High Water

The marine shipping industry is committed to working with all affected stakeholders to develop a smart, science-based plan to deal with the adverse affects of high water levels in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region.

How High Water Levels Impact Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Shipping

Steps Taken By the Marine Industry

  1. In 2019, marine shipping worked diligently with stakeholders for a solution to ensure safe navigation at record outflow levels from Moses-Saunders dam for five months to help lower Lake Ontario, taking on 26 mitigation measures that caused shipping delays, lost cargo business and millions of dollars of extra operating costs.
  2. Throughout the past winter, the Chamber has been working with ship captains, the St. Lawrence Seaway and experts in Canada and the United States to identify technology and further mitigation measures that could be tested to potentially allow safe navigation to continue at higher outflow levels in the future.
  3. Due to high water levels this season, the shipping industry continues to take measures to ensure safe navigation and to mitigate the impacts of high flows, including a mandatory draft reduction for upbound vessels and reducing speed when navigating close to shore to minimize their wake. New tools have also been developed to provide mariners with better outflow and current information in key areas and to closely monitor feedback from mariners on conditions.

While marine shipping will continue these efforts – we oppose the St. Lawrence Seaway shipping season being shortened, or interrupted by stop-and-go measures. Scientific data and evidence clearly demonstrates that these actions have little to no additional impact on lowering water levels and significantly damage the economy.

  • The economic impact of closing the St. Lawrence Seaway would on average cost the Canadian and U.S. economies up to USD $193 million per week.
Science shows that the Moses-Saunders dam can not effectively lower Lake Ontario water levels

High Water Recommendations

  1. That the St. Lawrence Seaway shipping season operate on a normal schedule, and not be shortened in any way, or interrupted by any stop-and-go traffic measures.
  2. That any increase in outflows beyond the L- limit should take into account the risks to ensure safe navigation is maintained. Feedback from mariners must be taken into account as the authoritative voice on navigation conditions
  3. That investments be made in marine infrastructure such as increased technology to better inform commercial navigation when outflows are high and currents are fast, including accurate current information, shoal mapping and other tools. Real-time data on current speeds and directions, provided by accurate current modelling and display, provides predictability allowing the piloting master to anticipate conditions and adjust a ship’s navigation accordingly based on actual conditions as they proceed through the waterway.
  4. That the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board continue to explore options for increasing outflows during the period when commercial navigation is not operating, and should explore what other measures could be taken that allow increased outflows depending on ice cover in the winter season. There could be opportunities to increase outflows and slightly modify some of the flow limits placed on the operation of the dam during the winter season, similar to what was done in the Winter 2020 period.
  5. As the scope of the problem is beyond just Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, we call on the IJC and governments, federal, state and provincial, to recognize climate resiliency as the path forward to address stakeholder needs in the future.
    a. Quebec has taken measures to identify and map flood plains in the province and has limited construction allowed in these zones.
    b. There are other options to explore flood plain designations in other jurisdictions, including flood management zones, improvements in shoreline resiliency measures and other infrastructure investments for land and business owners. 
    c. Strengthening seawalls is one option to shore up critical infrastructure as well as to protect the shoreline from erosion.