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Tell Congress “Don’t weaken environmental review of Army Corps projects!”

September 18th, 2013 | Posted by Lee
Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.
Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.
The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.
Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact their representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.
We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.
Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.
Here are the basic points to make:
Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.
To find your Congress person click here.
Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.
To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.
For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.
Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:
Timothy Bishop
Richard Hanna
Sean Patrick Maloney
Jerrold Nadler
Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

Congressional committee is poised to approve bill undermining environmental reviews of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects.

Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee released their version of the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA)**. Recently the Senate passed its own version. Both bills contain similar “streamlining” language that would substantially undermine effective environmental review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers water projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
.
These provisions will make it much harder to fight bad Army Corps projects like Seaway Expansion and winter navigation, should they be re-introduced.


The House T&I Committee plans to take up WRRDA tomorrow, September 19th.

Everyone concerned about adequate, appropriate and critical review of Army Corps actions on the St. Lawrence River should contact theirSeaway Construction representative about the harmful provisions in the bill and about new reforms that should be added to the bill.

We urge you to tell your representative that the harmful environmental “streamlining” provisions must be stripped from the bill to ensure continued protection of the St. Lawrence River and our nation’s other inland waterways.

Please reach out to your Congress person and express your concerns with the House bill.  If your House member is not on the T&I Committee ask them to reach out to the T&I Committee with your concerns.

Here are the basic points to make:

  • Strike the environmental streamlining provisions in the bill – Sections 101 and 103.
  • Strike the provision that eliminates the requirement for “reconnaissance studies” – the provision we used successfully to stop expansion of the Seaway – Section 104.
  • Amend the “Inland Waterways Stakeholder Roundtable” language to require the inclusion of conservation organizations (such as Save The River) – Section 215.
  • Strike provisions that encourage massive amounts of additional dredging at full taxpayer expense.
  • Amend the bill to require the Corps to use cost-effective, low impact solutions wherever possible.
  • Amend the bill to require mitigation consistent with recommendations made by the nation’s fish and wildlife experts pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.

To find your Congress person click here.

Of course, Bill Owens should also hear from all of us since he represents the St. Lawrence River region.

To read the most recent letter from a broad coalition of national and regional conservation groups, including Save The River, opposing environmental “streamlining” click here.

For additional background click here to a read the National Wildlife Federation’s section-by-section analysis of the House bill.

Members of New York’s Congressional delegation on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are:

Feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback you may receive.

** Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is legislation which provides for the conservation and development of water and related resources and authorizes the Secretary of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the United States, and for other purposes deemed appropriate by the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States.
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Reflections on a New River Season

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Lee

The opening of the Seaway prompted a reflection on the state of the River and the River communities that depend on it. We were pleased that several newspapers (Thousand Islands Sun, Kingston Whig-Standard, Brockville Recorder & Times and the Watertown Daily Times) thought it worth publishing. The T.I.Sun version is here.

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Words vs. Actions: Is the Seaway Green or Greenwashing?

March 22nd, 2011 | Posted by admin

Below is a commentary, written by Save The River’s Executive Director, reflecting on the opening of the 52nd Seaway season.

March 22, 2011

Today marks the beginning of another season of shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway. We’re relieved that there is little ice on the main channel, removing the need for icebreaking to open the River for ship passage. Unfortunately, the navigation buoys sit on the River’s shore and many of the boat launches, which are critical staging areas in the event of a shipping accident or spill, remain closed with plenty of ice.

This year’s Seaway opening coincides with World Water Day, which serves as an annual global celebration of water and a day of action focused protecting our precious water resources. Ironically at the same time, the Seaway agencies and shipping industry are promoting a new ‘green’ public image. The U.S. Seaway agency’s annual report just arrived in our office last week and in it, the Seaway calls itself one of the most “environmentally responsible marine transportation systems in the world.” That’s a pretty big statement and we feel it deserves some scrutiny.

The Seaway agencies and shipping industry have systematically put themselves on the wrong side of environmental policy debates. For nearly 20 years, since the introduction of the zebra mussel, they resisted any rules to clean up ship ballast tanks to prevent further invasive species introductions. Three years ago, the Seaway finally established its own rules but they are the minimum protections available. And today, as state governments and citizens call for better protections against invasive species introductions, representatives from the shipping industry and the Seaway are walking the halls of Washington, Ottawa, Albany, and the courts arguing vigorously against stronger ballast clean up rules.

And, it doesn’t end with ballast. Shippers and the Seaway are on record opposing the environmentally beneficial water levels plan (Plan B+) that our communities have been supporting for years. They’ve fought for (and unfortunately won) exemptions from federal rules to clean up ship smokestack emissions, making some of the Great Lakes ships among the dirtiest air polluters in the industry. And, the Seaway has unilaterally extended the shipping season on the St. Lawrence River, with no input from River communities, state or federal environmental and safety agencies, or elected officials. These are not the actions of an “environmentally responsible” agency.

If the Seaway wants to be “environmentally responsible” and be seen as a good neighbor by those of us who rely on the River for our livelihood and our way of life, they must begin a good faith effort to work proactively to protect the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. For a few ideas, we suggest they start with the recommendations outlined by more than 50 environmental and conservation groups in the report “A Better Seaway”, which lays out a specific action plan to reach a truly sustainable and responsible marine transportation system. (Visit www.abetterseaway.org to learn more.)

Promoting a greener image is one thing, but without actions to back it up we have nothing but words from the Seaway, and no one to protect our River but ourselves.

– Jennifer J. Caddick, Save The River Executive Director & Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

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Update: Seaway Denies Save The River’s Legal Petition

April 22nd, 2010 | Posted by admin

Earlier this week, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation denied Save The River’s recently filed legal petition, which asked the Seaway to make public the procedures for setting the Seaway’s opening date. (For more information, read the Seaway’s press release on their decision and the Watertown Daily Times article on the decision.)

Unfortunately, the denial of this petition was not unexpected. The Seaway has a history of opposing efforts that would bring transparency to their operating procedures. Even as most other federal agencies are working to comply with a recent white house memo requiring an unprecedented level of openness in government, the Seaway persists in its pattern of closing out stakeholders from important decisions that impact the health of the River and the safety of River communities.

Save The River and River communities have raised serious concerns about the early opening of the Seaway and winter shipping because of the dangers posed to the delicate ecosystem of the River. Risks of shipping in ice conditions include:

  • Icebreaking and winter shipping can cause significant damage to property and important wildlife habitat;
  • Spill response assets, such as boats and boom, are not accessible and usable due to ice conditions making clean-up of any spill near impossible until the ice has melted; and
  • Lighted navigation aids are not in place, raising concerns about the safe passage of ships.

Unfortunately, the Seaway agencies are inappropriately using the results of a recent, limited study to imply that winter shipping and icebreaking pose no risk to the St. Lawrence River.

In their denial, the Seaway hides behind Canada, by saying that a rulemaking cannot happen unilaterally; however nothing in Save The River’s petition prohibits the Seaway from coordinating with Canada in order to pull back the curtain on their decision making process and provide answers to the many important questions raised about winter shipping.

Save The River is working closely with our partners at the Conservation Law Clinic, which helped Save The River develop the petition, to determine options for moving forward, and ensure protection of the St. Lawrence River.

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Save The River Responds to Icebreaking Study

April 13th, 2010 | Posted by admin

Late last week, the Seaway agencies announced the results of a three-year study on icebreaking impacts conducted in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. The full study can be downloaded here.

On Monday, Save The River released the following statement in response to the study:

Save The River applauds the work of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in pushing for answers to the many concerns surrounding icebreaking and winter shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Unfortunately, the Seaway agencies are inappropriately using the study results to imply that this one, narrow study puts to rest the issue of winter shipping and icebreaking on the St. Lawrence River.

First, the study was very limited in scope, only examining the physical shoreline impacts of icebreaking and only assessing a small 60-mile stretch of the River from the Snell Locks to Lake St. Francis. The study does not address many of the questions raised by River communities and state and federal agencies over the years including – what are the impacts of icebreaking and winter shipping on fish and wildlife habitat and population; what is the capacity and ability of the Seaway and related agencies to clean up spills and respond to shipping accidents in ice conditions; how does icebreaking impact narrow channels and natural shorelines in the Thousand Island region? While the research in this study may be valuable in furthering our understanding of impacts of icebreaking on tribal lands, it is entirely inappropriate for the Seaway to imply that the results of this study can be extrapolated to make recommendations about impacts of icebreaking on the length of the Seaway.

Second, despite the declarations of collaboration and partnership included in the Seaway’s press release, it is important to note that the only reason the Seaway engaged in this study was because it was forced to as the result of a lawsuit brought by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. It is high time that the Seaway embarks on a good-faith effort to share information openly and willingly with all stakeholders along the River. A strong first step in this effort would be for the Seaway to respond to Save The River’s recent rulemaking petition, filed in mid-February. This legal petition simply requests the Seaway to put in writing, as required by law, it’s procedures for setting the Seaway’s opening date.

At the end of the day, it is clear that we have more questions than answers about the Seaway’s increasingly common practices of icebreaking and winter shipping. Before Seaway managers can state that icebreaking and winter shipping has ‘no impacts’, a full, transparent, and impartial investigation of the risks and impacts of these practices is necessary.

###

For more information, contact Jennifer Caddick at (315) 686-2010 or jennifer@savetheriver.org. And, for more information on this issue, visit our Winter Shipping page.

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NY DEC Supports Save The River’s Legal Rulemaking Petition

April 12th, 2010 | Posted by admin

Last week, NY Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander ‘Pete’ Grannis notified the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation of their support of Save The River’s legal petition for rulemaking, which asks the Seaway to make public the procedures for setting the Seaway’s opening date. In Commissioner Grannis’ letter, Mr. Grannis noted continued concerns about the impact of winter shipping on nearshore habitats as well as concerns about containment and clean-up of spills in ice conditions.

Read more in today’s Watertown Daily Times- DEC seeks explanation for Seaway opening date.

Many thanks to Commissioner Grannis and NY DEC for continuing their long-standing position on this important River issue.

No Response to Legal Petition

Save The River filed the legal petition in February in an effort to bring transparency to the process for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The legal petition is a formal request asking the Seaway to  make public the procedures for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway, taking environmental and safety criteria into consideration. Currently, no clear, publicly available rules exist for this annual process.

Although Seaway Administrator Terry Johnson was quoted by the Watertown Daily Times as saying that Save The River’s petition will be denied (Seaway chief: opening date up to us (3/18/10), we have received no formal response.

For More Information

Learn more about Save The River’s concerns about Winter Shipping.

Read about Save The River’s legal petition or download the full petition.

Read NY DEC Commissioner Grannis’ letter to the Seaway.

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Save The River Files Legal Rulemaking Petition Calling for Transparency in Seaway Opening Process

February 17th, 2010 | Posted by admin

first ship 08 by janet sullinsIn an effort to bring transparency to the process for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway, Save The River has filed a legal petition for rulemaking with the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC). (Read the full petition here.) The legal petition was developed with assistance from the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington, Indiana.

The legal petition is a formal request asking the Seaway to institutionalize and make public the procedures for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway, taking environmental and safety criteria into consideration. Currently, no clear, publicly available rules exist for this annual process.

The lack of a clear process for opening decisions has allowed the Seaway to lengthen the navigation season considerably, without stakeholder involvement, without congressional approval, and without appropriate environmental studies. Given the range of possible serious impacts to the environment and public, this process should be institutionalized in a rule that protects the environment and makes the process more open and transparent to other stakeholders.

An Incrementally Longer Season

Over the years, the Seaway’s navigation season has lengthened incrementally, and spring ice breaking has become common practice as the opening date has crept from early April to late March. More than 30 years ago, a longer navigation season was proposed for the St. Lawrence Seaway and, after significant public debate and study, the proposal was soundly rejected by citizens and regional governments. Despite this formal rejection, in recent years the St. Lawrence Seaway has implemented a longer shipping season without any public input or clear rationale. Today, the Seaway typically operates on a schedule that is only two weeks shy of ‘winter navigation’ as proposed and rejected thirty years ago.

Environmental and Safety Concerns

Save The River opposes a longer shipping season because of the dangers posed to the delicate ecosystem of the River, and, through filing the legal petition, seeks an opening policy that will adequately protect the River which is of such importance, both ecologically and economically, to our membership and our communities.

Risks of shipping in ice conditions include:

  • Icebreaking and winter shipping can cause significant damage to property and important wildlife habitat;
  • Spill response assets, such as boats and boom, are not accessible and usable due to ice conditions making clean-up of any spill near impossible until the ice has melted; and
  • Lighted navigation aids are not in place, raising concerns about the safe passage of ships.

Learn more about the potential impacts of winter shipping.

About the Conservation Law Center

The petition for rulemaking was developed with the assistance of the Conservation Law Center located in Bloomington, Indiana.

The Conservation Law Center provides legal counsel without charge to conservation organizations, works to improve conservation law and policy, and offers law students at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law clinical experience in the practice of law and the profession’s public service tradition.

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Save The River Responds to Seaway Administrator

December 19th, 2009 | Posted by admin

To Save The River Supporters and our North Country Neighbors –

Over the past few weeks, you may have seen a flurry of media coverage surrounding a visit to the North Country by the St. Lawrence Seaway’s Administrator Collister ‘Terry’ Johnson (see below for a sampling of coverage).

Save The River staff and several members of our Board of Directors met with Mr. Johnson and his staff at our offices in Clayton for nearly two hours in late November. The meeting was frank and productive.

However, in the media surrounding the meeting, Mr. Johnson accused Save The River of ‘manufacturing issues’ – referring to Seaway expansion and winter navigation.  We strongly disagree with this characterization, and felt it was necessary to respond with the letter copied below or download a ‘PDF’ of the letter here.

As always, thank you for your interest in River issues, and for your support of Save The River.

Sincerely,

Jennifer J. Caddick
Save The River Executive Director & Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

Media Coverage of Seaway Administrator’s North Country Visit

Seaway official dispels ‘myths’, Watertown Daily Times, 11/14/09

River advocates stay vigilant against Seaway expansion, North Country Public Radio, 11/18/09

Seaway Chief: No expansion, no winter navigation, North Country Public Radio 11/17/09

Seaway, river group agree to disagree, Watertown Daily Times, 11/17/09

Seaway chief hopes for traffic turnaround, North Country Public Radio, 11/19/09

Letter from Save The River to Seaway Administrator Johnson

December 17, 2009

VIA FACSIMILE

Mr. Collister Johnson, Administrator
St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Suite W32-300
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with Save The River in Clayton last month to discuss matters related to the St. Lawrence Seaway. We appreciated the frank and open discussion. While we felt that our discussion was a productive one, some of the related media surrounding your visit did not reflect the dialogue that took place during our meeting and did not accurately reflect Save The River’s position on key River issues. As a result, we felt that it would be helpful to record our views of the conversation and identify areas of potential cooperation in the future.

Seaway Expansion

A key point of discussion at the meeting and in related media coverage was your objection to Save The River’s advocacy campaign to fight an amendment (the much discussed Kaptur Amendment) on the climate change bill that could provide funding for physical expansion of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Two key statements stand out. First, you have said publicly that expansion is ‘never going to happen’. We heartily applaud this statement and we relayed that sentiment to you and your staff during our meeting. We appreciate your honest and frank approach to the issue and the acknowledgement that the economic and environmental barriers are too great for this ill-advised project to move forward.

However, as we made very clear in our meeting, despite your statement, Save The River is not going to stop advocacy on this issue because, frankly, the final decision on Seaway expansion is not up to you. As we have seen time and again, Congress wields a tremendous amount of power and can continue to pursue this project by appropriating annual funding or creating funding sources for the project. Additionally, Seaway administrators have finite terms, and the next administrator may or may not share your same views on this issue.

Second, in news coverage in the Watertown Daily Times, you stated that Save The River was ‘manufacturing issues’ and that the Kaptur Amendment had ‘nothing whatsoever to do with seaway expansion’. We strongly disagree and during our meeting showed you the paper trail that clearly shows that Congresswoman Kaptur’s amendment was a vehicle for funding Seaway expansion. We reviewed the contents of an editorial that ran in Ms. Kaptur’s home paper last summer – aptly named “Expand the Seaway” (see enclosed copy). It heartily praises the Congresswoman for proposing the amendment and “backing an idea that is essential for our nation’s economic future: Spend what it takes to modernize the Seaway, including widening and deepening its locks not just for today’s vessels but with an eye to whatever future transportation needs may come.”

These words clearly indicate that Congresswoman Kaptur was, as of last July, actively pursuing Seaway expansion, and that this is in no way a ‘manufactured’ issue. During our meeting, you responded that you and your staff have a close relationship with Congresswoman Kaptur’s staff and that you would go back to her to get some answers about any connection between her amendment and efforts to expand the Seaway. We look forward to hearing the results of this exchange, but until then, Save The River will continue to pursue the issue and oppose this amendment.

So on the issue of Seaway expansion – we appreciate your stated opinion that it should never happen, yet emphasize that it is by no means entirely a matter for you to decide. We are not convinced that the Kaptur amendment has nothing to do with expansion, and we look forward to hearing the results of your discussions with Congresswoman Kaptur on this subject.

Winter Navigation

The other key focus of our meeting and related media coverage was the issue of winter navigation. During the meeting and in the media, you made the assertion that “winter navigation is never going to happen”. During our conversation, we clarified that the statement seemed to be interchangeable with the statement that “year-round navigation is never going to happen”. To continue discussion on this issue, we must be very clear how Save The River and the Seaway are using the term ‘winter navigation’.

Back in the late 1970’s, when winter navigation was proposed and debated by the region’s policy makers, the definition of winter navigation was a 12-month season on the Upper Great Lakes, but only a ten-month season on the St. Lawrence River. Year-round navigation was never considered an option here on the River, even by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Because of this, we agree with your assertion that year-round navigation is never going to happen, but unfortunately cannot say the same about winter shipping.

When Save The River communicates on this issue, we always refer to it not as winter navigation, but as winter shipping, because our concerns are not only focused on a longer shipping season, but on any shipping in winter conditions (i.e., ice). Regardless of whether or not year round navigation is ever going to happen, Save The River has significant concerns about the impacts of the nine and a half month season that the Seaway has implemented over the last thirty years, and the attendant impacts of that activity on the St. Lawrence River. These concerns have been repeatedly and thoroughly expressed by Save The River and residents of the North Country, and need not be repeated here in detail, but center around impacts to near shore areas, habitat and spawning areas, and the inability to respond to shipping accidents and spills in ice conditions.

During our meeting, you were dismissive of Save The River’s concerns about shipping in winter conditions yet could not provide data or information to clearly rebut our concerns about the damages that winter shipping can cause. We pointed out that the Seaway has never conducted adequate environmental studies to determine whether shipping in ice conditions is safe for the environment of the St. Lawrence River, and that even the studies currently being conducted with the Mohawks of Akwesasne only look at the impacts of icebreaking on physical components of the shoreline, and do nothing to address biological implications. Additionally, you provided no information or evidence of the Seaway’s capacity to clean up spills in ice conditions or respond to shipping accidents in ice conditions.

We were informed at the meeting that the Seaway is in a position to receive funding to conduct or fund environmental research, and we requested that some of those funds be directed to study early shipping impacts on the St. Lawrence River. We look forward to hearing back about this possibility.

However, until adequate environmental studies are conducted and the tools exist to clean up spills or respond to accidents in ice conditions, we will continue to find avenues to oppose winter shipping.

Conclusion

Finally, there emerged in our discussions an important distinction about the roles of our organizations. During the meeting, you generously stated that much of the recent progress toward environmental goals should be attributed to the vigorous and persistent efforts of groups like Save The River, who have fought for the protection of the resource. You also acknowledged that the Seaway’s role is to represent the views and interests of the shipping industry, and only supply environmental benefits and protections where they are ‘practical’ or ‘reasonable.’ With such different missions, it is no surprise that there will be differences and disagreements between Save The River and the Seaway, but we must operate from a place of mutual respect for these missions, and therefore cannot agree with your characterization of the issues above as ‘manufactured’. Save The River’s job is to push for practices that are as protective as possible for the St. Lawrence River, and we look forward to open and productive dialogues going forward that will serve this goal.

Sincerely,

Jennifer J. Caddick
Save The River Executive Director and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper

cc: Save The River Members
John Johnson, Editor, Watertown Daily Times

encl: Expand the Seaway, Toledo Blade Editorial, published 7/9/09


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On the Seaway’s 50th Anniversary, Save The River calls for a better Seaway

June 30th, 2009 | Posted by admin

Fifty years ago, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened amid great fanfare and ringing predictions of economic growth in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region. Unfortunately, these predictions went unfulfilled, while the introduction of ocean going vessels to the fresh waters brought disastrous environmental consequences.

From the crippling and irreversible alterations wrought by invasive species introductions to the routine discharge of ship-borne pollution, the Lakes and River have been consistently damaged by impacts from commercial navigation for fifty years, spelling disaster for the people who rely directly on the region’s fresh water for drinking, recreation and economic well-being. (Read more about the Seaway’s legacy of pollution and unmet promises.)

An Opportunity for a Better Seaway

Today, we know that there are specific and tangible economic benefits linked to a healthy Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. We need to be restoring this magnificent resource, not allowing the Seaway to further degrade it.

Save The River has joined over 50 other citizen groups from around the region to call on the Seaway to act now to protect our River and Lakes. In a recently released report, we called upon the Seaway to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River by taking the following actions:

1. Eliminate invasive species introductions: More than 185 aquatic invasive species have entered the Great Lakes, disrupting the food chain, fouling beaches and damaging infrastructure. The number one source of invasive species entering the Great Lakes is from the discharge of ballast water from ocean-going vessels.

2. Adapt to climate change: Climate change poses significant and untried challenges for the future of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River. Scientists estimate that lake levels will drop dramatically – perhaps as much as 3 feet by the 2050s. Industry has an opportunity and a responsibility to think creatively and constructively about how to adapt to the future in ways that avoid further damage to the resource.

3. Abandon unnecessary and costly system expansion proposals: The Seaway operates well below its capacity, yet over the past 22 years stakeholders have had to repeatedly fight back expansion proposals that would seek to allow wider, longer, and deeper vessels to operate on the Great Lakes. Physical expansion would worsen the environmental impacts of the Seaway. The governments of the United States and Canada should make it clear that expanding the Seaway is no longer an option.

4. Use cleaner fuels: While the waterborne mode of transportation may be the most fuel efficient, it does significantly contribute to regional air quality impacts. International vessels on the Great Lakes generally burn the same dirty fuel (bunker oil) that international vessels are allowed to burn under current international mandates. Both international and domestic vessels must reduce these air emissions.

5. Eliminate cargo sweeping and other discharges: While significant steps have been made in stopping regular discharges into the Great Lakes from ships, vessels continue to sweep dry cargo from their decks and into the water. Every year over the past 150 years, an estimated 2,500 tons of cargo residue have been dumped into the Lakes. This pollution vector should be eliminated, and there should be improvements to the monitoring of other vessel discharges to ensure that the waters are protected fro ship-borne pollution.

6. Minimize icebreaking: Commercial navigation during periods of significant ice negatively impact wetlands, shoreline and habitat. Additionally, emergency response capabilities are seriously hindered under ice conditions, making impacts from hazardous material spills much more significant. Further, in the light of climate change, ice cover should be maximized on the Great Lakes in order to minimize the predicted effects of increased evaporation due to climate change.

7. Increase transparency: Good governance and transparency mechanisms are essential for government entities to ensure that decision makers receive, and properly evaluate, all the information necessary to make informed policy or regulatory decisions; and that the public has access to enough information to review government decisions. Lack of transparency, a narrow range of represented interests and insufficient public access to information are a few issues that need to be looked at under a critical eye.

Take Action!

We have a golden opportunity on this 50th anniversary to creative a Seaway that is protective of our waterways.

Sign the petition calling on the Seaway and the navigation industry
to act now to protect our River.

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Seaway Set to Open March 31

March 1st, 2009 | Posted by admin

In mid-February, the agencies that mange the St. Lawrence Seaway announced that the Seaway will open to shipping traffic on March 31, 2009. Read the full notice from the Seaway here.

While this year’s opening date is later than it has been in past years, Save The River’s position is that the opening of the Seaway should be solely based on actual River conditions. Conditions that must be met for safe opening of the Seaway include:

  1. Two-Inches of Ice or Less on the River and its Embayments – Icebreaking will not be needed in these conditions and damage to important habitat areas and wildlife will be limited.
  2. Availability of Spill Response Assets – Spill response assets must be accessible and usable when the Seaway opens.
  3. Hazardous Materials Cargo – Absolutely no hazardous materials should be transported on the Seaway until ice is completely gone from the River because of the limitations of responding to a spill or accident in ice conditions.
  4. Placement of Lighted Navigational Aids – All lighted navigational aids should be in place prior to Seaway opening as they are an essential component of safe navigation.
  5. Consultation with NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – Save The River strongly encourages the Seaway agencies to consult with the NY DEC when selecting an opening date, as the NY DEC is the agency who holds a lead agency in protecting the ecology of the River.

Read Save The River’s Policy Statement on Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway Shipping Season for full details.

Save The River will be closely watching the River and Seaway operations over the next few weeks to be sure that the above criteria for the safe opening of the Seaway are met.

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