New York State Turning on the Great Lakes Navigation System Review

New York State Turning on the Great Lakes Navigation System Review

– excerpts from Habitat Watch written by Jennifer Nalbone, Great Lakes United Biodiversity and Habitat Coordinator


Organizations from both the United States and Canada oppose the Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Navigation System review.

Organizations across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region sent a letter to the U.S. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers urging them to “halt this present Great Lakes Navigation System Review.” The 51 organizational signatories said they “stand ready to assist the Corps with projects that restore our wetlands and fisheries, clean up the toxic hot spots and ensure that our waters are safe to drink, swim and fish,” but, “this proposal runs counter to the discussions and planning underway throughout the region to mobilize efforts to restore the Great Lakes.” Concerns with the Corps plan to “improve” Great Lakes commercial navigation by physically widening and deepening connecting channels, locks and ports include:


  • Exotic species: More, larger ocean-going vessels entering the basin would increase the frequency and diversity of exotic species introduced into the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
  • Dredging: Hundreds of millions of cubic yards of sediments, much of it contaminated, will be dredged during the project. Dredging and disposal of contaminated sediments on this scale is unprecedented. In biologically rich and shallow aquatic ecosystems like Lake St. Clair, the potential for environmental destruction is dramatic.
  • Blasting: Senior St. Lawrence River pilots say islands bordering the current ship channel in the Thousand Islands region would have to be blasted to accommodate larger vessels.
  • Surge waves: Impacts of operating larger ships include larger surge waves that will increase shoreline erosion, property damage and water turbidity, reduce sunlight penetration, and degrade wetlands.
  • Lower/higher levels: Changes to water flows threaten lake levels and shoreline habitat. The alternative is installing compensating works to mitigate changes in water flow – which would create zones of dead water and threaten fish and other aquatic life.
  • Public: Potential impacts to property owners and resource-dependent communities add overwhelmingly to the economic downsides of the project.
  • Past studies: Previous Great Lakes commercial navigation expansion studies have concluded that expansion is economically unjustifiable.
  • Canadian participation: Thirteen of the fifteen locks on the St. Lawrence River are in Canada, Canadian funds are needed for the study to fully proceed, yet Canada remains uncommitted to the project.


New York political leadership emerges in opposition to Navigation study

On Monday, September 30th, 2002 New York Representative John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) announced that he would propose an amendment to eliminate the start-up funding for the Army Corps of Engineers controversial Great Lakes Navigation System feasibility study.

McHugh’s amendment would strike funding for year one of the Great Lakes Navigation System feasibility study. Currently, $2 million is marked up in the House version of the Water and Energy Development appropriations bill. To read Mr. McHugh’s announcement, go to:

Gov. George E. Pataki also came out in opposition to the proposed study to expand the navigation system and Seaway. “The governor has the same concerns as Congressman McHugh and supports his position on it,” said Pataki spokeswoman Jennifer Farina on October 1st in a statement for the Watertown Daily Times.

On October 16th the Times quoted gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall’s spokeswoman Serena Torrey as saying, “The plan is misguided. It exacts too many environmental costs. The Army Corps of Engineers plan destroys too much and provides too little in economic benefit to be supported.”

On October 19th the Times reported Senator Clinton as saying, “Deepening and altering the St. Lawrence Seaway to accommodate larger ships that cannot now navigate the system is simply the wrong plan for the St. Lawrence River and the wrong plan for the north country”

For more information, please call GLU at 716-886-0142.


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West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.