Lake outflow causes slight shipping delay
As an international agency works to lower water levels on Lake Ontario, shipping has been somewhat delayed on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Kingston, said the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.’s spokesman.
Andrew Bogora said the westbound trip usually takes vessels 24 hours to complete. “That stretch of the seaway, at present, is taking about 26 hours. It’s a credit to the skilled captains and pilots to be able to sustain navigation with a two-hour delay as the only impact being observed.
It’s a credit to the mariners that they’re able to keep this vital supply line moving in this time of above normal river flow,” Bogora said, adding it’s also impressive because of stringent measures already in place. That two-hour delay, however, may increase as the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which controls outflows from Lake Ontario, met Monday and agreed to increase it Wednesday to a record high 10,400 cubic metres per second.
The outflow is controlled through 32 turbines at the Moses Saunders Dam between Cornwall, ON and Massena, NY. The increased outflow will not have any significant effect on St. Lawrence River levels near Montreal, as declining Ottawa River flows are expected to continue, and this will offset the effects of the increased Lake Ontario outflow, the board said.
Bogora said there’s a high level of confidence that both lakers and ocean-going vessels will manage to safely travel the seaway system even with the record outflow – designed to lower Lake Ontario levels slightly, and provide additional relief to lake riparians. A riparian is a person who owns land on the bank of a natural watercourse or body of water “We’ve been in extensive consultations with the industry, both ocean-going and lakers, prior to the implementation of 10,400 (cubic metres per second),” said Bogora. “We have daily conference calls with the industry and our Seaway operations team to gather information on the conditions being experienced by captains and pilots.”
He said those calls are to ensure that shipping can continue safely and effectively. Special measures have been taken by the Seaway through notices sent to mariners. Notices over the past few days said the Seaway plans to continue operations at the outflow conditions, even as it creates velocities higher than normal in navigation channels and variations in normal current patterns.
The notices have also said vessels equipped with bow thrusters will have to use them when transiting the Montreal to Lake Ontario section of the waterway. It also said all tall ships and tows (tug-barge combinations) transiting Montreal to Lake Ontario must be capable of making a minimum of eight knots through the water. “Vessels will have to make a determination as to whether they can comply with the special measures,” Bogora said.
The higher outflows will initially be tested for a 72-hour period to monitor any effects it may have, the board said in a post on its Facebook page.
“After the 72 hours at 10,400 has concluded, it may well continue for some extended period of time,” said Bogora.