MASSENA Former U.S. Rep. Betty S. Sutton is only in her first full week as the new administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., and she is spending part of it in Massena, a place she calls the heart of the Seaway.
Describing the St. Lawrence Seaway as a gem for our nation and a model agency with a tremendous record, Ms. Sutton has spent the past two days touring the Seaways two American locks on the St. Lawrence River Eisenhower and Snell and the vessel traffic control room, meeting with employees.
The former Ohio congresswoman said her goal as administrator is to increase use of the Seaway and balance commercial and environmental priorities. She noted that it takes 870 trucks to move what you can move on the Seaway with one vessel.
It is an environmentally friendly mode of shipping, Ms. Sutton said. So, making people more conscious and aware of the good work and the great opportunity that the Seaway offers, that is definitely a priority.
Ms. Sutton, who was appointed July 24 by President Barack Obama, fills a post that had been left open for more than a year. The U.S. Seaway Development Corp. and its Canadian counterpart, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., oversee the operation and maintenance of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, which stretches from Lake Erie to Montreal.
Ms. Sutton said her upbringing and experience in a Great Lakes state will be beneficial in her new role.
Having come from Ohio, I certainly understand the importance of marine commerce and the importance of our water systems and Great Lakes in general, how important they are and how much they touch peoples lives, she said. The St. Lawrence-Great Lakes Seaway System touches so many Americans, some of whom dont even know that they are affected by it.
But when you look at what it does and the opportunity it provides to the heartland of North America, both on the U.S. side and the Canadian side, it has so many selling points, and frankly, were going to work to increase the competitiveness and the capacity, she said. We have a lot of traffic coming through, but we can do more because the more we do there, the more economic gain that we have not only regionally ... but beyond. And its good for this area, and its good for our country and also for Canada.
One of the challenges facing Ms. Sutton will be balancing the economic interests of shippers, industries and ports with the environmental effects of those operations on the river and lakes. Seaway shipping brings in billions of dollars for the Great Lakes economy in the U.S. and in Canada. However, wildlife, fish, plants and water quality in the largest freshwater system in the world have been negatively affected in the past by ships bringing invasive species into the region.
I think its critical that we accomplish both economical and environmental needs, she said. I am a person who rejects the idea that its either one or the other. We often hear, Youre either for jobs or youre for the environment. It has to be jobs and the environment, Ms. Sutton said.
I think, again, coming from the Great Lakes area, Im very conscious of that.
She said we have to be ever vigilant to prevent invasive species to the extent that is humanly possible.
And Im glad that weve done a better job of that, and certainly theres no confirmed invasive species having come in since 2006, but theres no doubt that it has been a problem in the past, she said. So I dont see a conflict, frankly. We have a mandate and a mission to keep the Seaway moving safe and efficiently, but we also have a responsibility to do that in an environmentally sound way.
Ms. Sutton cited her time in Congress representing Ohio and specifically the Cash for Clunkers car-buying incentive program as examples of how she has balanced business and the environment.
Although still in the first week of a term that recently has been reduced from seven years to align with the presidents term, Ms. Sutton aspires to boost the Seaway.
We want to continue to fulfill our mission of safe, efficient avenue of travel for marine shipping, but we also want to increase the use of the Seaway to gain additional commerce, she said. We want to move ahead in a sustainable way.