We will consider efforts by public and nonprofit organizations to manage the St. Lawrence Seaway, particularly the situation after the widening of the seaway in the 1950s and try to apply the resulting insights to your own organizational situation.
To help us develop a better understanding of theories and concepts within the organism metaphor, particularly systems theory as well as differentiation and integration. To help us look at our own small present-day problems that may become large future problems.
For centuries, Niagara Falls had been an impassable barrier for large ships between the fresh-water Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning in the 1920s, canals were widened and deepened around the falls, permitting increasingly large ships. In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway was built – a set of locks that can raise and lower ocean-going ships that weigh thousands of tons. After the seaway was built, Duluth, Minnesota became the U.S.’s second-leading seaport for several years. The distance from Duluth to the Atlantic Ocean is 2,342 miles or 8.5 sailing days.
Niagara Falls had also been a biological barrier that prevented aquatic invaders from entering the Great Lakes. But beginning in the 1920s, predators began to swim through the new canals. The most devastating was the sea lamprey – a modern survivor of an ancient line of jawless, boneless fish that dates back to a time before the dinosaurs. By the 1940s, the lamprey had virtually destroyed commercial fishing in the Great Lakes. This put greater regional pressure on alternative means of economic growth, including iron ore mining industries and North American shipping firms, which argued intently for the expansion of the seaway in the 1950s.
There are two organizations that oversee the St. Lawrence Seaway: one in the United States and another in Canada. In the United States, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) is a government corporation that was created in 1954 to construct, operate and maintain that part of the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Montreal and Lake Erie, within the territorial limits of the United States. The SLSDC headquarters staff offices are
* Based on a case study by Charlotte Roberts, Art Kleiner and James Boswell.
located in Washington, D.C. Operations are located at the two U.S. Seaway locks (Eisenhower and Snell) in Massena, N.Y.
In Canada, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) is a not-for-profit corporation responsible for the safe and efficient movement of marine traffic through the Canadian seaway facilities, which consists of 13 of the 15 locks between Montreal and Lake Erie.
In the 1980s, new creatures began to arrive in the Great Lakes in ballasts of ships that went through the locks. These included spiny plankton and zebra mussels. By the 1990s, the zebra mussel had spread to the far corners of the Great Lakes. Native of the Black and Caspian seas, these thumbnail-sized striped creatures grow on top of each other, reaching densities of 60,000 per square foot. Zebra mussels clog pipes and intakes, threatening water supplies throughout the region. In addition, they filter out almost half of the chlorophyll, which is the primary food source in Lake Erie’s western basin.
Some additional facts:
Since 1959, more than two billion tons of cargo – estimated at $300 billion – have moved along the seaway – to and from Canada, the U.S. and nearly fifty other nations.
The seaway shaped the pattern of industrial development in North America, especially between 1959 and 1970. About 70 percent of Canada’s manufacturing and about 40 percent of U.S. manufacturing is located in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes basin.
By the late 1970s, use of the St. Lawrence Seaway had declined to 1950s levels.
In the mid-1980s, shipping companies began to argue for further deepening and widening of the seaway to provide room for “supervessels” – and thus make it more cost-effective for shipping companies.
The sea lamprey is controlled only through systematic chemical spraying in its spawning grounds – the inlets to the Great Lakes. Lamprey control costs the U.S. and Canada $9 million annually.
More recent biological invaders had an easier time invading the Great Lakes because the sea lamprey eliminated natural predators for them.
U.S. and Canada spend $30 million annually in stocking trout and salmon in the Great Lakes,
New guidelines and laws since 1989 require incoming ships at the St. Lawrence Seaway to discharge all ballast. These measures have decreased biological invaders but increased the costs of using the Seaway.
What are the key variables in the St. Lawrence Seaway/Great Lakes situation? In other words, develop a list of factors that seem most significant to this case.
Which variables seem to be associated or related? In other words, write down a few key linkages that express causal relationships you see. In doing so, try to apply systems theory and possibly other theories and concepts – such as differentiation and integration.
What’s the heart of the story? What are the recurring, deep-lying patterns? In other words, is there an “archetype” to describe this situation?
What interventions or strategies would these patterns – or this archetype – suggest for people trying to manage the future of the Great Lakes region?
Do you have an equivalent of the St. Lawrence Seaway expansion in your organization or another organization with which you’re familiar? Please explain and discuss.
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