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GREAT lakes

FORGING

AHEAD

In the face of challenges, Great Lakes operators look to future with optimism By Glen G. Nekvasil, Vice President, Lake Carriers’ Association

Shutterstock/Juriaan Wossink

T

he Great Lakes are one of America’s most important waterways. Each year more than 150 million tons of cargo move across the Lakes. U.S.-flag vessels typically carry more than 80 million tons each year. Primary among those cargos are iron ore for steel production, limestone and cement for construction, and coal for power generation. Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) has represented U.S.-flag vessel operators since 1880 and is one of the oldest trade associations in the country. Today LCA has 13 members who collectively operate 49 vessels exclusively on the Great Lakes. LCA is working hard to ensure the Great Lakes remain a vital segment of America’s transportation system. Currently there are four major initiatives:

(1) Federal, uniform regulations governing vessel discharges, including ballast water, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard; (2) A second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, MI; (3) Construction of a second heavy icebreaker for service on the Great Lakes; and (4) System-wide dredging. Federal, uniform regulation of vessel discharges is important because currently two federal agencies (USCG and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and 25 states have their own requirements (16 states have ballast water specific requirements), which makes compliance difficult, if not impossible. That’s why LCA supports the Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (CVIDA). The bill makes the USCG the lead agency on vessel incidental discharge and sets a

uniform, federal standard that is the highest achievable given the current state of technology. As technology advances, so will the discharge standard. The locks at Sault Ste. Marie, MI, connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario). Although there are four locks at “The Soo,” only two are viable, and one, the Poe, handles most of the cargo transiting the locks. In fact, more than 90 percent of all cargo LCA members move through the locks transit the Poe Lock. Congress acknowledged the need for a second Poe-sized lock in 1986, but the need has grown greater over the years. The closure of the iron ore loading dock in Escanaba, MI, below the locks in Lake Michigan earlier this year means all the domestic September 2017 // Marine Log 29

Marine Log September 2017