2009 is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and while linking ports on Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario to the world’s shipping hubs increased trade in the Great Lakes region, it also opened the door to zebra mussels and a host of invasive species.
Journalist Jeff Alexander has a new book titled Pandora’s Locks that explores this issue. The publisher’s web site says:
Pandora’s Locks is the story of politicians and engineers who, driven by hubris and handicapped by ignorance, demanded that the Seaway be built at any cost. It is the tragic tale of government agencies that could have prevented ocean freighters from laying waste to the Great Lakes ecosystems, but failed to act until it was too late. Blending science with compelling personal accounts, this book is the first comprehensive account of how inviting transoceanic freighters into North America’s freshwater seas transformed these wondrous lakes.
There’s a nice interview with Alexander from the Environment Report where he notes that while offloading cargo in Montreal would cost an extra $55 million per year, it’s a fraction of the $200 million cost of invasive species, not to mention the unknown cost of ruining an ecosystem.
You can check out the list of invasive species in the Great Lakes from the EPA and get some information about the history of the St. Lawrence Seaway and events surrounding the 50th anniversary from the Seaway’s web site.