Organization Calls for Early Closure of Shipping Season

Published on: 2019/10/25 - in News

A letter has been issued to the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation by ‘Save The River’ – a grassroots environmental advocacy organization fighting for the ecological integrity of the St. Lawrence River – who are calling for an early closure to the shipping season in order to increase water outflows before the onset of winter.

The letter requests that shipping be closed as of December 1 to facilitate the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board increasing outflows and was sent to Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the Great Lakes Seaway Management Corporation located in Cornwall, ON, and Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We are aware that to increase the outflow to the maximum through the next two months causes safety concerns for the shipping industry,” said John Peach, executive director of Save The River. “However, we have twice, on July 22 and on October 1, called for the Seaway to implement a program of patterning where shipping would temporarily stop for consecutive days to increase the outflows. Twice our requests were denied, so we are left with no alternative but to call for an early closure to the shipping season. We are asking the shipping industry, for the third time, to shoulder their share of the burdens caused by the water levels.”

The letter was cc’d to a number of national leaders, including Pierre Béland, the Canadian Commissioner of the International Joint Commission (IJC) – created by the U.S. and Canada to cooperate in managing and protecting shared waters; guided by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty – Jane Corwin, the U.S. Commissioner of the IJC; and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, among others.

The letter reads as follows:

As we get further into the fall season of this extremely high water year caused by record precipitation throughout the Great Lakes and Ottawa River basins, many of our members, St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario riparians, and business owners remain very concerned about the prospect of another year of flooding and shoreline damage. It appears that the only proactive maneuver within your power against such a future event is to allow for ramp up of the outflows through the Moses-Saunders Dam to the maximum design limits.

We are aware that to increase the outflow to the maximum through the next two months causes safety concerns for the shipping industry. However, after twice refusing to consider a program of patterning of shipping (proposed in our July 22, and October 1, 2019 letters) we are left with no alternative except to call on you for an early closure of this shipping season. Closing the shipping season on December 1 would create the opportunity for the ILOSLRB to increase outflows to the maximum and decrease the water level before having to temporarily reduce the flow to form a proper sheet of ice.

We understand that a call for the early closure of shipping may cause scheduling and logistics challenges for the shipping industry, and perhaps some supply chain disruption in Great Lakes ports. However, making that decision now would allow for shippers to make plans to adjust their schedules while there is still time.

Many of our shoreline businesses such as marinas, restaurants, hotels, and fishing guides have suffered significant losses this season due to the effects of the extreme high water. 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 for the third time to shoulder their share of the burdens caused by the 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.

Having decided not to act upon our July and October suggestions of patterning, there is still time for shipping to do its part to help lower the historically high water levels back to nearer seasonal averages while the opportunity exists.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience about what actions you will take to help resolve this situation.

“Save The River takes an active role in River policy issues by engaging decision-makers, community leaders, residents, visitors and volunteers to make positive change”, states the organization. “Every year Save The River works with educators in school districts in the watershed to educate 1,500+ students in a place-based curriculum that stresses age-appropriate aspects of stewardship.”

Learn more about Save the River at

Photo – oil tanker Laurentia Desgagnés on the St. Lawrence River: Wikimedia Commons (cc)