Save the River pushes for flexibility in Great Lakes Seaway to prepare for flooding next spring

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CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — A recent letter published by Save the River is urging for flexibility throughout the Great Lakes seaway.

Clayton-based organization Save the River Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper sent a letter to both the Department of Transportation and Great Lakes Seaway Management Corporation addressing high water levels for the upcoming 2021 season.

Although Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River were not faced with flooding during the spring of 2020, Save the River Executive Director John Peach focused on the importance of preparing shippers for a flexible spring opening date if the seaway were to flood again.

Peach stated the following:

On behalf of our 1000 members and 15,000 followers, Save The River commends the efforts of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) and the cooperation of the Seaway during this shipping season in keeping the flows high in order to lower the water levels toward the long term average.

However, with the immense amount of water still upstream of Lake Ontario and flowing towards the St. Lawrence, Save The River believes that the Seaway should put shippers on notice that if high water levels warrant higher flows than are deemed safe for navigation, shippers should prepare flexibility in their scheduling for both closing and spring opening dates of the Seaway.

We understand that an early closure of shipping may cause scheduling and logistics challenges for the shipping industry, and perhaps some supply chain disruption in Great Lakes ports. Many of our shoreline businesses such as marinas, restaurants, hotels, and fishing guides suffered significant losses during the 2017 & 2019 seasons due to the effects of the extreme high water caused by years of record precipitation. Coupled with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic this year, it will be difficult for them to make up those losses. Another extreme high water year could force them out of business. We are asking the shipping industry to continue to shoulder their share of the burdens caused by the extreme high water levels. During times of flooding, it is usual for all businesses and stakeholders to lend their support to help those most severely affected recover from their losses.

Building flexibility into shipping schedules at the end of this season and start of next season would allow ILOSLRB to keep flows at the higher levels required, if needed, to try to prevent another extreme high water year on Lake Ontario and the Upper St. Lawrence River.

Save the River Executive Director John Peach

The letter, featured in full on the Save the River website was directly sent to United States Department of Transportation Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook and Great Lakes Seaway Management Coporation President and CEO Terence Bowles.

Additional letter recipients included IJC Commissioner Jane Corwin, IJC Commissioner Pierre Béland, IJC Public Information Officer Frank Bevacqua, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Premier Ford, Representative Elise Stefanik, Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Mark Walczyk.

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