James Jerome Hill built
the Great Northern Railroad with private capital. The combination of dropping
water levels in the Great Lakes and the effect on navigation depth along the
Lower St. Lawrence River could create a business case for the ship industry to
install various forms of control valves at regular intervals along that river.
It might otherwise become necessary to operate ships at part load, greatly
increasing transportation costs per payload. Transferring payload destined for
Montreal or points west of Montreal at Halifax or Montmagny would also increase
transportation costs, and therefore costs for the end user or customer.
costs would increase the cost of some Canadian export items in relation to
competing foreign-made items, while also raising the cost of imported items. If
federal authorities were willing, it might be possible to install privately-funded
control valves such as conventional navigation locks at Sorel. Alternately, a
series of underwater navigation locks with buoys on the water surface to guide
ships could maintain navigation depth. It is possible that such an option may
actually allow fully laden ships to serve the Port of Montreal at lower cost
than operating ships at reduced load along the Lower St. Lawrence River or
transferring cargo at Halifax or at a port near Quebec City.
authorities may be uncomfortable with the prospect of a privately owned and
operated, for-profit navigation lock system for commercial ship traffic. Most of
the water that flows to Montreal passes through Lake Erie and Lake Ontario,
where there is abundant storage capacity in the event of one or more seasons of
excess rainfall during a prolonged period of changing weather patterns that
involve less rainfall. The alternative to a water control system along the Lower
St. Lawrence River may be a repeat of the east coast codfish industry collapse,
perhaps with a moratorium on commercial ship traffic on the river. The Bloc
Québécois and the Parti Québécois would then have a field day, both blaming
Ottawa for the predicament.