Great Lakes and St. Lawrence maritime strategy released

Great Lakes system

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. Canadian ports indicated by red dot, U.S. ports with blue. (The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met in Detroit on Wednesday to discuss their ongoing partnership to grow the economy and create jobs. On behalf of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, they released the first-ever regional strategy to jumpstart the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system.

The strategy’s objectives are to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region’s transportation network, and support the region’s industrial core. Once fully implemented, the strategy will help grow the region’s maritime sector, which already contributes more than US$30 billion to the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs.

“The maritime system connects regional markets with one another, and with the world. By leveraging maritime transport on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, we can boost the region’s $5 trillion economy and create jobs throughout the region,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Chair of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers.

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Sustainable development

“Improving maritime transportation is critical to our economies — in order to remain competitive in today’s global markets, we need to improve and expand the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system,” said Ontario Premier and Co-Chair of the Regional Maritime Entity Kathleen Wynne. “Our new strategy will help guide the sustainable development of maritime trade to ensure that future generations can enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of the region.”

The strategy includes a blend of policies, programs and projects to rejuvenate the regional maritime system. Ten-year implementation of the strategy is estimated at US$3.8 billion based on preliminary analysis. The states and provinces will work with other levels of government, industry and other stakeholders to advance implementation of the recommendations over the longer term. Specific recommendations include:

  • Constructing a second “Poe Class” Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to ensure the movement of vital raw materials like iron ore and coal. The feasibility of a second hydropower plant should be examined, including the potential of using revenue for future lock maintenance and construction.
  • Clearing the system’s dredging backlog to ensure transit for fully loaded vessels.
  • Dredging the system’s critical chokepoint–the St. Marys River–to its authorized depth of 27 feet, while a longer-term, system-wide analysis of bottlenecks is completed to make sure dredging dollars are used most efficiently.
  • Developing recommendations for a treaty or other binding agreement between the U.S. and Canada to cooperatively manage the regional maritime system, and harmonize regulations across levels of governments.
  • Expediting the movement of goods and people across the U.S.-Canada border by streamlining the customs clearance process for cruise passengers and maritime cargo.

Economic competitiveness

“This new strategy will strengthen our region’s economic competitiveness in the global marketplace. These investments will make it easier, faster, and cheaper to move iron ore and other goods from here to other U.S. and overseas markets,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Minnesota is Co-Chair of the Governors’ and Premiers’ Regional Maritime Entity.

“I am very pleased with this new regional initiative, which provides concrete evidence of the level of leadership and commitment by the Conference of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers toward leveraging our maritime and logistical assets as engines of sustainable growth and competitiveness. It dovetails nicely with the priorities and objectives of Québec’s Maritime Strategy, launched in 2015 and demonstrates once more the relevance for Québec to be a member of this forum,” said Québec Premier Philippe Couillard.

Transparent Process

The Governors and Premiers led the development of the strategy in a collaborative and transparent process along with representatives of government, industry, environmental groups, and other regional partners. The strategy reflects a regional consensus on supporting the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime system as a backbone of the economy. The successful implementation of the strategy will require ongoing collaboration between the states and provinces, industry, the two federal governments, local governments and other key stakeholders. Work will be ongoing in coming years to realize the strategy’s promise. The Governors and Premiers are committed to continuing this important effort for the benefit of the entire region.

The Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers unites the chief executives from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Québec and Wisconsin. Through the Conference, the Governors and Premiers work as equal partners to grow the region’s economy and protect the world’s largest system of surface fresh water. The Conference builds upon over 30 years of work by the Council of Great Lakes Governors to encourage and facilitate environmentally responsible economic development.

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