Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 26, 2007

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Study – Final Report

The governments of Canada and the United States released the binational study report on November 26, 2007. The GLSLS Study was conducted to evaluate the infrastructure needs of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system, specifically the engineering, economic and environmental implications of those needs as they pertain to commercial navigation. The study assesses the long-term maintenance and capital requirements to ensure the continuing viability of the system as a safe, efficient, reliable and sustainable component of North America’s transportation infrastructure. [From Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Study]

The study identifies four main observations, each with key considerations that should be taken into account by the Canadian and U.S. governments, and by industry stakeholders, when deciding the Seaway’s future:

  1. The GLSLS system has the potential to alleviate congestion on the road and rail transportation networks as well as at border crossings in the Great Lakes Basin and St. Lawrence River region.
  2. A stronger focus on shortsea shipping would allow the GLSLS system to be more closely integrated with the road and rail transportation systems, while providing shippers with a cost-effective, timely and reliable means to transport goods.
  3. The existing infrastructure of the GLSLS system must be maintained in good operating condition in order to ensure the continued safety, efficiency, reliability and competitiveness of the system.
  4. The long-term health and success of the GLSLS system will depend in part on its sustainability, including the further reduction of negative ecological impacts caused by commercial navigation.

Key considerations regarding point #4 include:

  • The GLSLS system should be managed in a way that prevents the inadvertent introduction and transmission of non-indigenous invasive species and supports the objectives of programs designed to minimize or eliminate their impact.
  • The existing sustainable navigation strategy for the St. Lawrence River could be extended to the Great Lakes Basin.
  • The movement and suspension of sediments caused by shipping or operations related to navigation should be managed by developing a GLSLS system-wide strategy that addresses the many challenges associated with dredged material and looks for beneficial re-use opportunities.
  • Ship emissions should be minimized through the use of new fuels, new technologies or different navigational practices.
  • Islands and narrow channel habitats should be protected from the impacts of vessel wakes.
  • There is a need to improve our understanding of the social, technical and environmental impacts of long-term declines in water levels as related to navigation, and identify mitigation strategies.
  • Improvements should be made to short- and long-term environmental monitoring of mitigation activities.

H/T to Trans-Talk

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