September 24: Saint Lawrence Science, Seaway Overview, Moses-Saunders Dam and Thousand Islands NP

A Community Effort Brings World-Class Science to the Banks of the St. Lawrence

Located far from a big population center or major university, the St. Lawrence River Institute sits right on the banks of its namesake. Born from a collaboration with area industries, governments, educators and First Nations, the Institute is a non-profit science center that offers both a place to conduct scientific research on things like contaminants in the river and fishery health, as well as facilities that offer community services like science education events and water chemistry testing for Ontario breweries. We stopped in to say hello and hear about their latest research. 

Managing a Working River: An Overview of the St. Lawrence Seaway

The Upper St. Lawrence River, running from Kingston, Ontario to Montreal, is known in many circles by another name – The St. Lawrence Seaway. Constructed in the late 1950s with both Canadian and U.S. support, the Seaway created a maritime economy on the river and allowed ocean-going vessels access to the Great Lakes and Great Lakes commodities access to international markets. The Moses-Saunders dam was an integral part of that plan, raising upstream water levels to navigable depths. We got a tour the facility, learned about outflows and their connection to water levels and heard how economic considerations and environmental concerns are incorporated by the bi-national International Joint Commission, which makes decisions about the river.  

Eel Ladders and Lost Villages: Environmental and Cultural Concerns on a Dammed River

Putting a big wall in the middle of a river has some obvious impacts, both upstream and downstream. We talked about some of those, like the historic resettlement of 6,500 residents during the initial construction of the dam and ongoing efforts to reconnect and improve the ecosystem for the river’s aquatic residents – like the migratory and, some would say, (okay – Adam would say) “miraculous” American eel. 

We then headed upriver to Ed Huck Marina, where we boarded boats for an afternoon in (and among) the St. Lawrence’s iconic 1,000 Islands. We got a water-level view of Thousand Islands National Park as we talked with our hosts about conservation efforts on the river, impacts to local communities, the region’s history, and the importance of outdoor recreation to the local economy.