Great Lakes United

Great Lakes United

June 25, 2009 11:17 ET

Future of St. Lawrence Seaway Hinges on Sustainability

As the Seaway marks its 50th anniversary, groups are outlining seven principles to improve its environmental stewardship

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, Environment Editor, Transportation Editor BUFFALO, NY--(Marketwire - June 25, 2009) - To mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, over 50 public interest groups from across the region are outlining seven principles to guide an environmentally sustainable future for shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

"The opening of the Seaway took a devastating toll on the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem," said Jennifer Nalbone, director of Navigation and Invasive Species at Great Lakes United and lead author of the report. "If the shipping industry wants to be truly sustainable it needs to rethink how it operates on the Great Lakes. These seven principles provide the goal posts by which to measure that future."

Outlined in "A Better Seaway: Seven Principles to Guide Sustainable Shipping on The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River", the principles address a broad range of environmental impacts, from invasive species to ice-breaking, to air emissions. While international vessels have been a focal point for many of the environmental impacts associated with shipping on the Great Lakes, particularly invasive species, the principles also address domestic operations. The principles to guide a better Seaway are:

1. Ships must not introduce or spread aquatic invasive species.
2. Climate change is a real threat, and proactive steps must be taken to meet this challenge head on.
3. Unnecessary and costly system expansion proposals must be abandoned.
4. Air emissions should be cleaned up for shipping to truly be the cleanest mode of transportation in regards to air pollution.
5. Work towards the elimination of all pollutants into the Great Lakes.
6. Minimize ice-breaking, especially in sensitive areas.
7. Citizen engagement and industry transparency should become the norm in Seaway governance.

Since the Seaway opened on June 26th,1959, the environmental and economic damage brought on by opening the Great Lakes to international ships has been significant. Construction of the Seaway itself resulted in irreversible environmental loss as new channels were dug in the riverbed, shallow sections were flooded, islands blasted away, six villages displaced and a series of locks constructed. International ships have become the primary source of new non-native aquatic invasive species such as the zebra and quagga mussels. Invaders like these have caused tremendous damage to Great Lakes ecosystem. The University of Notre Dame estimates that the species that gained access to the region through the Seaway cost citizens, businesses, and cities in the eight Great Lakes states alone at least $200 million per year in damage to the commercial and recreational fishery, wildlife watching and water infrastructure. While exact economic data does not exist for the Great Lakes region in Canada, similar damages can be expected.

"The damage invasive species have caused to the Great Lakes is astounding. But, what's most frustrating is that we still haven't closed this door." said Dennis Schornack, former U.S. Chair of the International Joint Commission.

"The shipping industry has the potential to become the most sustainable form of commercial transportation in the region," continues Schornack. "The 'Seaway Sustainable Development Corporation' is a moniker made possible if the industry and governments of the United States and Canada embrace these seven common sense principles."

"The shipping industry must remember they are one of many who use and enjoy these waters, and its time to join the movement to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come." concluded Nalbone. /For further information: To Endorse these Principles:

More organizations are endorsing the principles every day. To sign up yours go to Citizens are also invited to sign a petition supporting these principles.

For more information:

More information about these principles, including background information, is available at the campaign website,


Jennifer Nalbone
Campaign Director, Navigation and Invasive Species
Great Lakes United
716-983-3831 (cell)

Dennis Schornack
Former U.S. Chair of the International Joint Commission

Contact Information

  • Brent Gibson, Director of Communications, Great Lakes United
    Primary Phone: 613-867-9861