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Welland Canal set to open March 27

Spring may seem a long way off, but the Welland Canal has set March 27 as the opening date for its navigation season, one day earlier than a year ago.

The Welland Canal is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which extends from Lake Erie through Lake Ontario to Montreal. The Welland Canal’s eight locks allow ships to bypass Niagara Falls.

In setting the opening date each year, Seaway officials take into account weather conditions and environmental factors such as the thickness of the ice on the lakes, said Andrew Bogora, a spokesman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. Secondarily, the Seaway considers the amount of demand from carriers to determine how soon to open the waterway to traffic.

If March 27 seems like an early opening date after an exceptionally frigid winter, it is actually about a week later than when the canal has typically opened during the past 10 years, Bogora said. “We want to ensure we have a suitable margin of safety.”