The International Upper Great Lakes Study Board released their Final Report today
The Study has found a previously unrecognized 5.8% increase in the outflow from Lake Huron into the St. Clair River - equivalent to three times the amount of the Chicago diversion. Surely the IJC will recognize this as a breach of the Boundary Waters Treaty, the reason the IJC was formed in 1909. Analyzing the revised St. Clair River flow data provided by the Study Board, Sierra Club Ontario determined that 200cm/s flow was missing. That missing amount resulted in incorrect calculations and conclusions. In fact, the 5.8% increased flow in the St. Clair River is probably 10%. Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay water levels have hovered near record lows for an unprecedented 13 years while Lakes St. Clair and Erie have been rising.
Extensive acreages of Georgian Bay wetlands, the highest quality, most diverse ones remaining in the Great Lakes, have dried up. Today 5-foot-tall pine trees grow where once fish spawned in a meter or more of water, and their young thrived in safe habitat. Exposed shorelines around many parts of the upper Great Lakes have been taken over by the invasive reed Phragmites australis which has destroyed the natural wetlands. Allowing the water levels to fluctuate back up again would naturally destroy this large invasive and allow fish and wildlife to thrive once again.
Rather than addressing the increased St. Clair River conveyance, the International Upper Great Lakes Study Board (IUGLSB) recommends “adaptive management strategies” such as diking a few of the hundreds of wetlands that have dried up. Diking, or building walls and pumping water into stranded wetlands, will not allow fish like bass, pike and musky in and out for spawning and nursery habitat.
Thanks to the effective involvement of the engo community on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, the Commissioners have now recommended a new regulation plan that will benefit wetlands. “We support the new regulation plan for Lake Ontario and hope the Commissioners can find a solution for the middle lakes that will allow their now stranded wetlands due to the sustained low water levels to begin to function again with natural fluctuations in water levels”, said John Jackson of Great Lakes United.
Dr. Pat Chow-Fraser, Professor of Biology and Director of Life Sciences, McMaster University said “We cannot allow these sustained low water level conditions to continue. The Study did not provide the funding for the research to determine if and how the wetlands can adapt under these conditions. The proposal to create wetlands where they do not currently exist is naive and wrong-headed, and ignores the fact that many fish return to the same wetlands to spawn year after year, and more importantly that the thousands of wetlands that currently exist in eastern and northern Georgian Bay have taken thousands of years to develop. Attempts by humans to manipulate natural conditions often fail because of lack of understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems. We cannot and should not support these unrealistic recommendations.”
The Study Board’s 2011 Restoration Report included significant exaggerations of the downstream impacts of model simulations to restore Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay waters to their pre-1962 levels and normal fluctuations. These misrepresentations raised undue fears among citizens and other interests downstream on Lakes St. Clair and Erie and in the Port of Montreal. The Study Board acknowledged that 79% of the total water supply to Lake Erie comes from Lake Huron down the St. Clair River. Currently Michigan /Huron/Georgian Bay are 38 cm (15in) below their long-term average. In contrast, Lake Erie is the same amount above its long-term average. How can the IJC and our governments avoid addressing the ecological harm caused by this stark disparity?
“Recently the Commissioners of the IJC proposed a new regulation that will help restore Lake Ontario’s the upper St. Lawrence River’s wetlands. We are confident that the Commissioners will reject the adapt by diking recommendation of the IUGLS Board with regard to Georgian Bay’s wetlands. Instead, a responsible plan must and can be found to restore the water levels of Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay to their pre-1962 state and normal fluctuations. We agree with the Study Board on one point - for both economic and environmental reasons, multi-lake regulation is not the answer,” said Mary Muter, Chair, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Ontario.
There are creative proposals under study that could lead to a responsible approach to resolving the economic and ecological harm caused by the increased conveyance of the St. Clair River. If governments make this an urgent priority, this restoration could be achieved in 10 years.
Mary Muter, Sierra Club Ontario, email@example.com 905 833 2020
John Jackson, Great Lakes United, firstname.lastname@example.org 519 744 7503
Dr. Pat Chow-Fraser, McMaster University, email@example.com 905 516 6509