Great Lakes 'do nothing' plan unacceptable

Media Release, April 15, 2013

Restore Our Water International (ROWI) and Sierra Club Canada criticize the International Joint Commission (IJC) Draft Great Lakes Regional Adaptive Management Plan as being insufficient for solving the current low water crisis on Lakes Michigan and Huron. The IJC recently finished conducting webinars on their proposed plan and has sought public comments. The IJC plan calls for improvements in monitoring climate change effects across the Great Lakes region and management of water levels and flows throughout the system.  The IJC plan, however, does not include any distinct actions to remedy persistent low water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron, including Georgian Bay, which are significantly lower than the other Great Lakes.

ROWI was recently formed as an umbrella group of stakeholder organizations in the U.S. and Canada to advocate for restoration of a natural water level range across the Great Lakes and a responsible solution to the relative imbalance in the levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron.  All nine Great Lakes Chapters of Sierra Club US have an agreed by consensus on the need to restore Michigan Huron water levels responsibly in consideration of both upstream and downstream conditions.  ROWI and Sierra Club Canada acknowledge that adaptive management approaches need to be implemented to improve management of Great Lakes water resources.  Adaptation to changing climate conditions can include dredging in harbors, changes in outflow controls from Lakes Superior and Ontario and long-term planning for infrastructure repairs and replacements by coastal communities.    However, any adaptive management plan needs to immediately address installation of flexible compensation structures in the St. Clair River to restore lost water on Lakes Michigan and Huron.  These lakes have been permanently lowered by at least 50 centimeters or 20” due to past dredging and sand/gravel mining over the last 80 years, even though both the U.S. and Canada agreed in the 1960s to compensate for human changes to the river’s conveyance. Compensation structures could include installation of underwater sills (or “speed bumps) and other types of structures that can hold water back upstream.

 “At no time should adaptive management be used as a surrogate for the restoration of the natural water level ranges on Lakes Michigan and Huron that have been lowered by water loss caused by the increased conveyance capacity of the St. Clair River” said Mary Muter, chair of the Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Canada. “Are we just going to keep dredging to bedrock and blasting below that before our governments solve the St. Clair River outflow problem?”

“Furthermore, because of  the IJC’s failure to tell the two federal governments to fix the St. Clair River issue, massive expenditures of funds are being called for in both the U.S. and Canada to dredge harbors and marinas across the Lakes Michigan and Huron basin. The mayors on Georgian Bay alone have put the cost of protecting the local economy by ensuring water access and municipal water supply at $500 million for this year alone.” stated Muter.

“We need a long term solution to this ongoing loss of water from these two important lakes,” said Roger Gauthier, Chair of ROWI and a retired US Army Corps of Engineers senior hydrologist and a program director for the Great Lakes Commission. “It is time our governments acted to finally complete the terms of our outstanding bi-national agreement to install compensation structures in the St. Clair River to offset increased outflows caused by navigation dredging and sand mining in the river.” President Obama and Michigan’s Governor Snyder have both been working to provide tens of millions of dollars to compensate their Lakes Michigan and Huron marinas and harbors that have to dredge, but they have failed so far to promote permanent solutions to the current low water crisis on Lakes Michigan and Huron,” Gauthier stated.

About ROWI:

ROWI is an alliance of Canadian and American organizations concerned about the dire economic and ecological impacts of the low water crisis on Lakes Michigan and Huron and Georgian Bay.  ROWI currently represents at least 15,000 shoreline owners and commercial interests across these water bodies.

About the Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Ontario;

The Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Ontario undertakes research and education efforts related to water quality, water quantity and invasive species concerns impacting the Great Lakes.



Roger Gauthier, Chair, Restore Our Water International: 248 219 4284

Mary Muter, Chair, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Canada: 905 833 2020


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