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McHugh's press release
Contacts: Dana Johnson
Deborah Martinez
Posted 10/01/2002

WASHINGTON -- The following statement was inserted into the Congressional Record today by Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY).

"For all the aspects of natural beauty that grace the North Country, few equal the splendor of the St. Lawrence River. From the wide expanse of its Gulf to the grandeur of the Thousand Islands, the St. Lawrence River is truly a wonder to behold.

For those of us who call this special region home, the St. Lawrence has long been a vital source of commercial and recreational activity. From its waters and its fragile environs, many thousands earn their living and renew their lives. Simply put, our welfare in very tangible and vital ways is inextricably linked and dependent upon the vitality of the St. Lawrence.

It is, therefore, both understandable and logical that many who know this river best have viewed with great skepticism recent initiatives that seek to measure the potential impact of conducting a massive construction and dredging project designed to significantly expand the existing shipping locks and channel depths to accommodate Seaway access to a larger class of freight vessels. Their concern has focused on the unavoidable scope of such an undertaking and the disruptive effects that would result upon a delicately balanced ecosystem that even today is severely stressed by existing Seaway traffic.

As someone who has been granted the honor of representing the entire New York State span of the St. Lawrence, I have spent much time in recent months considering the views of both those who doubt and those who embrace the proposed project. Clearly, the Seaway serves a vital purpose both to this region and to others throughout the Great Lakes that utilize the shipping it accommodates.

Just as evident is the need to reformulate this vital system’s operations to ensure its highest utilization into the future. Indeed, the observation that the proposal in question is no more than a study designed to identify the existence and scope of any resulting problem is not without merit.

In the final analysis, however, my foremost responsibility is to assume those positions that represent the greater interests of those I represent. In my opinion, no matter what merits any study may offer, the inescapable fact remains that the perils of such a project, if initiated, would far outweigh any benefits that may result to our region. The viability of our vital tourism industry, the generation of economically stimulating hydropower, and the untold enjoyment that the St. Lawrence provides derives less from the shipping that the river supports than the delicate environment it nurtures. As past studies have invariably found, the effects of a project of the magnitude in question would unavoidably and unilaterally upset the delicate ecological balance of the St. Lawrence River and all that prospers from it.

Given the great importance of this issue to our region, I feel compelled to declare my opposition to the proposed study and the requested funding to advance it. I fully recognize the likely reality that my views may be shared by few in the House of Representatives. While the area I represent affords me the distinction of being the only Member from New York to have the St. Lawrence River shores within their district, it also means that many others hail from areas that stand to realize greater benefits any expansion of the existing systems might afford. The fact that both the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee and full House Appropriations Committee have provided $2 million to advance this study attest to the support this initiative has gained thus far. Nevertheless, I have no intention of abandoning the higher interests of my district because the odds may be long.

I have begun the preparation of an amendment that will seek to remove the $2 million in study funding currently contained in the FY03 House Appropriations bill should this legislation be advanced. I will submit that amendment to the Rules Committee requesting that it be approved for consideration if and when the full bill is brought to the House Floor for a vote. In this way, I hope to convey to other Members the peril that such an initiative holds and, hopefully, gain the support of those who recognize the need to stand on the side of preserving a resource that is so critically important to so many."

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