Saving a river: Plan 2014 seen as major win for St. Lawrence River dwellers


A long-awaited and much-debated plan to regulate water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River was adopted by the U.S. and Canadian governments Dec. 8. Clayton’s Save the River was among the groups that pushed for nearly two decades for an updated regulation strategy. We sat down with the organization’s executive director, Lee Willbanks, to talk about the environmental and economic impacts of Plan 2014.

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Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins on north country issues

Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for governor, has a long list of goals, not the least of which is becoming governor of New York state.

Realizing that goal may be a few years off, even in the most optimistic of projections, Mr. Hawkins is concentrating on building support for his political party, which has received its fair share of attention in the 21st Congressional District, where Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello has polled at 10 percent of the vote.

“Hopefully with a good vote that’ll be our calling card to go organize people who will see us not just as a protest vote every four years but as an ongoing third major party in the state, which will really open up the political debate,” Mr. Hawkins said.

Mr. Hawkins visited Times offices recently, making the drive from Syracuse in the Hyundai Accent that doubles as his campaign office, and spoke about his “Green New Deal” for New York, which would raise the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour, establish a publicly funded single-payer health care program and provide public works jobs for the unemployed.

Mr. Hawkins, who faces major party candidates Rob Astorino, a Republican, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, in the gubernatorial race, also gave his thoughts on issues unique to the north country, including Fort Drum, the SAFE Act and the International Joint Commission’s “Plan 2014.”

On Common Core: “They started testing before they studied the curriculum. The curriculum came out after the test. That is part of it. But all they’ve done is paused it for two years. They’re going to go back to it and the basic policy is flawed. It’s just a way of avoiding some criticism now; it doesn’t change the problem. I’d want to see the teachers and local school districts more in charge of developing the curriculum for their students.”

On interceptor missiles being stationed at Fort Drum: “I’m skeptical of the technology, if it can really intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles. I don’t see it as a big job creator. It’s high-tech. You have a small crew maintaining the site like you do with the nuclear missiles.”

On Plan 2014, which has been opposed by homeowners on the southern shore of Lake Ontario: “I would lean toward improving the ecosystems because we all depend on them, and it’s a bigger issue than just that smaller group of people that have lakefront property. … Maybe you could mitigate it by having some discussion.”

On the SAFE Act: “I think it needs to be revised. I don’t like the simplistic slogans. … I think the amendments to family law, a lot of them are good. Somebody’s found to be a stalker or under an order of protection, it’s a good idea to disarm them. But a lot of the gun law changes are going too far. A lot of people’s rifles are suddenly assault weapons and they’ve been using them for hunting and sport-shooting and self-defense and those are legitimate purposes.”

Mr. Hawkins attended Dartmouth College, an Ivy League School in Hanover, N.H., but did not graduate because he failed to complete a foreign language requirement. A love of the outdoors and a commitment to working with his hands steered him to a career in construction, he said.

“I remember this class and this one professor said, ‘Unless you’re rich, you guys are being trained to write five-page memos, do all-nighters for the corporate or government bureaucracy that you’re going to be in,’” Mr. Hawkins said.

He lives on the south side of Syracuse, works unloading boxes for United Parcel Service and is a member of the Teamsters union.


By Daniel Flatley, Times Staff Writer

South shore lawmakers urge John Kerry to block Plan 2014

A charter crew passes by a cargo ship this summer on the St. Lawrence River, Ogdensburg. Melanie Kimbler-Lago / Watertown Daily Times

Southern Lake Ontario lawmakers are calling on U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to block the implementation of a new flow plan for the lake and St. Lawrence River.

Set to replace a half-century-old water regulation plan, the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission’s “Plan 2014” proposal has drawn criticism from eastern and southern lakeshore communities because of increased risks of flooding and coastal property damage. [Read more…]