OSWEGO, NY – A meeting was held Wednesday night to follow up on suggestions made at a meeting last month to improve safety along the Oswego River.
Early last month, dozens of people gathered to discuss options to improve safety for fishermen in the river in the wake of two deaths following the release of water from the Varick Hydroelectric Station, operated by Brookfield Renewable Power.
In October, participants came up with a myriad of suggestions.
Mayor Randy Bateman made a list of the suggestions and Wednesday met with a small group of city officials, fishermen and representatives of DEC Police and Brookfield to whittle the list down to a more manageable size and then decide how to implement some of them.
“What we’d like to do is come up with four or five good suggestions and work with Brookfield to see which ones are the best and who’s going to pay for anything that needs to be improved,” the mayor explained.
Jeff McCrobie, fire chief, pointed out the need for personal flotation devices.
“If there wasn’t a seatbelt law, probably not as many people would wear them. If you didn’t have to have a smoke detector in your house I don’t think some people would have them,” he said. “But if we tell them (wearing a PFD) is the best for them, it may work.”
Alderman Ron Kaplewicz agreed. There needs to be some way to educate everyone who fishes in the river, he said.
“Perhaps if there was some sort of consistent signage throughout the state at all fishing areas to alert people of the potential dangers,” he said. “Then, no matter where you were, the signs would be the same and as a sportsman I would know exactly what the sign means no matter where I saw it.”
Larry Muroski, owner of Larry’s Salmon Shop, said it would be a big help if the warning sirens were more consistent with the times the water actually rises.
It would allow fishermen to know exactly how long they have to exit the river every time, he noted.
Educating people from out of town was a big issue.
Local fishermen are pretty much in tune with the idiosyncrasies of the river, others aren’t, the mayor pointed out.
“How do we educate fishermen from out of town about what to look for?” he asked.
Besides the signs, other suggestions included providing informational packets about the Oswego area when fishermen get a license, distributing more brochures and use of the county’s website to provide information.
Some suggestions for improvements along the river were having life rings available and perhaps some call boxes at certain locations along the river so people could quickly report an emergency.
However, that raised the questions as to who would be responsible for maintaining the equipment and how it would be secured to prevent vandalism.
One possible option would be to have a camera system in place to allow the police and/or fire departments to monitor the area.
“We’re doing the best we can to help (the fishermen). If they don’t want to listen, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Muroski said.
Another public meeting will be scheduled in about a month to address what options might be implemented.
“And then, if everybody decides this or that is the best idea, we’ll see how long it will take to implement it,” the mayor said.