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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes plan buoys boaters
By Patrick Maloney
London Free Press
Published July 21st, 2004

A Great Lakes protection plan being developed by 10 U.S. and Canadian governments, including Ontario, has made a local splash with more than just environmentalists. The proposed Great Lakes Charter Annex -- which would regulate any large-scale water diversions from the five lakes -- has buoyed those who use the lakes for recreation.

"Maintaining reasonable water levels is important," Al Will, executive director of the Ontario Sailing Association, said yesterday.

"I can't imagine anyone who would argue with that."

There's no argument from Southwestern Ontario's marina industry, much of which has suffered from years of dropping water levels.

Under the proposed agreement, any increases in lake water withdrawals -- to the water-hungry U.S. Midwest, for example -- would require approval of all 10 jurisdictions, a group of U.S. states and Great Lakes provinces.

While the announcement Monday by Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay was hardly a guarantee to Port Dover marina owner Ed Laevens, it's a start.

"(The announcement) just means that everybody's going in the right direction," Laevens said, adding almost his entire business comes from recreational boaters.

"At least they're moving forward. Some marinas were put out of business because the water levels were too low to get a boat in."

As much as recreational boaters have felt the effects of reduced water levels in recent years, commercial ships often are hit harder.

Canadian Shipowners Association officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, but their U.S. counterparts noted just how important Great Lakes levels are. For every 2.5 centimetres of water lost, cargo ships have to drop as much as 270 tonnes of cargo.

"It simply boils down to (the fact) ships need water to float," said Glen Nekvasil, a vice-president with the Ohio-based Lake Carriers Association.

"Ships are the most efficient . . . form of travel. If you start putting all that cargo on trains, you'll never be able to get across a rail crossing."

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