Adirondack North Country gets $300K in NYS conservation grants

Geographic distribution of New York State Conservation Partnership Program Grants. Image: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Geographic distribution of New York State Conservation Partnership Program Grants. Image: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The state is announcing today that the Adirondack North Country region will be getting $307,700 in conservation grants (the grants total about $1.4 million statewide.) The grants will go to not-for-profit land trusts; according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, they’ll be almost matched by private and local funding. In the release Cuomo says land trusts

continue to make a difference in local communities, maximizing public and private dollars to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources for generations to come…Through partnerships like these, New York is utilizing the Environmental Protection Fund to provide critical support for many environmental and open space programs, generating revenue, creating jobs, and ensuring a cleaner and healthier New York.

The release also says this year’s budget provides a $9 million boost to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), and that the grants

will advance regional economic development goals by strengthening partnerships with local and state governments and advancing locally supported efforts to protect prime farmland, enhance public access and recreation opportunities, and conserve private lands prioritized in New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and state wildlife action plan.

Here’s where in our region that money is going (view the full list): Champlain Area Trails is getting $42,000; Ducks Unlimited in Jefferson County is getting $16,500; Indian River Lakes Conservancy is getting $16,500; Lake Placid Land Conservancy is getting $75,000; Ontario Bays Initiative is getting $3,000; Thousand Islands Land Trust is getting $70,200; and the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust is getting $44,000.

Dangerous tank cars will be taken off the rails by Canadian government

Lac-Megantic burning on the first day after the rail car derailment sent fireballs and streams of burning oil coursing through the Quebec village. Photo: Surete du Quebec

Lac-Megantic burning on the first day after the rail car derailment sent fireballs and streams of burning oil coursing through the Quebec village. Photo: Surete du Quebec

The Canadian Press (via Huffington Post) is reporting today that the federal government of that county is ordering the 5,000 most dangerous tank cars off the rails. This, as the government adopts the Transportation Safety Board’s major recommendations in the wake of last year’s tragedy in Lac-Megantic. NCPR has reported extensively on that tragedy and the questions it raised about the dangers of transporting crude oil in tank cars deemed “unsafe” and “inadequate” (more, and here’s a recent piece on the issue.)

Here’s more from the Canadian Press:

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says the immediate measures will take care of the most vulnerable of the older model tank cars, known as DOT-111, while those carrying crude oil and ethanol must be phased out or retrofitted within three years.

“We are immediately removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service by directing the phase-out of tank cars that have no continuous reinforcement of their bottom shell in 30 days,” Raitt said.

Rail carriers will also be required to prepare emergency response assistance plans for shipments of all petroleum products, including everything for crude oil to diesel.

Emergency response is to be improved across the country through a task force involving municipalities, first responders, railways and shippers.

“We are always committed to improving railway safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by rail,” Raitt told a news conference.

She said there will be changes to insurance rules so that in the event of an accident there will be enough money available to cover compensation and cleanup costs.

“I also feel strongly that Canadians should not be expected to cover the costs of damages in the event of an accident.”

The actions are the latest response to last summer’s horrific derailment and fire in Lac Megantic that claimed 47 lives.

Concerns about the safety of DOT-111 tank cars date back at least 20 years.

The DOT-111 tank car is considered the workhorse of the North American fleet and makes up about 70 per cent of all tankers on the rails.

Telemedicine is coming to Clifton-Fine Hospital

A telemedicine consult. Photo: Intel Free Press, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A telemedicine consult. Photo: Intel Free Press, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Hello! In case you missed it this weekend in the Watertown Daily Times, Clifton-Fine Hospital in Star Lake (St. Lawrence County) is adding telemedicine to the list of services it offers. In case you’re wondering, the American Telemedicine Association says it’s

[T]he use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.

Clifton-Fine’s gotten its telemedicine funding through the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, and plans to start with pain management; services could start in June with a pilot program, the paper reports. The hospital may also use telemedicine for psychiatric services, which would allow patients to see a therapist in the same place where they see a doctor.

Warren County recognized for keeping county jail inmates off unemployment

WarrenCountyJailMapThe Glens Falls Post-Star is reporting that New York state is recognizing Warren County for having a system to keep county jail inmates from collecting unemployment benefits. The state comptroller’s office found last year that in five counties they studied (including Warren County), inmates received $325,000 in unwarranted unemployment payments.

The county sheriff’s office’s information technology director, Michael Colvin, developed a program that allows the jail’s inmate roster to communicate with the state Department of Labor to let the agency know of any inmates who might be receiving unemployment.

Interestingly, the comptroller’s office study found inmates were continuing to receive unemployment by making phone calls from jails; the office has recommended counties set their jail phone systems to block calls to DOL numbers. It also found that it’s taking the DOL up to four weeks to discontinue unemployment benefits.

Ottawa bike-sharing under new management

A Bixi bike-share station in Ottawa last June. Photo: Lucy Martin

A Bixi bike-share station in Ottawa last June. Photo: Lucy Martin

Readers may recall the Bixi bike share system in cities like Ottawa and New York City. Despite Bixi’s slew of financial and managerial problems, a recent press release suggests continued support for that form of rented transportation in Canada’s Capital region:

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is pleased to announce the transfer of its bike share program, Capital BIXI, to CycleHop, LLC, effective April 17, 2014. The new owner and operator will resume the bike share service in the core of Ottawa–Gatineau by this summer 2014, while making plans for system expansion.

CycleHop CEO Josh Squire positioned bike sharing as a plus for both residents and visitors, calling it “…a fun way to get around. It is good for your personal health, and for the health of our planet.” According to the NCC’s media release:

CycleHop is committed to doubling the size of the current program within the next few years, at its own expense. The current public bike share program serves the downtown core of Ottawa and Gatineau, with 250 bicycles at 25 locations. CycleHop also plans to work on increasing participation among individuals and corporate users, enhancing customer service, and renewing the public’s enthusiasm and support for the program.

The Ottawa Citizen says Bixi opened its very first bike share system in Montréal, with Ottawa being the second such effort, since June of 2009.

CycleHop operates bike-sharing systems in Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, Atlanta and Louisville.

The Bixi rental season was due to begin in mid-April this year. On Thursday, the NCC said the new owner will resume the bike share service by this summer.

But Squire said it might happen sooner than that.

Earlier this week, the Montréal Gazette reported Bixi bikes are once more being rented in that city and that over 3,000 bikes should be in service by month’s end.

According to various media sources, Bixi’s international operations were recently sold to Montreal furniture manufacturer Bruno Rodi for a reported $4 million dollars.

An article about the convoluted Bixi saga in the Atlantic, makes parts of the bankruptcy mess sound almost exciting, even exotic:

Who is Rodi, anyway? Well, have you ever seen those Dos Equis ads featuring “the most interesting man in the world”? This dude gives that one a run for his money, and in real life. The owner of the furniture company Rodi, “le spécialiste du sofa,” is also a world traveler who has undertaken an almost ridiculous number of adventures and was reportedly on a boat in the Indian Ocean while the Bixi sale was going down.

They just look like a rack of clunky bikes. Apparently there’s plenty going on behind the scenes.

NY21 candidates have more than pocket money “on hand”

doheny

Correction: This post erroneously stated that the New York Republican party was supporting Matt Doheny. In fact, the statement of support linked to in this post is from the New York state Independence Party.

Candidates in the 21st Congressional District race were required this week to turn in the numbers on how much they have to spend on their campaigns. Tuesday was the due date, and the numbers are interesting for Elise Stefanik, Aaron Woolf and Matt Doheny.

All three candidates have respectable amounts of “cash on hand,” the Watertown Daily Times is reporting: That is, money they can spend on ads and other campaign expenses in the race. But Matt Doheny, who has the support of the Republican New York state Independence party and will likely go up against Elise Stefanik in a Republican primary in June, has the most, with $516,444. Democrat Aaron Woolf is next, with $403,405, and Stefanik trails the pack with $350,825.

Another interesting number is the amount the three candidates have loaned their respective campaigns: Doheny has loaned his $250,500; Woolf, $200,000; and Stefanik much less, at $15,000.

Meanwhile, the Independence Party is challenging Stefanik’s petition for that party’s ballot line, saying she got far too few signatures to qualify (WWNY-TV). Doheny, potential Aaron Woolf challenger Stephen Burke, and Green Party member Matt Funicello have also been challenged. So we’ll see where that goes.

 

Warren County moves toward selling its nursing home

Westmount

Westmount Health Facility in Queensbury. Photo via WarrenCountyNY.gov

The company that’s bought several nursing homes in our area in the last few years (including Horace Nye in Elizabethtown, the sale of which was finalized, after a long delay, earlier this month) is in negotiations to buy Westmount Health Facility in Queensbury. The Glens Falls Post-Star reports that Warren County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with the sale to Specialty Care Group, “despite protestations from some supervisors and local residents who urged committee members to hold off.”

The company would pay $2.3 million for Westmount, which will apparently likely cost the county $700,000 this year. There’s also an expensive complication with the facility’s heating system, about which there’s more detail in the article.

Those local residents and supervisors who were against moving forward gave a few reasons, having to do with unresolved legal issues around the heating system; Medicaid reimbursements; the sale price; and allowing more locals to have a say in the matter.

Gillibrand calls for USDA disaster declaration for North Country farms

littleriver

The Little River in the St. Lawrence County town of Canton, yesterday. Photo: Martha Foley

This press release this afternoon from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, after the flooding of the last 24 hours (our story from this morning). The North Country is still under flood watches and warnings until tonight, although it’s not raining or snowing. There’s still flooding and high water, and some roads do remain closed throughout the region. Officials are encouraging people not to drive through high water.

Extreme Flooding In Lewis, St. Lawrence Counties Damaging Roads, Bridges – Isolating Dairy Farms, Damaging Feed, Silos, Wells

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue an agriculture disaster declaration to send relief to farms in Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties where severe flooding is destroying roads and bridges, isolating local dairy farms, and damaging feed, bunker silos and wells. The ongoing flooding also threatens to submerge farmland and poses a significant threat to livestock.

Sen. Gillibrand's letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Image via Gillibrand's website

Sen. Gillibrand’s letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (click to enlarge). Image via Gillibrand’s website

“When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Heavy flooding is wiping out roads and bridges, isolating farms, destroying resources that keep them operating, and threatening to leave many farms under water. We need these federal resources on the ground without delay so we can help our farms recover and support our economy.”

Senator Gillibrand is calling for the swift disaster declaration for Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties, and could extend to additional counties as damage continues to be reported by local farm agencies.

A secretarial disaster declaration can release federal resources that provide a range of assistance to farmers, including low-interest emergency loans, technical assistance to repair damages and help to replenish lost livestock.

NY21 race roundup: Fundraising, challenging, and more!

New York's 21st Congressional District

New York’s 21st Congressional District

If you can pull yourself away from the weathertastprophe outside, there’s a lot going on today in the 21st District Congressional race. Specifically:

Republican/Conservative hopeful Elise Stefanik has raised more than $524,000 for her campaign, according to a press release from said campaign. Stefanik, who’ll likely face perennial NY21 candidate Matt Doheny in a primary for the Republican nomination (but not for the Conservative nomination, which has already gone to Stefanik), has so far gotten donations from 831 people, including 701 donations below $250.

Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf has raised more than $205,000 (he only established his fundraising account with the Federal Elections Commission on Feb. 21 of this year); combined with a personal loan of $200,000, North Country Now reports today, he’s reporting more than $405,000 on hand for the race. According to the Albany Times-Union’s Capitol Confidential blog, Woolf’s campaign says “more than 300 citizens have given to Woolf’s campaign, with over 60 percent of the funds coming from New York State and over 60 percent of the donors to the campaign giving less than $250.”

These numbers are required from candidates each quarter (reporting to the Federal Election Commission), and were due today. No word yet from the other candidates on how much they’ve raised.

In other news, WWNY-TV reports that “a few voters” are challenging the validity of petitions from candidates Stefanik, Doheny, Democrat Stephen Burke, and Green Party member Matt Funicello. Any registered voter can challenge the validity of the petitions, which are required from anyone wanting to run for Congress. The voters now have six days to specify the problems they have with the signatures.

High water levels slow Seaway ships

A Seaway freighter passes under the bridge near Massena in December, 2012. Photo: David Sommerstein

A Seaway freighter passes under the bridge near Massena in December, 2012. Photo: David Sommerstein

The heavy melt over the last few days, combined with rain, means a lot of places are dealing with high water levels, both in their rivers and in some cases on their roads. Another impact of high waters is in St. Lawrence Seaway, where ships passing through are being slowed down to prevent shoreline erosion.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Office of Lock Operations and Marine Services Director Lori Curran told North Country Now that water levels are high between the locks at Massena and the Iroquois Dam across from Lisbon, because the the Moses-Saunders power dam near Massena is holding back some of the water that would naturally flow downstream.

Apparently, the speed restrictions aren’t unusual, but they’re usually imposed later in the year — last year, the Seaway imposed the restrictions in May.