[Conservationists in Great Lakes United argue] that the idea of slamming shut the Seaway to oceangoing "salties" has become an environmental and economic no-brainer, like padlocking a struggling little factory that is ruining life for everyone in town because it won't fix its oversize smokestack.There's cost-benefit analysis involved.
The infrastructure, which opened to great fanfare half a century ago, is due for renewal or retirement.
Evidence suggests that the costs of the biological pollution gushing from the [transatlantic]ship-steadying ballast tanks far outweigh the benefits of maintaining the world's largest freshwater system as a nautical highway for saltwater traffic.
A draft study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, indicates that recreational boats dwarf overseas freighters in terms of economic importance to the region, yet the recreation industry is entirely dependent on the very waters the salties continue to irreversibly pollute.
The original system of locks and channels, which are crumbling in places, cost $3 billion in today's dollars. Then there are the costs of dredging and maintaining channels and harbors in ports across the Great Lakes.All to move a volume of export traffic in bulk cargoes such as grain or scrap metal that the railroads could easily transport to the existing saltwater ports. Let me refresh readers' memories: most of the traffic handled in the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system is intra-Lake traffic for which ballast pumping simply transports marine life already in the Lakes to someplace else in the same Lakes.
The commercial fishery is at risk.
On balance, the gainers (sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, operators of waterworks, and railroads) appear to be well able to compensate a few overseas shippers for losses they might incur by closing the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Nobody is precisely sure why so many fish have disappeared so quickly, but likely factors are high numbers of the planted predatory salmon, along with spiraling numbers of invasive species.
Invasive round gobies, a bug-eyed, prehistoric-looking fish known for gobbling eggs of native lake species, have been ballooning in number since they were discovered in the lake in 1993. But the pace of their expansion appears to be accelerating - the number of fish found in the survey jumped 16-fold from 2005 to 2006.