Who owns the Oswego River? Fishermen say power company is blocking access to public property

Who owns the Oswego river? It's a question being debated by the City of Oswego and a hydro-electric power company as local fishermen wait for clarification.

Less than a year after fast rising waters swept several fishermen down the Oswego river and two men died, new throw rings and rescue lines have been placed all along the Oswego river walkway. There are also signs reminding fishermen in the water to wear a life jacket. Most people agree that fishing in water by the hydro plant is risky but some fishermen say signs put up by Brookfield Power go too far. The new signs prohibit wading, even though it's not clear Brookfield has the legal authority over people in the river.

"Some of the best fishing is right up by the dam," said fisherman Mike Ariola. "They do well on the dam, better than going on the west side and going on the wall."

Brookfield believes it owns the part of the river right by the dam but the City of Oswego disagrees.

Oswego and Brookfield are in discussions over the legal status of the property. On Tuesday, Oswego Police Department Captain Mike Beckwith said that while the police do not recommend wading in the river, the department "is not in a position to take any enforcement action."

So for the time being, Oswego Police are not removing anyone who wades in the area marked as prohibited.

"I think it's public property. It's our area to fish, you can't block off - people are going to wade in no matter what. If anything put up fish at your own risk signs," said fisherman Nick Peel.

In addition to legal challenges, fishermen are also facing a more practical challenge. Most waders access the river on Leto Island. Currently the bridge to the island is closed to cars so fisherman will have a lot further to walk if they want to wade in the river.

Others were concerned that for a city that depends on fall fishing tourism, all the changes could be a challenge.

"Lots of guys aren't too happy because like you said, they've been coming up for generations, fishing here and now they can't fish their favorite spots," said Garrett Brancey from Fat Nancy's Tackle Shop in Oswego.

A representative for Brookfield says the company just wants to make the river safer. Many fishermen said their safety is up to them.