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Great Lakes Article:

Habitat Watch # 258
Great Lakes United
June 23-29th, 2002

Action needed NOW to stop the Great Lakes Navigation System review

ACTION ALERT to Canadian, American and Native citizens, environmental, conservation and fishing groups, tourist agencies, natural resource departments, unions, business and Lake dependent industries.


The funding to expand the study of the Army Corps of Engineers draft Reconnaissance Report: Great Lakes Navigation System Review will most likely be determined in the next month. In the US, Congress will decide whether to appropriate funds in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill FY 03. Canadian participation is essential for this study to move forward, the federal government of Canada is currently deciding whether to be the study co-sponsor and contribute a 50% match to the U.S. funds. Twenty million dollars is needed to undertake just the feasibility study.

The Corps Great Lakes Navigation System review will determine the feasibility of replumbing the Great Lakes to allow access of Panamax-sized ships into the basin. This means that the freshwater Lakes narrow, fragile and biologically productive connecting channels will be deepened and widened into a 35-foot (almost 11 metres) deep navigation system from Montreal to Duluth.

The Corps themselves acknowledge that dredging, blasting, constructing wider and deeper locks and channels, and many other proposed works will seriously impact the Lakes through: introduction of additional aquatic nuisance species, aquatic habitat disruptions (through bow waves, draw down and surge, and propeller wash), loss of habitat, areas of dead water, alterations in flow patterns, and dredging of hundreds of millions of cubic yards of material requiring placement.

The draft report predicts that improvements to the Great Lakes navigation system will provide annual benefits of $1.4 billions dollars, however, it fails to add up the negative costs to hydropower, riparian owners, sustenance communities, commercial and recreational fishing and the tourist industry that depend on a healthy, diverse, fully functioning ecosystem. The only cost mentioned in the draft report is a ballpark construction figure of $10 billion just to replace the 15 locks at the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence River. That figure will greatly increase as dredging and channelization costs are added to build and maintain this new navigation system. The draft report also does not estimate potential costs from the introduction of new exotic species to the $4 billion Great Lakes commercial and recreational fishing industry, or the cost of controlling exotics, such as the approximately $100 million dollar cost to control zebra mussels annually.


Most government officials are not informed about this study and the serious environmental and economic concerns with navigation expansion in the Great Lakes. If they are aware of this study, officials assume that such dramatic construction can happen in harmony with Great Lakes restoration!

In the US, please let your Senators and Representatives know that you strongly are opposed to Congress funding the Corps Great Lakes Navigation System review. In Canada please let your Ministers know that you oppose Canadian funds providing the match for such a study. The proposed Great Lakes Navigation System review has a narrow intent-- catering only to special interests desire to create new commercial navigation access to the Lakes, at the cost of permanent destruction to the Great Lakes environment and Lake dependent economies.

Two sample letters, for Canadian and U.S. residents, are available. Please feel free to use any of this text.

To review and sign your organization onto an international letter to the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, asking that this study be stopped, please contact Rick Spencer, National Wildlife Federation at: (202) 797-6635 or email:

The Corps draft review is at

Great Lakes Uniteds 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:

Jennifer Nalbone
Habitat and Biodiversity Coordinator
Great Lakes United
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Cassety Hall- Buffalo State College
Buffalo, NY 14222

ph: (716) 886-0142  fax:-0303

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