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Great Lakes-Seaway News' purpose is to provide news, critical information updates, and thoughtful commentary to those who care about the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System specifically, and the maritime industry in general. It is important that Great Lakes-Seaway News also become a forum and online meeting place so that ideas can be presented, issues can be debated and relationships can be made to advance the seaway system’s interests for now and for the future.

Therefore, Great Lakes Seaway News will serve as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System's newspaper, its online bulletin board, its meeting place for innovation and discussion, and its clubhouse for the development of plans and activities which will serve those who participate in the online marketplace of ideas.

Great Lakes-Seaway News is an independent publication and as such, is not affiliated in any way with the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or any other agencies of the governments of the United States of America or Canada. 

Great Lakes-Seaway News is a publication of PRI Strategy Management, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Email:  greatlakesseawaynews@gmail.com

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Friday
Oct242014

SLSMC Will Meet With Union Reps Next Week 

Contract talks are scheduled to resume next week between the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and members of three Unifor locals in Ontario and Quebec representing workers along the vital waterway.

"We are looking forward to getting back to the table and reaching a deal that is fair to all," said Joel Fournier, Unifor National Representative.

The two sides have not met since talks broke off in April. Unifor filed for federal conciliation in August, but the SLSMC has reportedly refused to meet until now. The talks are set to resume Tuesday, October 28 in Cornwall, Ontario.

"Transits are up this year on the Seaway. Why the Seaway would refuse to negotiate with the union up to this point, and risk having a work stoppage is difficult to understand," said Fournier.

The 460 members of Unifor along the St. Lawrence Seaway from Niagara to Montreal are in Locals 4212 and 4211 in Niagara and Cornwall, Locals 4319 and 4320 in Montreal and Local 4323 in Iroquois, Ontario. The workers have voted 96 per cent in favour of striking, if that becomes necessary.

The Seaway announced in April that it had received funding from the federal government to automate the locks along the Seaway, eliminating some of the staff currently working on the SLSMC operated St. Lawrence Seaway locks in Canada.

Work has already begun to retrofit Lock 3 on the Welland Canal with the new automated mooring system. All locks across the Seaway are to be retrofitted by 2018. Unifor would like to see minimum staffing levels maintained on the locks as a safety measure and to ensure good jobs remain for future generations.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.

Thursday
Oct232014

NOAA Introduces New Lake Level Viewer Tool

A new online visualization and mapping tool, the Lake Level Viewer, has been introduced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to help communities in the U.S. Great Lakes region plan for, and adapt to changes in lake water levels.

The easy-to-use, interactive tool was developed by the National Ocean Service’s Office for Coastal Management as part of its Digital Coast initiative.

“The Lake Level Viewer provides planners and decision makers with visual lake level scenarios for rise and drop information before it happens,” said Jim Schwab, a certified planner and the manager of the Hazards Planning Center for the American Planning Association. “Lake level scenarios can be incorporated into land use decisions, along with economic, social, and environmental considerations, to make wise investments in public infrastructure and develop livable, resilient communities.”

The viewer uses high-resolution elevation data, enabling users to display and visualize water levels associated with different lake level scenarios with a high degree of accuracy — ranging from zero to six feet above and below average lake level. Users can view elevation models, determine lake water depths at specific locations, examine data confidence, and view societal and economic impacts.

Rising or decreasing lake levels can affect commercial interests as well as shoreline habitats and structures. More than 4,900 miles of U.S. shoreline ring the Great Lakes, of which 3,800 miles are currently mapped on the Lake Level Viewer. The tool covers areas in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Sharp fluctuations

Great Lakes water levels are continuously monitored by U.S. and Canadian agencies in the region through a binational partnership. NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the National Ocean Service’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and the Canadian Hydrographic Service have been tracking Great Lakes water levels over a number of years. The annual rise and fall cycle of the Lakes’ water levels can be seen online for particular time periods beginning in 1917 via the Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard.

Over the past decade there has been a steady decline in Great Lakes levels. However, recent months have seen a dramatic reversal of that trend. With the exception of Lake Ontario, water levels in each of the Great Lakes rose between seven and 12 inches from summer 2013 to summer 2014. A heavy snow season, slow-melting ice, and a rainy spring contributed to the sharp increases.

“Rapid fluctuations like these can cause changes in the plans, and the expected profits, of industries like tourism and shipping,” said Doug Marcy, a hazards specialist and part of the team that developed the tool through the NOAA Office for Coastal Management. ”Even small increases and decreases can affect large land areas, especially on relatively flat shorelines.”

In light of these rapidly changing water levels, it is even more important to have a tool like the viewer to help communities visualize and plan for scenarios. Further geospatial analysis can be achieved by downloading digital elevation models, depth and confidence data, or accessing map services.

Wednesday
Oct222014

Great Lakes Gubernatorial Races Coming Down to the Wire

Seven of the eight Great Lakes states will be choosing their governors on November 4, which is now less than two weeks away.  Voters in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota will choose their chief executive at the ballot box in November while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) still has two years remaining in his first term.

At this writing it appears almost certain that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will cruise to reelection victories by comfortable margins.  It also appears certain that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) will lose to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the Keystone State, Tom Wolf, possibly by a double-digit spread.

There are, however, three gubernatorial contests that are very much in doubt and the outcome of those races may have a profound impact on the policies and politics of their respective states, the Great Lakes region, and the nation.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is slightly ahead of his Democratic opponent, former Rep. Mark Schauer (D), but a close and extremely hard-fought U.S. Senate race between GOP nominee Terry Lynn Land (R) and Rep. Gary Peters (D) may be a factor in influencing the outcome of the gubernatorial race especially in terms of voter turnout.

In Illinois, embattled Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has had to fight off primary challengers and the Republican nominee, businessman and political newcomer Bruce Rauner (R) in his reelection quest. Both President Obama and his wife have campaigned for Quinn in recent days, but recent polling suggests he is just slightly ahead of his political neophyte opponent.

The main political event in the Great Lakes may be the reelection bid of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) against Democratic nominee Mary Burke (D). Recent polling suggests Walker holds a razor-thin lead over Burke, but the voter turnout operations of the two campaigns are likely to decide the winner of that important contest.           

Tuesday
Oct212014

NPR Looks at Rising Great Lakes Water Levels

National Public Radio (NPR) host Audie Cornish spoke with Drew Gronewold, a hydrologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about why water levels on the Great Lakes have been rising this year.  A transcript of their conversation follows:

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

During the late summer and early fall, the water level on the Great Lakes usually drops several inches. This year, three of those lakes, Superior, Michigan and Huron, have seen the opposite happen - rising water levels. Joining us to talk about why that is is Drew Gronewold. He's a hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He works in the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Welcome to the show.

DREW GRONEWOLD: Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: Help us understand how much water we're talking about and, specifically, where you think the water's come from.

GRONEWOLD: Sure. So in addition to the lakes - Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron - being so large, when we look at the water level rise over the past year and a half or so, we're talking about Lake Superior between - over the past 18 months or so, has gone up almost three quarters of a meter, which is quite a lot of rise, you know, on the order of a foot and a half to two feet. And the same is true for Michigan-Huron. And that is really an awfully lot of water when we're considering that that's a foot and half of water over the earth's largest freshwater surfaces. And the water came primarily from precipitation. But what's interesting is that it stayed in the system longer than we expected it to, in part because it's been cooler than average, and there's been less evapotranspiration - that is, transfer of water out of the soil by processes that draw it out of the soil through plants and out of the soil - but also less evaporation off the lakes themselves. And as a result, more water has stayed in the system.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: So is there any sense that this might have happened anyway, that it's part of the natural lifecycle of the lakes?

GRONEWOLD: A lot of the ups and downs of water levels in the past are very closely connected with changes in precipitation. Like any freshwater system, you get more rain, water levels go up. You get less rain; they tend to go down. Over the past 20 years, there have been two changes in water levels that are more closely associated with changes in temperature and evaporation than necessarily precipitation. One of those was in the late 1990s, when water levels actually went down by about three feet over the course of just a couple of years. And they stayed low for 15 years because water temperatures were high, and evaporation rates stayed very high. And then, just a couple of years ago, a relatively unpredicted phenomenon occurred, which was the deformation of the Arctic polar vortex - or the polar vortex phenomenon, as a lot of people refer to it as - that caused a tremendous amount of cold air to locate right over the Great Lakes. And all of the sudden, we have cold water temperatures. We have unprecedented ice cover, and water levels start rising again. And what's important, Audie, is that these phenomenon are very hard to predict, yet they lead to a lot of water level variability.

CORNISH: In the end, what are the lessons here? Is there anything you're going to be looking for in terms of an effect beyond the Great Lakes region?

GRONEWOLD: Sure. Well, one of the things that we're learning about here, Audie, has to do with the types of changes that we're experiencing, whether it's regarding a coastline or whether it's regarding a large freshwater system, that the changes we're experiencing are dramatic. And they may be tied to larger climate change phenomena that are driving the system. You know, one of the things we often do is compare this to the phenomenon of sea level rise on the marine coasts and some of the water levels around New York City and other cities on the East Coast. The rate of change there is on the order of 10 inches to a foot per century. So we're talking here about 10,000 miles of coastline across the Great Lakes that are fluctuating on the scale, sometimes, of one to two feet every year or so. It's really a tremendous rate of change that we experience here.

CORNISH: Drew Gronewold, thanks so much for talking with us.

GRONEWOLD: No problem. Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: NOAA's Drew Gronewald. He's also a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan.

Monday
Oct202014

This Week's Poll Question