Ottawa, ON — The marine shipping industry has been working with stakeholders to find technical and operational solutions to help lower Lake Ontario levels to prevent flooding and maintain navigation and is disappointed that the opening of the navigation season in the Montreal-Lake Ontario (MLO) section of the St. Lawrence Seaway has been delayed to April 1 to allow more outflow from Moses-Saunders dam. The Welland Canal will open on March 24.
According to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, due to very little ice cover, the MLO section of the St. Lawrence Seaway could have opened as early as March 20. As many as 100 ship transits could have moved during that 12 days.
The Chamber and its members are in firm opposition to any further measures on outflows that would result in stop and go navigation, weekly closures, or shortening of the shipping season.
“Grain exports are ready to go and our food production, steel and manufacturing customers urgently need raw materials as their winter inventories are running out. They cannot afford any further delays that could affect factory operations,” says Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Given the current disruption impacting Canada’s national railways, we certainly do not need delays of transportation of critical supplies and products on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway transportation and trade corridor.”
“High water levels are negatively impacting residents and businesses, including those that depend on St. Lawrence Seaway shipping, and going forward, we need to work together to develop a much broader, holistic resiliency plan that that looks at every avenue including flood zoning, shoreline resiliency and infrastructure investments for residents and business owners.”
The marine shipping industry is working with officials across both sides of the border, as well as scientific experts here in Canada to study what improvements can be made that could lead to navigation during increased outflow periods when water is high on Lake Ontario.
In 2019, marine shipping worked diligently with stakeholders for a solution to ensure safe navigation at record outflow levels for five months to help lower the Lake, taking on 26 mitigation measures that caused shipping delays, lost cargo business and millions of dollars of extra operating costs.
Evidence from the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board’s (ILORB), however, demonstrates that outflow levels at Moses-Saunders dam have little impact on the problem, lowering the Lake by centimetres only to have more water come flooding in from precipitation or Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. With every outflow decision, the ILORB has to consider downstream flooding in Montreal, upstream municipal water intakes, power generation, shoreline damage and navigation safety for both commercial and recreational interests.
Burrows says. “Safe navigation must be maintained. Canadian and U.S. industries specifically located their mines, plants and grain terminals on this waterway and have organized their entire supply chains around using Great Lakes-Seaway shipping to transport huge volumes of materials and products within North America and to and from overseas.”