funded with money from SLRREF—the volunteer-based Riverkeeper Monitoring Program. The new grant will be used to extend the successful program to the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River. Initially established in 2008, the Riverkeeper Monitoring Program trains volunteers to collect data on the general health of the St. Lawrence River.

The information is then shared with the appropriate agencies charged with remediating any potential pollution or wildlife issues in the river. Expanding the reach of the program to the Canadian side of the river will facilitate cross-boundary partnerships to benefit the river’s ecology.

Kate Breheny, program manager, Save the River, said, “We are very fortunate to have the continued financial support from the St. Lawrence River Research and Education Fund for the Riverkeeper Monitoring Program. Because of this support, we have been able to create an educated and empowered community of over 260 trained volunteers and that number continues to grow. We are very excited to expand the program to Canada and train volunteers on both sides of the River.”

Information on the next deadline for submitting grant proposals will be available in the near future at www.nypa.gov/facilities/slrref/slrrefhome.htm. To be eligible for financial support from SLRREF, proposed projects must pertain to the St. Lawrence River, the adjoining terrestrial features or a tributary within the St. Lawrence River Valley.

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