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Pandora's Locks

Jeff Alexander

Publication Year: 2012

The St. Lawrence Seaway was considered one of the world's greatest engineering achievements when it opened in 1959. The $1 billion project-a series of locks, canals, and dams that tamed the ferocious St. Lawrence River-opened the Great Lakes to the global shipping industry.
     Linking ports on lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario to shipping hubs on the world's seven seas increased global trade in the Great Lakes region. But it came at an extraordinarily high price. Foreign species that immigrated into the lakes in ocean freighters' ballast water tanks unleashed a biological shift that reconfigured the world's largest freshwater ecosystems.
     Pandora's Locks is the story of politicians and engineers who, driven by hubris and handicapped by ignorance, demanded that the Seaway be built at any cost. It is the tragic tale of government agencies that could have prevented ocean freighters from laying waste to the Great Lakes ecosystems, but failed to act until it was too late. Blending science with compelling personal accounts, this book is the first comprehensive account of how inviting transoceanic freighters into North America's freshwater seas transformed these wondrous lakes.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-x

This book is the culmination of a personal dream nearly a decade in the making. I had long considered writing a book about the Great Lakes. The conquest of the lakes by invasive species provided the motivation I needed. ...

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PREFACE

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pp. xi-xxvi

The genesis of this narrative dates to 1989, the year the Exxon Valdez ran aground and poisoned Alaska’s Prince William Sound with 11 million gallons of crude oil. The Valdez oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in American history, a catastrophe that killed a half million water birds as well as countless seals and otters, ...

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TIMELINE

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pp. xxvii-xxxiii

Important dates in the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway and invasive species that have entered the Great Lakes through the Erie Canal, Welland Canal, and the Seaway. ...

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PROLOGUE

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pp. 3-8

The sun was sinking toward the horizon over Lake Ontario, its fading light painting the autumn sky orange and lavender, when the icon of the North filled the air with its haunting yodel. The bird broadcasting the call was not visible from the beach at Henderson Harbor in northern New York. ...

01/ DOMINION

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01/ CONQUERING NATURE

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pp. 11-24

Niagara Falls is one of the most breathtaking and commercialized natural wonders on the planet. Its massive liquid curtains, created by water from four of the five Great Lakes spilling over the shale and dolomite edge of the Niagara Escarpment, measure a half-mile wide and 175 feet high. ...

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02/ VAMPIRES OF THE DEEP

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pp. 25-36

On a cool September night in 1954, Marilyn Bell stood on a retaining wall in Youngstown, New York, and tried to overcome her worst fear as she prepared for an unprecedented feat. The 16-year-old Canadian girl was about to attempt a swim across Lake Ontario, a 32-mile journey across dark, mysterious waters in the middle of the night. ...

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03/ SALT IN THE WOUND

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pp. 37-54

Dense fog blanketed a section of the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Massena, New York, on a summer morning in 1959. That day was supposed to be the brightest moment in the shared maritime history of Canada and the United States. After nearly five years of construction that followed six decades of political bickering, ...

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04/ ALEWIFE INVASION

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pp. 55-62

For the better part of three centuries, anglers and fish-eating birds have converged on rivers in Canada’s Maritime Provinces each spring to stalk a small fish known to locals as gaspereau. It is an anadromous ocean fish, a type of herring known in the United States as alewife, river herring, or sawbelly. ...

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05/ A KING IS BORN

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pp. 63-78

The early 1960s were the environmental Dark Ages in the Great Lakes. Industries and cities with inadequate sewage-treatment plants used the lakes as toilets for all manner of chemical and biological wastes. Decades of excessive fishing, coupled with the sea lamprey invasion, had virtually eliminated ...

02/ PLAGUE

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06/ FATAL ERROR

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pp. 81-88

Among landmark environmental events, a disastrous incident on June 22, 1969, lived in infamy. That was the day the Cuyahoga River caught fire near Cleveland, Ohio. An oil slick on the river ignited—water turned to flame—and burned for 24 minutes. So polluted was the Cuyahoga with chemicals, oil, and grease, ...

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07/ DANGEROUS CARGO

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pp. 89-104

Ships are among the most alluring of all human inventions. A freighter moving through the high seas invokes a sense of wonder for observers on land. It is difficult for non–shipping types to comprehend the physics and technology that enable a vessel longer than two football fields to carry 50 million pounds of cargo, ...

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08/ THE RECKONING

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pp. 105-120

Lake Erie was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Great Lakes: It got no respect. Once derided by comedian Johnny Carson as “the place fish go to die,” Erie struggled to escape the stigma of a lake that was so polluted in the 1960s, some people mistakenly declared it dead. A half century later, Erie supported the most vibrant fishery among the five lakes. ...

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09/ RUFFE SEAS

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pp. 121-136

The calendar said it was the first day of autumn, but the air temperature felt more like summer when I joined an international trade delegation on a tour of the Port of Duluth. Beads of sweat rolled down our faces as we cruised slowly past massive freighters and towering grain elevators aboard the 92-foot-long Vista Star.

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10/ SMOKE AND MIRRORS

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pp. 137-152

It has often been said that regulations are only as effective as the people enforcing them. It is one thing to post a speed limit of, say, 70 mph on a highway. But if the police don’t enforce the law, people drive as fast as they want. Similarly, it was one thing for the U.S. government to tell the shipping industry that every transoceanic freighter ...

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11/ MELTDOWN

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pp. 153-166

The evening was young and there were few other boats on Lake Michigan when I joined research scientist David Jude and two of his colleagues for an unusual fishing expedition along a deserted stretch of beach in South Haven, Michigan. We ventured into the lake’s placid waters in an 18-foot Boston Whaler ...

03/ THE DREISSENA EFFECT

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12/ SOMETHING AMUCK

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pp. 169-180

For a few days each summer, when still winds allowed the surface of southern Lake Ontario to lie flat, the lake’s steel blue water took on a clarity approaching that of the Caribbean Ocean. The phenomenon became prevalent in the mid-1990s along Grand View Beach, a narrow spit of land on the outskirts of Greece, New York. ...

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13/ BLUE, GREEN, AND DEADLY

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pp. 181-192

Family vacations spent at lakes are supposed to create pleasant memories, lasting mental images of giddy children leaping off docks and stressed-out parents frolicking with their kids in a sort of liquid heaven. The best trips can turn even the most unfortunate mishaps into treasured, comedic adventures. ...

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14/ A CRUEL HOAX

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pp. 193-206

The narrow peninsula of Long Point stretches into the eastern basin of Lake Erie like one of the long, boney legs of great blue herons that frequent its coastal marshes. The 24-mile-long sand spit is a haven for migratory birds and the birders who stalk them with binoculars and spotting scopes. ...

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15/ CASPIAN SEA DIET

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pp. 207-220

Every September, after most Great Lakes anglers call it a season to avoid foul autumn weather, teams of biologists head out on the lakes for a series of unusual fishing trips. The month-long excursions take them, year after year, to the same fishing spots—scattered across the vast expanse of the lakes. ...

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16/ WHITEFISH AND GREEN SLIME

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pp. 221-230

The fishing tug Thomas A. slipped out of the northern Michigan village of Naubinway long before sunrise, its steel hull slicing through the glass-flat waters of northern Lake Michigan. A canopy of stars illuminated an ebony sky that enveloped the lake in darkness. The only sound was the steady roar of a diesel engine ...

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17/ PARADOX

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pp. 231-244

Biologist Tammy Newcomb stood before a large group of anglers at a fisheries workshop in Michigan and asked a most provocative question: Was the changing character of Lake Huron’s fishery in a state of pandemonium or promise? The response from the crowd of charter-boat captains and master anglers? ...

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18/ FEAR THIS

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pp. 245-256

The guard at the New York side of the border crossing in Niagara Falls stared me down with the requisite skepticism as my car inched toward his booth. He wasted no time with small talk, immediately popping the question that always made me nervous. ...

04/ BETRAYAL

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19/ DIRTY SECRETS

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pp. 259-270

William Jefferson Clinton was in the second half of his eight-year term as president of the United States when he waded into the quagmire of science and politics otherwise known as “the war on invasive species.” After six years in office, Clinton finally got the message from scientists who for years ...

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20/ WHO’S IN CHARGE?

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pp. 271-286

In the fall of 2007, I received a surprising e-mail from an official in Transport Canada’s Marine Safety Division. I had been pestering Michel Boulianne for permission to observe how government officials inspected the ballast tanks of transoceanic freighters when the ships arrived in Montreal. ...

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21/ MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

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pp. 287-310

A cadre of shipping industry officials and scientists gathered in Superior, Wisconsin, on a summer day in 2006 for a historic event: the christening of a $3.5 million facility to test the efficacy of ballast water treatment systems. The project, known as the Great Ships Initiative, was a collaboration ...

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22/ SEAWAY HERETICS

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pp. 311-328

The workday was in its first hour when my office telephone rang, delivering what would prove to be one of the most disturbing twists in the sordid tale of Great Lakes invasive species. I hadn’t finished uttering the requisite one-word telephone greeting when the caller’s staccato words burst into my ear. ...

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23/ WESTWARD HO!

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pp. 329-348

Two scuba divers with the California Department of Water Resources entered a canal at the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant on a mild winter morning in 2007. The facility, about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco, was one of 17 massive pumping plants in California’s sprawling water collection and distribution system. ...

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24/ SAVING PARADISE

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pp. 349-362

A thin layer of fog hovered above the surface of Lake Superior by the time I set out on a five-mile hike to the top of Greenstone Ridge, the basalt spine of Isle Royale National Park. The archipelago in northwest Lake Superior was one of the Great Lakes’ most serene places. ...

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EPILOGUE: HOPE AMID THE RUINS

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pp. 363-376

Rarely do professional sporting events provide lessons in ecology. Sports are about competition, teamwork, endurance, and athletes overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness. Once in a while, though, athletic competitions provide a stage for lessons that have little to do with strength and determination, wins or losses. ...

NOTES and GLOSSARY

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pp. 377-406

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 407-416

INDEX

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pp. 417-431


E-ISBN-13: 9781609171971
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870138720

Page Count: 466
Publication Year: 2012