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Ogdensburg snow dumping could be a problem for walleye

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The city’s disposal of snow from its streets could become a problem for walleye spawning areas on the Oswegatchie River.

Large amounts of sand, salt and even small amounts of litter mixed in with the snow are being dumped on the riverbank behind the Algonquin Power dam, near the river’s confluence with the St. Lawrence.

“I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t do that,” Michael R. Twiss, biologist and director of the Great Rivers Center, said.

Mr. Twiss, who’s studied the St. Lawrence River and participated in salt studies in the Adirondacks, said that since the walleye spawn in that stretch of river in the spring, the salt will probably be dissolved by then and not create any problems, but the presence of sand could pose an issue.

“They do need gravel, and if the sand is filling up the spaces in the gravel, that may cause problems for the spawning areas, especially if they’ve been dumping there for years,” Mr. Twiss said.

According to Gregg E. Harland, street supervisor for the Ogdensburg Department of Public Works, they have been dumping there for decades.

“That’s where we’ve dumped it for probably 75 years,” he said.

Mr. Harland said they don’t dump the snow there often because usually the river is frozen.

“Road salt and road sand are the only dirt in it,” he said. “But we only dump it in the river when it’s not frozen.”

Stephen W. Litwhiler, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 6 office, said dumping the snow in the river is not contrary to DEC regulations.

“There are no regulations that prohibit snow being dumped in the water,” he said. “It’s a public safety issue. They have to clear the streets and parking lots and get rid of the snow somehow.”

Mr. Litwhiler said municipalities have best management practices that serve as guidelines for snow removal in the region.

“It’s best to put it in a vacant lot or field and just let it melt naturally,” he said.

Mr. Harland said the city has two dry land dumping areas for snow, one in an empty lot at the end of Wall Street that’s owned by Hoosier Magnetics and another under the Lafayette Street Bridge.

“It’s the same as letting it melt in a parking lot because it will just run down the storm drains and into the river anyways,” Mr. Harland said. “We dump the snow in the river if we’re running out of room at the two land locations.”

This year, Mr. Harland said, the city has seen about the same amount of sand and salt on the roads as years past.

“We used a lot, but not anything crazy, during the ice storm, but we’ve hardly used any the last two weeks,” he said.

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