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Great Lakes Article:

Seaway is too vital to even think about closing
By Albert S. Jacquez and Richard Corfe
For the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted November 7, 2005


Missing from the Nov. 2 Journal Sentinel editorial "Control the Seaway" is any sense of just how vital the St. Lawrence Seaway is to the Great Lakes region and to Milwaukee, in particular.

Indeed, the notion that the region would somehow be better off without the jobs, goods and money the Seaway pours into the region is, simply put, misguided, misinformed and mistaken.

The Great Lakes Seaway contributes $5 billion annually to the regional economy, provides tens of thousands of diverse jobs and serves as a vital connection to national and international transportation networks. Closer to home, the Seaway is directly responsible for at least 219 jobs and $28 million in annual business revenue for Milwaukee.

These benefits are only likely to grow as the Seaway takes advantage of changing trends in maritime shipping.

Last month, a Seaway delegation visited Europe on a trade mission to recruit even more traffic to the region. There we saw in action feeder ships carrying 100 to 1,000 containers, ships that are Seaway-sized, moving cargo and providing part of the solution to the growing transportation challenge.

Indeed, this growing trend toward smaller feeder ships has the potential to boost Seaway traffic, ease congestion, reduce our dependency on foreign oil and protect the environment. Scientists and engineers have proved that waterborne transport moves substantially more freight per gallon of fuel than truck or train. Meanwhile, one Seaway vessel alone moves as much cargo as 870 trucks or 225 rail cars.

Imagine how much quicker morning commutes would be, how much cleaner the region's air would be and how much safer our roads would be if we could take thousands of trucks and hundreds of trains off already congested routes throughout the region.

Residents of the Great Lakes region should not be led into simplistic positions purporting to solve complex ballast water challenges. Closing the Seaway or Welland Canal to ocean shipping as some suggest would not kill a single zebra mussel, round goby or any other known invasive species, nor would it prevent future introductions of invasive species. But it would kill many jobs and drown the local economy in lost hope and lost opportunity.

There are more practical solutions than shutting the Seaway. The region's marine industry has built a coalition that is aggressively addressing the challenges facing the Great Lakes Seaway System.

Fednav, the system's largest international shipper, has invested more than $1 million in an innovative ballast water treatment called OceanSaver that is being tested. It may prove efficient in killing the hitchhiking invasives in ballast tanks by removing oxygen required for life.

The Seaway has acted as a vital economic gateway to the Great Lakes region for almost 50 years, moving more than 2 billion tons of goods since it first opened. Government, industry and environmentalists are working together to solve the ballast water challenge and are making real progress.

We may not agree on every point, but everyone, except for the Journal Sentinel, agrees that closing the door on the Seaway isn't an answer.

Albert S. Jacquez is administrator of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., and Richard Corfe is president and CEO of the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.

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