Salty traffic in the Great Lakes
The first international discussion concerning the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1895 was with the joint U.S.-Canadian Deep Waterways Commission. In 1951 a joint project began between Canada and the U.S. on the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence. This led to new legislation and the eventual opening of the 15-lock Seaway eight years later.
According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the first seasons gross ship registered tons amounted to 25.1 million tonnes. Just 20 years later that tonnage increased to 80.3 million tonnes traversing the Seaway. The connection between ballast water reform on Seaway vessels and the amount of "salty traffic" – those vessels not restricted to the Great Lakes – entering the Great Lakes is important in the study of aquatic invasive species.
Economically the St. Lawrence Seaway plays a large role in the Midwest's industrial ventures. Iron ore, coal and limestone are just a few of the resources brought in for steel industries, power generation and construction. According to 2012-2013 tonnage information provided by the Seaway Management Corporation there was a 1,530 tonnage decrease in iron ore and a 135 tonnage decrease in coal.
Environmentally, the amount of sea going vessels entering the Great Lakes through the Seaway are to blame for much the invasive species introduction through their ballast water. In a suite filed by the National Wildlife Federation against the Environmental Protection Agency the federation criticized the EPA on its lax standards in its 2012 proposed vessel permit concerning ballast water. Although the lawsuit was rejected the main concerns of the new Vessel General Permit from the EPA – as cited by Noah Hall, author of Great Lakes Law, – were the large category of vessels exempt and that compliance was not necessary for several years. Our most recent ballast water reform is the 1990 Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act, which established a federal program to prevent the introduction and further control the spread of aquatic invasive species.