Now that she’ll officially be representing the 24th district in Congress come January, Claudia Tenney is getting a jump start on learning some of the issues she will encounter.
The district covers a large portion of Lake Ontario and even parts of the St. Lawrence River. It’s been about a year now.
Locals near Blind Bay, a small bay on the St. Lawrence River between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, have been concerned about a plan that would see U.S. Customs and Border Protection build a new, 48,000 square foot station on the very site the locals say, is a critical, rare spawning ground for muskies, keeping the ecosystem in tact. The Thousand Islands Land Trust was so worried, it actually bought the land to prevent the build.
Now, the locals are showing it’s new Congresswoman-elect Tenney why it’s so important.
“I think it is just a huge relief,” Tibbles said. “I think from our vantage point, having a sitting congresswoman come out and show the interest in the issue, tour Blind Bay, and then look at it form the standpoint of the community,”
Tibbles says that’s huge for the local group, which also includes representatives from the environmental advocacy agency Save the River.
They took Tenney on a boat tour of the Bay, and did its best to describe the bay’s importance to the river community. Tenney says she has a lot of work to do to truly understand each side’s perspective, but the tour was eye opening.
“My impression is that this would not be an ideal outcome to put this facility, based on what they’ve described to me - I haven’t read the documents myself - but 40,000 square feet, dog kennels. It looks like a pretty pristine, quiet part of the world,” she said.
While Customs and Border Protection has had a focus on Blind Bay and presented a study that showed its station would have a minimal environmental impact on the area — it has also said throughout this entire process that it has not officially settled an any particular site.
Now the locals disagree with that environmental study finding and are now also worried the purchase by the Land Trust won’t be enough if the CBP wants to move forward. It's a process that could include eminent domain.
“I think it would be really for them to see this, especially someone that might be sitting in a room in Washington who has never been to the St. Lawrence Seaway or doesn’t understand the history and nature of this part of the state and why it is so important to the residents, businesses and communities,” Tenney added.
While the locals continue to raise opposition, Tenney says they can best help themselves by showing the federal government, there are other options. Something that the locals have done - the old Bonnie Castle Recreational Center - nearby.
“From what I’ve read and from talking with them today, I think they have a very good grasp on how to deal with this procedurally and how to deal with some of the bureaucracy that comes from the federal side,” she added.
Locals understand this could be a long process - feeling us it could be another year before they learn of a CBP decision, so they’ll continue to speak out and keep the issue on the forefront of people’s minds.
The Land Trust and Save the River say they have invited the congresswoman-elect back to the region to tour the Bonnie Castle site, to show her why it would be the best spot.