Port City Eyes Law Requiring PFDs At River

OSWEGO, NY – At Monday’s Administrative Services Committee, Tom Reynolds, assistant city attorney, requested a discussion regarding a proposed local law requiring personal flotation devices. People in designated areas of the Oswego River would be required to wear personal flotation devices.

Councilor John Gosek said it is something that has been in the works for a while.

Jim Toy addresses the committee about Oswego River safety issues.
Jim Toy addresses the committee about Oswego River safety issues.

The designated area would be both sides of the river from the base of the falls to Utica Street, Reynolds explained.

Gosek said he feels this is one way to take control of the river to help revitalize the local fishing industry, which at one time meant anglers “shoulder to shoulder” in the river.

People from all over come to Oswego to fish and it has a ripple effect on the local economy, he added.

The purpose is to promote water safety, Gosek said.

“It used to be they (anglers) were shoulder to shoulder, shore to shore in several different places, more than 1,000 people at any given time,” city resident Jim Toy told the committee.

However, Brookfield Renewable Energy Group placed restrictions on the river near its facility and there were threats of arrests, he added.

“Then, Brookfield came to the table. They negotiated with us,” he said. “Over the last three years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fishermen who have come here to experience fishing in these waters.”

There is no room for lapse in judgment in the river, “this river will take your life without question. We’ve seen it. We’ve had it happen,” he cautioned.

He showed the councilors a map depicting areas in the river that Brookfield has jurisdiction over. Part of the agreement makes one section, where there is a 26-foot dropoff, inaccessible to fishermen, he pointed out.

There is one point of access where the company turned away 53 fishermen this year, he said.

The fishermen had come from out of town, out of state and as far as South Carolina, to fish the Oswego River because their friends contacted them and said it was great fishing, he said.

How that restriction got into the agreement, Toy doesn’t know; no one associated with the pact would talk to him, he said.

“We want our river back. And, this is the beginning of taking our river back. It’s our economy that’s been beat up for the last decade. We finally see it starting to come back and they slam the door on us again,” he said. “It’s just not acceptable.”

The law would authorize Oswego Police Department to enforce the provision.

According to the proposal: All persons using, entering into, standing in, walking in, floating on or otherwise present in the designated area of the Oswego River are required to wear a personnel floatation device at all times while present in the designated area.


The penalty for the first offense would be a fine of not less than $50 or more than $100; for the second offense a fine of not less than $100 or more than $250; for a third offense a fine of not less than $250 or more than $500. The penalty for the fourth offense and each offense thereafter shall be a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000.

The committee forwarded the plan to the full council for further consideration.