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Village of Massena teaming up with St. Regis Mohawk Tribe for riverfront beautification

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MASSENA - The village of Massena has teamed up with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to explore ways it can beautify the riverfront along the Grasse River in the village.

Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said the partnership came as a result of a study conducted by students at Clarkson University on ways to enhance Massena’s riverfront.

“After the presentation I spoke with Jessica Jock from the tribe’s environmental department and we discussed opportunities, aside from repairing the weir at this time, to focus on redevelopment and revitalization as outlined in the Clarkson report,” Mr. Hidy said.

According to a statement released by the tribe Friday morning, Ms. Jock first suggested the partnership following the presentation, which was held in late April at Clarkson.

That report suggested that pursuing the replacement of the weir in the Grasse River would be costly and face potentially nearly insurmountable regulatory hurdles and pointed to alternative projects.

“During that meeting, Jessica Jock suggested if the village of Massena was willing to pursue a natural river and shoreline habitat restoration effort, there may be opportunity to collaborate and/or seek funds through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or other funding sources that support habitat restoration projects,” the statement read, noting the tribe has close relationships with several funding agencies and has had success earning grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the past.

In addition to partnering with the tribe, Mr. Hidy said the village will be working with its Department of Public Works and recreation department.

“We’re going to be working in conjunction with our DPW and our recreation department to conceptualize alternatives such as natural playgrounds and park like settings that would contribute to the overall beautification of our shoreline,” he said. “Within her scope of services, Ms. Jock will be helping us obtain alternative funding for these projects through various agencies.”

Ms. Jock said the tribal council is glad to assist the village. “SRMT’s Environment Division collaborates frequently with federal, state and provincial resource agencies and environmental experts, and could suggest some technical and/or ecological suggestions consistent with agency goals to the village to best secure potential restoration funds, if desired,” she said.

Ms. Jock said the project is worthwhile for the tribe, because of its designation as an Area of Concern (AOC), as identified in the U.S.-Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). “An AOC is a geographic region that has experienced a burden of toxic pollutants and environmental degradation in the Great Lakes. Goals and objectives have been identified by the St. Lawrence River Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) to restore beneficial uses of fish and wildlife, and habitat impairments caused by anthropogenic factors, including industrial pollution in the AOC,” she said.

Ms. Jock noted the AOC includes portions of Massena, as well as all of Akwesasne.

“Therefore the SRMT’s Environment Division is an active member of the St. Lawrence River Remedial Advisory Committee for restoration of tribal waters and resources,” she said. “Shoreline and river restoration of the downtown Massena area would be viewed as a favorable project to help achieve RAC and SRMT environmental restoration goals.”

When asked what she would like to see happen along the riverfront in downtown Massena, Ms. Jock replied, “Any project that is consistent with tribal restoration objectives and preservation of culturally significant fish and wildlife species. If any signage proposed along the Grasse River for eco-cultural tourism (i.e. via walking path, bike path, historical reference), acknowledgement of Mohawk history, community culture, and significance of the Grasse River Mile Square and Indian Meadows for retained Mohawk traditional uses as reserved by 1796 Treaty Rights.”

Ms. Jock continued, “The history of St. Lawrence River watershed and its tributaries, including Grasse River, and its waterway significance pre-dates any hydropower facility and industry. The preference would be to highlight the community culture that pre-dates industry, surrounding the Grasse River and Mile Square in any interpretative signage.”

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