Shipping companies operating on the Great Lakes can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for a while.
The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board announced Monday that it will maintain levels of water flowing out of Lake Ontario toward the Atlantic, allowing for continued careful navigation in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Some shoreline dwellers put pressure on officials to increase the flow at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam as flooding persists on the saturated Great Lakes.
But shipping-industry officials as far west as Duluth worried such a move hundreds of miles away could have big consequences locally, slowing or even halting commercial shipping navigation to the tune of a more than a billion dollars in lost revenue across the waterways.
Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokesman Jayson Hron called it a challenging situation for everyone.
"We're relieved to see a compromise solution that continues providing help to landowners while also protecting Great Lakes shipping and the natural environment," he said in an e-mail.
The board had already been letting out a record-high 10,400 cubic meters of water per second, and decided that releasing more would not only disrupt the supply chain but would also affect recreational boating and downstream shoreline property owners, as well as create other environmental impacts.
The current flow will be maintained until Lake Ontario drops about a foot, below 75.5 meters, according to a board news release. Forecasts predict that may happen in mid-August.
While increasing outflow would hasten the recovery of Lake Ontario in the short term, the board said, it wouldn't matter much by the end of the year.
"Maintaining the current major deviation strategy will provide comparable benefit by the end of the calendar year, without creating $1.4 billion in economic damages," the board release said.