DEC, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe save over 500,000 freshwater mussels in Grasse River

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In this Oct. 17, 2019, photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a pile of recently dead freshwater mussels are piled along the shore of the Clinch River near Wallen Bend, Tenn. While freshwater mussels have been plagued for decades by habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, sedimentation and other issues, there’s a possibility that the die-off in the Clinch River could be connected to infectious disease. (Meagan Racey/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)

AKWESASNE (WWTI) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have completed a historic collaboration.

On October 21, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the completion of a mussel and wildlife habitat restoration project on the Grasse River. According to the DEC this project saved an estimated 500,000 freshwater mussels.

“Thanks to DEC’s innovative strategies to protect river habitat and our aggressive and sustained efforts to hold parties responsible for harmful contamination, hundreds of thousands of freshwater mussels and the Grasse River ecosystems that depend on them will thrive once again,” Commissioner Seggos said in a press release. “The Grasse River provides habitat not only for the mussels, but also this area’s renowned bass, walleye, and muskie populations.”

“As human beings, we are dependent on creation for our survival. As sophisticated as we think we are, the smallest creatures can accomplish great feats, such as providing clean water simply by following their original instructions. We are always grateful for them and those that take action in acknowledging their important purpose,” the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe added.

A cooperative agreement was first signed by the DEC and SRMT tribe in December 2019 to accelerate the restoration of natural resources in the St, Lawrence River Area of Concern in Massena and Akwesasne,

The DEC stated that as cleanup efforts began, roughly 80% of freshwater mussels in the Grasse River were determined to be at risk of destruction. The Grasse River is home to at least 15 different species of mussels, which perform nutrient cycling, sediment structure and a forage base.

Restoration work then began and included the movement of nearly 500,000 freshwater mussels, installation of 400 “crib” structures to provide habitat diversity for fish until their natural habitat returns, improvements at the three largest freshwater wetland areas along the river.

The DEC confirmed that it will continue to oversee these projects as the river covers. It expects to oversee an effort to return the recovered mussels to the remediated areas as early as 2022.

This restoration milestone results from an agreement between the DEC and Arconic, and collaboration with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York State Museum and other partners.

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