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Three Grants Ok'ed for Environmental, Educational and Research Projects in the St. Lawrence River Watershed

Karen White
315-764-0226, Ext. 304               

April 28, 2009 


MASSENA—Three projects that will contribute to appreciation and understanding of the St. Lawrence River ecosystem were recently awarded funding from the St. Lawrence River Research and Education Fund (SLRREF), that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) established as part of its relicensing of the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project in 2003.  

The SLRREF board received nine proposals during its last application cycle which had a deadline of Jan. 1, 2009.  Three projects were approved by the SLRREF board and were funded for a total of $36,158.  The funded projects were submitted by Clarkson University, Save The River and The Research Foundation of the State University of New York (SUNY) on behalf of SUNY Potsdam. The projects will also receive at total of $16,562 in matching funds from other sources. 

“The preservation of the unique character of the St. Lawrence River watershed is a goal of the St. Lawrence River Research and Education Fund and these three worthy proposals will contribute to that effort,” said Richard M. Kessel, NYPA president and chief executive officer.  “The Power Authority commends the work of the Fund’s board of directors in evaluating the submissions and selecting projects to broaden our understanding of this diverse ecosystem and to protect it for future generations to enjoy.”

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

Funding for $19,965 was approved for the Great Rivers Center of Clarkson University for a study of plankton—minute animal and plant life—dynamics in a large river system.  The research will measure the growth and grazing rates of plankton to increase the knowledge of how river flows, including those from nutrient-rich tributaries, and changing water levels in the International Section of the St. Lawrence River, affect the food chain among microorganisms.  Information gathered will help improve fundamental understanding on how river flows affect the vitality of the river ecology and how this knowledge can be applied for better ecosystem based management.

Last year, a SLRREF grant to Clarkson University laid the groundwork for this study by establishing a firm understanding of the state of plankton in the river. 

Michael Twiss, associate professor of Biology and director of the Great Rivers Center at Clarkson University, said:  “The SLRREF-funded research last year supported an intensive study using sophisticated research instruments and involved several student interns.  Our funding this year will allow work on the river from spring to late fall, and will enable a significant advance on understanding how the base of the ecosystem, the river plankton, functions.  Given societal impacts on the river, we need to bring the best science forward to match the importance of the freshwater resource that is the Saint Lawrence River so we can help manage it properly.”

Save The River, designated as the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, will use its $8,553 grant to expand its volunteer-based Riverkeeper Monitoring Program, established in 2008, to collect data on the general health of the St. Lawrence River.  Information gathered by trained volunteers will be submitted to Save The River who will share it with appropriate agencies charged with remediating any potential pollution or wildlife issues with the river.  Save The River will also follow-up on any actions taken by those entities.  The geographic scope of the program will be expanded in order to increase outreach and education of river issues to the local communities.

Jennifer J. Caddick, executive director, Save The River, said:  “We are very thrilled to receive this grant to expand our Riverkeeper Monitoring Program.  By training additional volunteers to monitor river health, we will be able to quickly identify and respond to potential pollution problems.”

SUNY Potsdam will receive a $7,640 grant to test the effectiveness of turtle crossing signs as a conservation measure for Blanding’s Turtles, a threatened species, and other turtle species.  The program provides for the seasonal installation of turtle crossing signs by selected paved state, county and town roads in St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties where significant turtle crossings have been identified.

Permanent signs are thought to be less effective alerts as drivers become accustomed to the signs, and pay less and less attention to them over time.  Installing signs only during prime turtle crossing season will test to see if roadside turtle mortality drops.  The bright signs will be evaluated by driving and walking surveys to detect and record living and dead species.  The results will help contribute to the development of a multi-faceted recovery plan for encouraging the resurgence of turtle populations.

Kathleen Chapman, associate director, Research and Sponsored Programs, SUNY Potsdam, said:  "SUNY Potsdam is very pleased to be selected as a 2009 SLRREF grant recipient.  This grant will enable Dr. Glenn Johnson to continue his vital research program on the conservation of turtles and other wildlife in the North Country, as well as take it in a promising new direction." 

To be eligible for financial support from the SLRREF, proposed projects must pertain to the St. Lawrence River, the adjoining terrestrial features or a tributary within the St. Lawrence River Valley.  As all funding for 2009 was allocated for these projects, the deadline for the next application submissions is Jan. 1, 2010. 

Additional details are available at, where a report on SLRREF activities is also accessible.

  About NYPA:

■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.   For more information,

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