Shipping industry opposed to IJC’s deviation from Plan 2014

WEST CARLETON – Following last Friday’s announcement the International Joint Commission (IJC) will deviate from Plan 2014 this winter and spring, leaders of the shipping industry are urging against the flood relief plan.

Shipping industry leaders joined congressional counterparts Monday (Nov. 25) opposing the plan to allow higher outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River claiming it could cost the Canadian and United States economy $193 million per week the Chamber of Marine Commerce said.

The chamber says the higher water outflow would impact farmers’ grain exports and manufacturing plant operations as well as disrupt deliveries of fuel, construction materials and road salt.

“As residents ourselves of Great Lakes communities affected by flooding and storm damage, we share in the concern regarding record-high water levels,” Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director Deborah DeLuca released in a statement. “However, the minor water level relief that would result from increased December outflow through the Moses-Saunders Dam would be negligible at best. Concurrently, increasing the outflow to levels unsafe for navigation would do immeasurable and long-term harm to producers and consumers throughout the entire Great Lakes region and the United States as a whole. We’re all eager for solutions, but opening the flow on a single dam in December isn’t a meaningful solution, especially when weighed against the associated adverse effects.”

The chamber says the roughly four-centimetre-per-week reduction that would result from the plan, would come at a huge cost to commercial navigation.

“We have the greatest sympathy for Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River residents and business owners that have been impacted by flooding due to unprecedented weather conditions. This situation has also cost our supply chain millions of dollars,” Chamber of Marine Commerce President Bruce Burrows released in a statement. “Halting St. Lawrence Seaway shipping altogether would cause major harm to our economy and achieve no noticeable benefit for flooding victims.”

Burrows said the IJC and government leaders must collaborate with affected stakeholders to find solutions focusing on shoreline resiliency, flood management zones and winter preparedness during the eight weeks the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed to navigation starting Jan. 15.

In a Nov. 20 letter, 20 members of Congress from the Great Lakes region, including Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, urged the IJC to ensure the seaway remains open during the navigation season.

“The Great Lakes, including communities in our districts are facing high-water levels. We understand this problem is real. However, we urge the commission to reject a short-term solution for Lake Ontario that risks commerce in the region by causing the Saint Lawrence Seaway to close during the navigation season,” the letter reads. “Any closure of the seaway during the navigation season will impede maritime commerce and negatively impact international trade to and from our states.”

– With files from the Duluth News Tribune