Casey Presses Coast Guard on Plans to Keep Lake Erie Shipping Lanes Open This Winter After Significant Freezing Cost Nearly 4,000 Jobs Last Year

Environmental Analysis Shows Lake Erie Already 88% Frozen / Lake Carriers’ Association: Last Year’s Delays Clearing Shipping Lanes Cost Industries Approximately $705M / In Letter Casey Presses Coast Guard’s Commandant to Lay Out Contingencies for This Winter

Casey Presses Coast Guard on Plans to Keep Lake Erie Shipping Lanes Open This Winter After Significant Freezing Cost Nearly 4,000 Jobs Last Year

Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) pressed the U.S. Coast Guard on plans to keep Lake Erie shipping lanes open this winter after significant freezing cost nearly 4,000 jobs last year, according to one study. According to the Great Lakes Surface Environmental Analysis (GLSEA) conducted on January 14, 2015, Lake Erie is already experiencing significant ice cover this winter.  The analysis found that Lake Erie was almost 88 percent frozen, whereas the total ice cover for the Great Lakes was 34.2 percent. Last winter, significant freezing delayed the opening of shipping lanes in the Great Lakes.  The Lake Carriers’ Association asserts that these delays cost industries roughly $705 million and caused approximately 3,800 people to lose their jobs. In his letter, Casey called on the Coast Guard to lay out contingency plans to keep shipping lanes open.

“Lake Erie’s shipping lanes are critical to economic growth and job creation in Erie and throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania,” Senator Casey said. “It’s critical that the Coast Guard put in place a plan to keep Lake Erie’s shipping lanes open during the coming winter.”

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:

Dear Admiral Zukunft,

I write to inquire about your contingency plans regarding icebreaking in the Great Lakes, particularly in Lake Erie, to keep shipping lanes open.  I have been informed that last winter, significant freezing delayed the opening of shipping lanes in the Great Lakes.  The Lake Carriers’ Association asserts that these delays cost industries roughly $705 million and caused approximately 3,800 people to lose their jobs.

According to the Great Lakes Surface Environmental Analysis (GLSEA) conducted on January 14, 2015, Lake Erie is already experiencing significant ice cover this winter.  The analysis found that Lake Erie was almost 88 percent frozen, whereas the total ice cover for the Great Lakes was 34.2 percent.  I am concerned that this winter could bring freezing levels similar to those experienced last winter, and thus, significant losses to U.S. shippers utilizing shipping lanes across the Great Lakes and across Lake Erie in particular.

I respectfully request that you describe the Coast Guard’s strategy to ensure that shipping lanes in the Great Lakes stay open in the event of another deep freeze.  In particular, I seek information regarding whether you have the appropriate funding, resources, and assets to adequately maintain the shipping lanes in Lake Erie and the Great Lakes this winter.  I would appreciate a detailed assessment of the Coast Guard’s contingency plans regarding icebreaking capability for this region.

I am grateful for your service to the Coast Guard and to our country.  I look forward to working with you on this important issue. 

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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