U.S. considers approval of binational
study probing possibility of widening canals
The StandardSt Catharines
"Basically, if you widen the pipes, more water will
flow through," said Fabien Lengelle, spokesman for the
International Joint Commission. "If you deepen and widen
the canals, it could have serious consequences including
permanently lowering the levels of some of the lakes,
especially Lake Michigan."
The U.S. government is considering the approval of
a multimillion-dollar binational study of the Great
Lakes to determine the feasibility of introducing cargo
ships the same size as those that travel through the
Panama Canal into the seaway.
The cost of the three- to five-year study, to be split
by federal governments on both sides of the border,
is estimated at $10 million US.
The study, to be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, would determine whether various locks need
to be enlarged and if dredging is required for the supersized
ships to pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the
Sylvie Moncion, spokeswoman for the St. Lawrence Seaway
Management Corp., said the waterway is in dire need
"It was built in the 1950s and the infrastructure is
the same," she said Thursday.
Improvement could mean extending the shipping season
or expanding the depth and width of the waterways --
including the Welland Canal -- and the locks, she said.
"It is too early to say what the study will recommend."
In the Seaway's annual report, its president says deepening
the Welland Canal to nine metres from 8.2 metres would
"substantially improve the efficiency" of the Seaway.
Langelle said the IJC has looked at several options
for the Seaway over the years, including expanding the
canal, and said there are serious environmental problems.
Larger canals could mean water will pour out faster
from Lake Michigan, creating problems for the local
economy and fishery.
"If you don't have more water coming in at the source,
the result is lower lake levels."
He also said dredging comes with its own set of problems.
"If it is not done properly, you can release a batch
of toxin in the sediment into the lakes," he said.