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Emergency personnel prepare for bass tourney

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WADDINGTON – Emergency services personnel are busy preparing for one of the biggest events ever to be hosted in St. Lawrence County.

The Evan Williams Showdown, a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, is expected to draw thousands of people to Waddington, Ogdensburg, Massena and areas in between from Aug. 8 to 11.

“This is the largest event we’ve ever had to plan for,” St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Director Joseph M. Gilbert said Wednesday.

Mr. Gilbert said crews are regularly having planning meetings. An on-site rehearsal is scheduled for Aug. 1.

“We take every one of these events seriously,” Mr. Gilbert said. “We are trained to manage under emergency situations, and we use these non-emergency situations to practice for major disasters. It’s better that we practice under a fishing tournament than an ice storm.”

The event will require cooperation from agencies on both sides of the international border.

“We’ll have international and local first responders on call,” Mr. Gilbert said. “They’ll be state police and federal agencies to Canadian agencies. Border Patrol will monitor the anglers in the U.S. and Canadian waters, the U.S. Coast Guard will monitoring all the waterways, and state police, Department of Transportation, and local highway department will be on land along with the county sheriff’s office.”

Ham radio operators will also be conducting emergency communications throughout the tournament.

An emergency command center will be stationed at the headquarters of the event in Whittaker Park.

Mr. Gilbert asks that residents and visitors be vigilant in and out of the water.

“Backpacks and coolers will not be allowed in Whittaker Park,” Mr. Gilbert said. “Prepare for all types of weather situations and watch yourself on the water. Traffic on the water will be greatly increased.”

Rescue and dive teams will be on hand to monitor all the anglers and boaters.

“Over a 100 anglers will be traveling close to 75 miles per hour all along the water,” Mr. Gilbert said. “Some of the anglers will have limited or no experience on the St. Lawrence River.”

On the local level, Waddington Fire Chief Matthew G. Mayette is asking residents and visitors to obey temporary traffic laws.

Fire police training has been moved up from its previous schedule to this week to train upwards of 15 new department members how to direct traffic and handle safety training in the village, he said.

“All the side streets in Waddington are going to be one-sided parking, on the right-hand side of the road,” Mr. Mayette said. “That way emergency vehicles will be able to pass through the village. Our biggest concern is that drivers follow the traffic routes in and out of the village so that it’s less congestion when people are trying to get out.”

Mr. Mayette said he has sent letters asking surrounding fire and rescue departments to help with fire policing.

“We’ve received mutual aid support from Louisville and Massena,” Mr. Mayette said. “It will be a struggle to cover all shifts, as many of our volunteers work during the daytime.”

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