The Great Lakes District Council of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) kicked off their Sixth Quadrennial Convention today in Tampa, Florida. U.S. and Canadian longshore labor leaders from the Great Lakes region were joined by longshoremen from the East and Gulf Coasts for five days of intensive meetings and presentations from honored guests.
The meetings were kicked off by Great Lakes District Council President John D. Baker Jr. who introduced the ILA's International President Harlold Daggett and US Maritime Alliance (USMX) Chairman and CEO David Adam who delivered remarks about the surrent state of labor-management relations between East, Gulf and Great Lakes longshoremen and their employers.
Also scheduled to speak at the convention are Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Administrator Betty Sutton, American Great Lakes Ports Association Executive Director Steve Fisher, Great Lakes-Seaway Coalition Co-Founder James Hartung and ILA Executive Council Member and former Great Lakes District Council President John D. Baker.
The meetings, which are being held at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel Tampa Westshore will run through Monday March 23.
The weakening Canadian dollar slipped by an additional 0.07 tenths of a U.S. cent to close in international currency trading markets near 78 cents against the U.S. dollar yesterday as oil prices slumped, weakening Canada's heavily resource-based economy.
The Toronto Stock Exchange also closed lower yesterday, weighed down by slumping energy stocks as oil prices continued to slide closer to the $40 U.S. per barrel mark after energy market data showed further big increases in American inventories.
The decline in the Canadian dollar has had the net effect of lowering Canadian tolls on the St. Lawrence Seaway, the only tolls that remain on the international waterway. Since Canada charges its St. Lawrence Seaway tolls in Canadian dollars, and ocean vessels earn their freight charges in U.S. dollars, a decline in the Canadian dollar vs. the U.S. dollar effectively lowers the cost of toll charges compared to cargo earnings.
In 2014 the value of the Canadian dollar fell by nearly 12 percent compared to the U.S. dollar. The Canadian dollar is currently near a six-year low as compared to the U.S. dollar, mainly due to Canada's ,weakened energy earnings and fears that the U.S. Federal Reserve may increase interest rates soon, making the U.S. interest rate environment more favorable than Canada's for debt market investors.
More than fifty Great Lakes region lawmakers signed a bipartisan letter this week to congressional budget leaders in support of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal calls for cutting as much as $50 million from the fund, a reduction of 17 percent.
“We urge you to continue this vital investment in the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes,” U.S. Reps. Sander Levin (D-MI), and David P. Joyce, R-OH, wrote in a letter to the chairman and ranking member of a key subcomittee of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees environmental programs.
More than four dozen lawmakers representing eight Great Lakes states signed the request to continue funding at $300 million — the same level as recent years.
“This has to be a priority as Congress gets to work on the 2016 funding bills,” Levin said in a statement. “Now is not the time to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
Joyce noted that the letter received more support from members of Congress than any other year. “I’m glad the effort to preserve and protect our Great Lakes is clearly growing across state and party lines, and we aren’t going to take our foot off the gas,” Joyce said in a statement.
In January, Rep. Joyce introduced a bill to authorize the initiative for five years at an annual level of $300 million and bring it under congressional oversight. A similar bill won House approval in December, but the Senate did not take action on it.
Created in 2010, the Great Lakes initiative has set aside about $1.9 billion over six years for more than 2,000 projects that range from reducing contaminated runoff to battling invasive species such as Asian carp, officials say.
In the Senate, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) last month introduced the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act. Her bill would authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years at $475 million per year and reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office, which oversees restoration efforts.
Warmer weather is starting to melt the extensive Great Lakes ice cover that blanketed most of the world's largest body of fresh water this winter.
According to scientist George Leshkevich, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL),ice coverage peaked on February 28 this winter covering approximately 88.7 percent of the five lakes. This year's ice cover peak fell short of the mark set last year on March 6 percent well short of the all-time record set in 1979 at 94.7 percent.
According to statistics compiled by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, out of all of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie reached the highest ice coverage percent at 98.09 percent on Feb. 18.
Lake Ontario also experienced its peak ice coverage Feb. 18, when 82.6 percent of the lake was covered in ice.
Coming in at No. 2 for highest total ice coverage was Lake Huron, recording an ice coverage of 96.28 percent on March 6.
Lakes Superior and Michigan both reached their maximum ice coverage Feb. 28, with Lake Michigan recording 72.8 percent ice coverage and Lake Superior 95.5 percent.
Since reaching those numbers, warmer temperatures and larger amounts of sunlight among other factors have began to break up the large quantities of ice.
Unless there is another cold spell, the ice cover should continue to melt as spring approaches, unlike 2014 when Leshkevich said some amount of ice cover remained on Lake Superior until early June.