In an effort to bring transparency to the process for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway, Save The River has filed a legal petition for rulemaking with the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC). (Read the full petition here.) The legal petition was developed with assistance from the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington, Indiana.
The legal petition is a formal request asking the Seaway to institutionalize and make public the procedures for setting the opening date for the St. Lawrence Seaway, taking environmental and safety criteria into consideration. Currently, no clear, publicly available rules exist for this annual process.
The lack of a clear process for opening decisions has allowed the Seaway to lengthen the navigation season considerably, without stakeholder involvement, without congressional approval, and without appropriate environmental studies. Given the range of possible serious impacts to the environment and public, this process should be institutionalized in a rule that protects the environment and makes the process more open and transparent to other stakeholders.
An Incrementally Longer Season
Over the years, the Seaway’s navigation season has lengthened incrementally, and spring ice breaking has become common practice as the opening date has crept from early April to late March. More than 30 years ago, a longer navigation season was proposed for the St. Lawrence Seaway and, after significant public debate and study, the proposal was soundly rejected by citizens and regional governments. Despite this formal rejection, in recent years the St. Lawrence Seaway has implemented a longer shipping season without any public input or clear rationale. Today, the Seaway typically operates on a schedule that is only two weeks shy of ‘winter navigation’ as proposed and rejected thirty years ago.
Environmental and Safety Concerns
Save The River opposes a longer shipping season because of the dangers posed to the delicate ecosystem of the River, and, through filing the legal petition, seeks an opening policy that will adequately protect the River which is of such importance, both ecologically and economically, to our membership and our communities.
Risks of shipping in ice conditions include:
- Icebreaking and winter shipping can cause significant damage to property and important wildlife habitat;
- Spill response assets, such as boats and boom, are not accessible and usable due to ice conditions making clean-up of any spill near impossible until the ice has melted; and
- Lighted navigation aids are not in place, raising concerns about the safe passage of ships.
About the Conservation Law Center
The petition for rulemaking was developed with the assistance of the Conservation Law Center located in Bloomington, Indiana.
The Conservation Law Center provides legal counsel without charge to conservation organizations, works to improve conservation law and policy, and offers law students at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law clinical experience in the practice of law and the profession’s public service tradition.