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Habitat Watch # 290
Great Lakes United

Canadian Auto Workers call upon Canada to promote Ďgreení Great Lakes navigation

The movement for sustainable navigation in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem recently gained an important ally. Canadian Auto Workers Union leadership debated and passed two resolutions at last Decemberís council meeting: one, dealing with the Great Lakes Navigation System Review; and the second, with the prevention of aquatic invasive species. Both resolutions essentially challenge the Canadian government to take charge of navigation policy and practices for the benefit of the basinís workers, residents and ecology.

Canadian Detroit Riverkeeper president and member of CAW Local 200, Ken Cloutier spoke to the first resolution, explaining Canada and the U.S. governments are currently engaged in a study to assess the costs and benefits of maintaining the navigation system in its current size. However, the U.S. government is operating under congressional authorization to examine expanding the Great Lakes navigation system to allow larger foreign vessel access.

"This could lead to massive dredging and all the problems that come with it. Rather than embark in a U.S. study that has already polarized Great Lakes interests, Canada needs to clearly define a study that would ensure efficient transportation networks exist in the Great Lakes region networks that foster jobs, but do not destroy the Great Lakes. Old ways of doing business may not be the way to go," said Cloutier.

Great Lakes United vice-president and CAW Local 1520 retiree, Jim Mahon spoke to the second resolution. "The Great Lakes are under assault from invasive species. These invasions are causing catastrophic costs to industries, negatively impacting health, jobs and our economy," said Mahon

Mahon further explained the primary pathway for invasive species entering the Great Lakes is via the ballast tanks of foreign vessels using the St. Lawrence Seaway to access Great Lakes ports. Once in the Great Lakes, invasive species can even migrate in to other watersheds.

Among other things, the resolutions call upon Canada to examine:
· Engineering needs and costs associated with maintaining the regionís domestic shipping and related jobs;
· Economic impacts from invasive species introduced by foreign ships since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway; and
· Economic benefits of building a duplicate set of locks on the Great Lakes.

Further, they asked the federal government to:
· Inspect each ship when arriving from outside the Great Lakes basin and issue clean inspection certificates before entering the basin;
· Prohibit entry to ships that fail to pass inspection;
· Provide foreign ships with the option to off-load cargo for transportation by Lake ship, rail or truck into the Great Lakes region; and
· Urge the U.S. to hydraulically separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin, thereby blocking a potential source of invasive species.

Members of Great Lakes United, the CAW represents 270,000 workers, including some workers employed in the maritime fishing industry and on Great Lakes ships and canals. Over the years the union has provided invaluable leadership and support for many environmental issues. Their voice on these significant aquatic issues will surely help preserve and protect related jobs and the ecosystem that makes them possible. For copies of the resolutions, please contact

Mark Your Calendars! Great Lakes Unitedís Annual General Meeting: June 4-6th, 2004, Mercyhurst College, Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Great Lakes Unitedís Habitat and Biodiversity Task Force produces Habitat Watch with support from the George Gund Foundation and GLU coalition members. The task force is committed to protecting natural areas, wildlife, and strong conservation laws across the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem. To join the coalition, subscribe, or send stories, contact GLU at: (716) 886-0142; fax: (716) 886-0303; or email: Past issues of Habitat Watch can be found at:

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