Mr. David Wright
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District
477 Michigan Ave.
P.O. Box 1027
Detroit, MI 48231-1027
Dear Mr. Wright:
Final Bi-National Report for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway Study
Since its founding in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force has become one of the most respected voices promoting Great Lakes shipping in Washington. Our 77 members represent every facet of Great Lakes shipping, both domestic and international.
We are writing to express our deep appreciation to all the U.S. and Canadian agencies who participated in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) Study and to endorse its key findings. Time and again, the Study reiterates and validates what we have long known: The system remains an important element in the North American economy. Its ongoing value and future prospects more than justify maintaining its infrastructure.
We are pleased that the Study took a "big picture" view. The GLSLS fulfills a vital transportation function, not only for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence regions, but also for the entire industrial core of the North American economy. In fact, as the Study confirms, the producers and manufacturers who use the GLSLS "account for about 1/3 of the North American economy."
We appreciate that the environmental benefits of the GLSLS are clearly identified. Transportation by water is significantly more fuel efficient than other modes of transportation and so reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
The Study identified the critical need for dredging as one of the most important issues facing the GLSLS. While the root cause of the dredging backlog - decades of inadequate Federal funding from the U.S. government - is beyond the Study's purview, several findings will be helpful as we seek to restore the GLSLS to project dimensions. There are some individuals and organizations who consider dredging harmful to the environment. If they read the Study, they will learn that:
- In many instances, sediments gathered during maintenance dredging activities are clean and can be reintroduced in to the water column in areas adjacent to the dredging site.
- Of the two to four million cubic meters of annual maintenance dredging, some 10 percent consists of contaminated sediment.
- Proportionally, far less [dredging] is required [on the GLSLS compared to] other North American navigation systems.
- Placement of dredged material can actually benefit the environment by creating new habitats.
A wider recognition that much of the sediment that is dredged need not be placed in a Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) would greatly reduce the cost of maintenance dredging and extend the life of existing CDFs.
In closing, we again thank all the agencies for their careful examination of the GLSLS and look forward to working with them to keep it a vital element of both nations' transportation systems.
Patrick J. O'Hern, President
Daniel L. Smith, 1st Vice President-Positions & Resolutions
James H.I. Weakley, 2nd Vice President-Membership
John D. Baker, 3rd Vice President-Government Relations