The shipping industry continues to insist on lake levels that favor their profits over the destruction of our homes, the lakeshore environment and the other business related economies along the lake and river. The shipping interests talk about the negative impact on the shipping related economies in the region while ignoring the damaging effects on other areas of the economy such as the homeowners, marinas, fishing guides, boaters, lake-shore restaurants and municipalities. They expect us all to suffer huge annual losses so they can earn more profits with longer seasons and more cargo on board that deeper river levels permit.
In several recent articles, the shipping industry has stood steadfastly against any changes to the IJC Plan 2014 or temporarily halting shipping to get the lake levels down to a reasonable level near the historical average of 244’. While shipping officials claim shutting down this winter or in the spring would cost them $193 million per week in revenue, they expect riparians and municipalities to incur billions in potential damages next spring. Our respective governments could certainly pass on the cost of lakeshore destruction to the shipping industry by way of a resiliency tax or toll to pay for the cost of shoreline protection and damages to municipal and riparian infrastructure. The relationship between high water levels in the fall and winter and flooding in the Spring is clear and simple: high water levels on the lake in fall and winter significantly increase the probability of flooding in the spring.
Solutions do exist for the shipping industry that do not include keeping the water levels dangerously high each fall and endangering riparians. Shallow water ships and barges exist that can carry large payloads in shallower water. Another waterway around the Moses-Saunders Dam could be dredged that allowed large ships to navigate parts of the river that are shallower, or, shallow areas or the river can be dredged to safe shipping depths.
While lakeshore riparians and municipal governments outcry has been loud and constant, so far, the shipping industry refuses to do anything but remain committed to asserting their influence in keeping lake levels to their benefit while lake-shore destruction is ignored. What will it take to get the attention of the shipping industry? Do lake and river riparians start a shipping blockade on the river this spring? Do they dump shipping cargo into the river as the revolutionary colonists did at the Boston Tea Party? Perhaps a poor soul who has lost his home, business and family due to flooding will act out and do something far more destructive. Examples of horrible acts are played out almost daily across the world stage by desperate oppressed people who seek attention for their cause and justice from governments that ignore them. Another lakeshore flood in 2020 will certainly bring riparian anger to a boiling point and some form of civil disobedience or violent act is likely. While I would not advocate for any of those actions above, the potential for the situation to get out of control certainly exists when people’s homes and businesses are destroyed.
In summary, the shipping industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with huge financial resources and government support on both sides of the lake and river. The shipping industry and our collective governments (state, federal and Canadian) need to come together and find solutions to acceptable lake levels that protect shoreline riparian’s property, businesses and municipalities while accommodating the shipping industry interests where feasible. The destruction of people’s homes, businesses and the lakeshore environment need to stop before riparian rage over-comes reason creating potential for the situation to turn ugly next spring. Which elected officials will take a leadership role and work with us and the shipping industry to ensure a reasonable solution?