December 3, 2007

Binational St Lawrence Seaway study includes sustainability proposals for vital transport corridor

A major study of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway system, carried out jointly by the Canadian and U.S. governments, concludes that this leading North American transportation corridor has the capacity to carry twice the volume of its current traffic, and could be better used in combination with rail and trucking operations to provide a more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly way to transport goods.

In releasing the study report together with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, said federal Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Lawrence Cannon said, "The Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway system is...at the heart of one of the largest and most dynamic trade hubs in the world. We want to make sure that in years to come it continues to serve efficiently as one of North America's trade corridors."

Peters noted that the study "will guide both nations as we work to maintain this asset, support trade and protect local ecosystems."

The study addresses a wide range of issues, from defining the significance of the Seaway system in meeting current and future commercial transport needs to discussing how to maintain the infrastructure and operate the system in an environmentally sustainable way that still allows it to reach its maximum potential. Four major observations have emerged from this examination, each linked with several key considerations.

The most environmentally relevant of these recognizes that 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 related considerations include the following.

*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 to seek mitigation strategies.

*Improvements should be made to short- and long-term environmental monitoring of mitigation activities.

Another important conclusion of the study points out the potential of the GLSLS 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. Key considerations in this area are as follows.

*The GLSLS system is currently only operating at about half its potential capacity and is therefore under-utilized. *Given projected growth in the economy and trade, all modes of transportation in both countries will be faced with increases in traffic. When integrated with rail and trucking, the region's marine mode can greatly increase the overall capacity of the transportation system while reducing highway, railway and cross-border congestion.

*A research and development agenda would help to advance the use of new technologies to improve the efficiency of marine transportation as well as strengthen its linkages to other transport modes.

The study's two remaining observations state that:

*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 and

*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.

The GLSLS study was conducted to evaluate the infrastructure needs of the Seaway system, specifically the engineering, economic and environmental implications of those needs as they pertain to the marine transportation infrastructure on which commercial navigation depends. Because of its large scope, the study was structured under three working groups: economic, environment and engineering.

Seven federal departments and agencies in Canada and the U.S. collaborated on the project, drawing on outside expertise as needed. The study partners were: Transport Canada www.tc.gc.ca; Environment Canada www.ec.gc.ca; - - the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (Canada) www.greatlakes-seaway.com; the U.S. Department of Transportation www.dot.gov; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers www.usace.army.mil; the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (U.S.) www.seaway.dot.gov; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service www.fws.gov.

The final report includes an assessment of 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. Over the coming months, Canada and the U.S. will continue their collaboration, discussing potential next steps. The agencies are also inviting interested parties to provide feedback on the study report, which may be viewed on the study Web site, www.glsls-study.com. Written comments received by January 18, 2008 will be posted on the site as well. Submissions and/or requests for a printed copy of the final report should be directed to Transport Canada, Seaway and Domestic Shipping Policy (ACFS) Tower C, 25th Floor, Area B, 330 Sparks St, Ottawa K1A 0N5.

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