Group says increasing Seaway outflows to max would cost nearly $200M a week

The Cost of Increasing Seaway Outflows

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Lowering Lake Ontario water levels by stopping St. Lawrence Seaway commercial traffic and increasing outflows to maximum would cost more than it's worth.

That’s according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce, a not-for-profit organization that represents commercial interests in the U.S. and Canada.

The organization says increasing outflows to maximum at the Moses-Saunders dam near Massena would lower Lake Ontario levels by 4 centimeters a week, that's about an inch and a half.

The chamber says it would cost U.S. and Canadian economies $193 million a week.

"This negligible reduction would come at a huge cost to commercial navigation," the organization said in a release.

Sen. Charles Schumer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Save the River have asked the International Joint Commission, the organization that regulates water levels, to increase outflows beyond the amounts considered safe for ship traffic.

The idea, they say, is to reduce the chance of shoreline flooding next year. Flooding in 2017 and 2019 caused considerable damage to homes and businesses along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Save the River and the governor have asked for shipping to be halted in December, while Schumer has called for the Seaway to slow traffic down and use various means to keep ships safe.

There has been no indication that the IJC is considering increasing flows beyond safe shipping limits - and in a statement to the Recorder & Times newspaper, an IJC official said the Commission has no plans to shut the Seaway early, though it may delay opening next spring in order to drain more water from Lake Ontario.

“We have the greatest sympathy for Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River residents and business owners that have been impacted by flooding due to unprecedented weather conditions. This situation has also cost our supply chain millions of dollars,” chamber President Bruce Burrows said. “Halting St. Lawrence Seaway shipping altogether would cause major harm to our economy and achieve no noticeable benefit for flooding victims.”

Lake Ontario water levels are about a foot and a half above normal for this time of year.

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