project for river
Nearly $2 million being spent by U.S. gov't
The Sarnia Observer
Years of drought and heat have the U.S. government spending
nearly $2 million (Cdn) on a massive dredging project
along the St. Clair River.
The money has been earmarked for dredging and maintenance
on the river and some Blue Water Area harbours, aimed
at improving transit for recreational and commercial traffic.
The work will start after Oct. 1, the beginning of the
next fiscal year, said Scott Parker of the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers' regional office in Detroit.
The St. Clair River is dredged periodically. Last year's
drought lowered the water level and made the dredging
necessary, Parker said.
All the Great Lakes are experiencing near-record lows.
Ralph Moulton, Manager of the Water Levels Information
Office for Environment Canada, said Lake Huron is 60 centimetres
below average and only 15 cm away from its record low
Moulton said the decrease in water levels is a result
of hot and dry weather and a lack of precipitation, which
have caused the Great Lakes to evaporate more quickly.
He said it's possible the water levels will drop further
before they start to rise again.
In the river, because it serves as a commercial shipping
channel, the water has to reach a depth of more than 7.8
metres (25.5 feet). Parker said the St. Clair River is
about 28 feet deep, depending on current speed and soil
The problem has taken its toll on the shipping industry,
which has been dealing with low water levels for several
Shane Foreman, Manager of Policy and Research at the
Canadian Shipowners' Association, said the lower water
levels mean the shipping industry operates much more inefficiently.
Foreman said seaway cargo in the Great Lakes was down
by about 4,000 tonnes last year, but emphasized low water
was only one of many contributing factors. Less cargo
translates into less revenue.
John Greenway, General Manager of Operations for the
Upper Lakes Group shipping company, said the water levels
have affected them "big time."
Greenway said when water levels were higher ships could
have draughts (how far down the ship sits in the water)
of up to 28 feet. Now, he said, the ships are running
with draughts of 25 to 26 feet.
That equals about 700 tonnes per trip the ship can't
carry, he said. That equates to about 72 transport trucks.
The river is used by 12,000 commercial ships per year,
said Petty Officer Andy Carvalho at the U.S. Coast Guard
Station in Port Huron. According to Pierre Papineau of
Sarnia Marine Communication and Traffic Services Center,
about 15 per cent of those vessels are from outside North
Bridgeview Marina operator Dave Brown said the marina
underwent considerable dredging in recent years at the
650-slip facility. However, no dredging projects were
undertaken this year.
The lower water levels have resulted in increased education
among recreational boaters, he said.
The only local marina to undertake any dredging this
past year was the Sarnia Yacht Club.