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DEC, Mohawks team up to restore St. Lawrence

AKWESASNE — The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have signed what they call a historic cooperative agreement to speed up restoring natural resources and traditional Native American uses within an “Area of Concern” on the St. Lawrence River near Massena and the Akwesasne Territory.

Areas of Concern, which the agencies call AOCs, are environmentally degraded. In 1987, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement designated 43 AOCs to focus restoration work on these areas.

The Massena area of the St. Lawrence River was originally listed as an AOC because of elevated levels of heavy metals and PCBs in sediments, wildlife, and water samples collected in the lower Grasse, Raquette and St. Regis rivers. Significant progress is being made in remediating and restoring these waters, but more work remains, the DEC said Wednesday in a press release.

According to the DEC, this cooperative agreement is the first of its kind across the United States portion of the Great Lakes.

“When the Area of Concern was first identified in 1987, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe voiced the need to have Akwesasne recognized as an equal partner in remediating the serious environmental pollution inflicted upon our territory,” the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council said in a statement.

Key features of the cooperative agreement include:

¯ Have representatives of both DEC and the tribe serve as co-coordinators for implementation of the AOC’s Remedial Action Plan.

¯ Develop resource restoration plans to include both natural and cultural resources within the AOC.

¯ Enhance outreach and education of surrounding communities to improve the understanding and support of the agencies efforts.

One immediate outcome of the state-tribal partnership will be the revitalization of the Remedial Advisory Committee to consist of members of the local Massena community and tribal representatives.

The agreement also includes the formal renaming of this unique location from the “St. Lawrence River at Massena” to the “St. Lawrence River Area of Concern at Massena/Akwesasne.”

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