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,
"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
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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