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It’s official: St. Lawrence Seaway expansion study is dead

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has officially scratched the idea of expanding the St. Lawrence Seaway to allow larger, ocean-bound ships to enter the system.

According the Corps’ most recent report on the Great Lakes Navigation system, the option to construct larger locks and deepen the Great Lakes connecting channels will “no longer be considered” because “both the U.S. and Canada feel that expansion of the system is not warranted at this time.”

While proponents of the proposal saw the expansion as an opportunity to bring greater economic growth to the Great Lakes region, area lawmakers and environmental advocates have argued that the physical expansion of the Seaway would only exacerbate environmental destruction.

Members of Save the River — a Clayton-based environmental group that has played a large role in persuading Congress to instruct the Corps not to pursue the matter any further — breathed a sigh of relief upon learning that the expansion option is officially dead.

“The report is an important step forward. This shows that the Army Corps of Engineers has been listening to public input,” said Save the River’s executive director Jennifer J. Caddick.

The idea of expanding the Seaway has been around since its opening in the late 1950s, but the issue caught the public’s attention only about a decade ago after a 2002 Corps report suggested further study on widening the Seaway and deepening the channels in the St. Lawrence River, among other improvements to the system.

Since then, several New York lawmakers, environmental groups and citizens along the St. Lawrence Seaway have fiercely opposed the idea of an expanded Seaway.

Ms. Caddick said the expansion would have resulted in islands being removed and sensitive shorelines being destroyed and most likely would have exacerbated the waterway’s invasive species problem with more ocean-bound ships dumping ballast water into the system.

“People should be very proud of all the work they did. This is something that should be celebrated by the river community,” she said.

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