March 5, 2013

Editorial: Local input on watershed study


---- — The International Lake Champlain/Richelieu River Work Group has righted an oversight that snubbed New York, and we now encourage people on this side of the lake to turn out and voice their opinions.

Everyone in Clinton and Essex counties surely remembers the damaging flooding along Lake Champlain in the spring of 2011. At that time, concern was voiced about whether the conditions on the Richelieu River might have contributed to that destructive situation.

So, the United States and Canada asked the International Joint Commission to plan a study of the causes and impact of flooding in the river and lake watersheds and how it could be prevented or mitigated.

Lake Champlain flooding is far more than an inconvenience — the economic impact on businesses and homes along its coveted shoreline was brought into sharp focus in spring 2011. That flooding broke all-time lake levels, with Lake Champlain topping 103 feet, and the water remained high for more than six weeks.

The Work Group has developed a draft plan, which you can read at

The next step is to gather public input. The International Joint Commission and the Work Group set up meetings so people could hear about the plan, ask questions and provide feedback.

The meetings were to be held at ECHO in Burlington and at Hotel Relais Gouverneur in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The Work Group will use comments received at the meetings and by mail to develop a final plan to submit to the International Joint Commission.

As soon as the news release about the public meetings arrived, the Press-Republican saw a big gap: Where was a New York meeting?

An Editorial Board had already been set up with Dede Scozzafava, one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s representatives, so we asked her whether she could check into the possibility of a meeting on this side of Lake Champlain.

Within days, the Press-Republican received a call from a representative from the International Join Commission. Do you really think a New York meeting is needed, he asked, because the Burlington session was seen as “a regional meeting?” The idea was to have one meeting in Canada and one in the United States.

The problem with that concept is that to participate in the Burlington meeting, people from most communities in our area would have to pay for a ferry trip and drive about 45 minutes, we explained.

Now, the Joint Commission has set up a session from 7 to 9 p.m. March 11 at Hampton Inn, 586 Route 3, Plattsburgh. People who attend will be linked in to the Burlington meeting.

We hope local residents, public officials and business owners will show up next Monday to share the New York perspective on this important issue.