This morning on The 8 O’Clock Hour, I reported on the balance between economic and environmental concerns on the St. Lawrence Seaway. After all, what’s known as the “Seaway” is our St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, the world’s largest store of fresh water.
There’s another element to the Seaway story. Is it safe?
At this hour, a freighter is grounded in the channel right by the Montreal waterfront. It’s carrying mechanical parts. According to the Seaway’s release:
At approximately 3:13 a.m. on Thursday, March 31, the BBC Steinhoelft veered off course and became grounded in the South Shore Canal between the St. Lambert Lock and the Jacques Cartier Bridge. No pollution has been reported as a consequence of the grounding.
A grounding 9 days into the Seaway’s 53rd season isn’t exactly what the shipping industry was hoping for.
There were at least a couple groundings in the narrow channel along the St. Lawrence River last year. (Not to mention this horrific story when gas leaked into the living quarters on a ship.) And we all know about the devastation of the Slick of ’76 (and many of us remember it firsthand).
Seaway officials say GPS and other new technological advancements have made navigation safer than ever. Ships with potentially hazardous cargo are double-hulled and must submit special safety plans. The Seaway has orchestrated emergency response trainings.
But watchdog groups like Save the River insist it’s still too dangerous. Another oil spill, or a leak of toxic chemicals, could destroy the River for years, if not decades. And green groups – and native tribes – across the Great Lakes are protesting the planned shipment of radioactive waste through the Seaway to Sweden.
What do you think? Is the Seaway critical enough infrastructure to justify the risk? Is the risk adequately managed? Or is the ecosystem too delicate to justify the risk?