Joining Jefferson County officials, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, demanded Friday that the U.S. Coast Guard investigate the circumstances under which a fuel tanker with steering problems was allowed to cross the St. Lawrence Seaway this week.
The 479-foot Sarah Desgagnes, carrying a full load of gasoline from New York City to Sarnia, Ontario, was allowed to pass through the American Narrows, the trickiest section of the St. Lawrence River to navigate, guided by a tugboat latched to its side as a precaution.
However, county officials were made aware of the matter by witnesses, not the Coast Guard and only after the tanker had made its way past Alexandria Bay on Tuesday night.
As Im sure you know, a tanker loaded with gasoline presents a serious environmental and safety hazard if it is experiencing any significant malfunctions, and is of reasonable concern to the community, Mr. Owens said Friday in a letter to Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the Coast Guards Ninth District.
Groupe Desgagnes company officials had said Thursday afternoon that the vessel experienced some issues related to wear and tear but that it was functional by the time it was allowed to continue on and that the tug was attached simply as a precautionary measure.
In his letter, Mr. Owens demanded that the Coast Guard report to him on the Coast Guards understanding of any problems the Sarah Desgagnes may have been experiencing when it was cleared for travel and the rationale for allowing it to complete its voyage.
The St. Lawrence Seaway is a critical economic driver for my congressional district, not only for the shipping opportunities but for the benefit it provides recreationists that come to enjoy the natural beauty the Seaway has to offer, he said in the letter. Boaters, small businesses, local marinas and homeowners depend on the continued health of the Seaway.