An impairment of beneficial uses means a change in the chemical, physical or biological integrity which caused significant environmental degradation.
St. Lawrence River Area of Concern at Massena/Akwesasne
Massena/Akwesasne is part of 43 environmentally impacted areas of concern within the Great Lakes River basin. The area has beneficial use impairments (BUI) to fish, wildlife, plant and river uses. The impairments were caused by decades of industrial contamination resulting in the loss of traditional activities and knowledge related to fish, wildlife and plants.
The SRMT and NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation hold a co-coordination partnership to develop removal criteria and management actions to remove the six beneficial use impairments in this AOC. The partnerships ensure Akwesasne has a say in what happens within our territory. The SRMT is the only Tribe/First Nation to have a co-coordination agreement where a Tribe is a partner and not only a stakeholder.
The Tribe works with local, state, and federal agencies to study and remove these impairments through management actions. These management actions are projects that focus on removing the impairments to the river system.
Each of the AOCs have remedial advisory committees (RAC) who provide recommendations for setting priorities and review and comment on current environmental initiatives taking place in the AOC. The Massena/Akwesasne RAC meets quarterly and is made up of representatives from federal, state, local and Tribal organizations, academia and private citizens.
On certain issues, additional specialized assistance may be required to develop and review restoration targets. The SLR AOC RAC has convened three sub-committees to assist with specialized objectives.
1. Technical Advisory Team (Tech Team) assists in developing actions and deliverables of the Five-Year Conceptual Management Action Plan (FY2020-2024). This includes evaluating BUI removal criteria and endpoints, identifying BUI assessment needs, and developing management action lists (MALs) for BUIs. The team will utilize recent scientific data and recommendations from the Mohawk Cultural Team to inform and guide their decision process. The Tech Team provides valuable input by assisting with the identification of partners and resources for carrying out projects supporting BUI assessment and removal efforts. Having external stakeholder input is an important tenet of the AOC Program. Their goal is to assist with the development of a set of management actions that when implemented will achieve the goals, measures of success, and metrics deemed necessary to address and remove AOC BUIs.
2. Mohawk Cultural Team is convened to provide formal recommendations for the inclusion or exclusion of Mohawk Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) criteria for each of the impaired BUIs to determine if TEK-based BUI removal criteria and management actions are appropriate to achieve the goals, measures of success and metrics deemed necessary to address AOC impairments according to traditional Mohawk culture and traditions and develop criteria as appropriate. The Mohawk Cultural Use team drafted BUI removal criteria using traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) designed to teach cultural methods for multi-generational transmission of the skills, knowledge, language and stories related to fish, wildlife and plants. These removal criteria are currently under internal review and when finalized, will be sent to the RAC for concurrence.
3. Public Outreach Team is convened to assist in engaging and informing the communities of Massena and Akwesasne and stakeholders on efforts and successes dealing with the delisting of BUIs to change the Massena and Akwesasne community’s perspective from being recognized as polluted communities, to being regarded as healthy ecosystems that improve quality of life, celebrate rich history and culture, strengthen the economy, foster a sense of place and help achieve competitive advantage.
The SLR AOCs at Massena/Akwesasne and Cornwall/Akwesasne are working with Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, provincial, state and federal agencies to draft policies and procedures for implementing projects that treat the northern and southern areas as a binational territory. This would allow both AOCs to seek funding and manage projects that encompass our areas of the St. Lawrence River ecosystem at the same time and using the same methods. This would be a huge help in getting a realistic view of the health of the river.
The AOC RAP Co-Coordinator with oversight of the Technical Advisory Team is Christopher Fidler from the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (email@example.com – 518-783-8001)
The AOC RAP Co-Coordinator with oversight of the Mohawk Cultural and Public Outreach Teams is Aimée Benedict, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (firstname.lastname@example.org – 518-358-5937 ext. 5051)