Sierra Club Canada Applauds Obama’s Investment in the Great Lakes

Media Release, March 10, 2014

Sierra Club Canada Applauds Obama Administration's Investment in Restoring Michigan-Huron and Georgian Bay Water Levels

After 50 years of failing to complete the terms and conditions of a U.S. / Canada agreement to compensate for the loss of water from Lakes Michigan-Huron and Georgian Bay due to navigation dredging in the St. Clair River, President Obama’s Administration has started to act. Last Tuesday, the U.S. President approved a modest amount of funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-evaluate its past compensation designs in light of current knowledge and technologies. The President’s funding will get the process started. The Corps engineering analysis should take up to three years to complete.

“The Great Lakes Section members have been working on this significant loss of finite water from the upper Great Lakes water for over 12 years. This announcement is a testament to the persistence and scientific expertise of a small group of dedicated volunteers to finally get our governments to act”, said John Bennett, National Program Director for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “I applaud their efforts. This announcement would never have happened without their tireless work.”

While the last twelve months “blip” of extraordinarily high precipitation and extreme cold winter has provided some relief to the upper Great Lakes, water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron/Georgian Bay are still about 13 inches below their long term average. Meanwhile the other Great Lakes are at (or above) their long term averages under similar conditions. “This disparity cannot be allowed to continue and we are pleased that President Obama understands that,” continued Bennett. “We now need to hear from our Prime Minister. Canada needs to play a greater role in protecting the Great Lakes and moving the long overdue bi-national agreement for compensation measures in the St. Clair River to completion.”

Decades of human alterations to the St. Clair River, including dredging and subsequent river bottom erosion has increased the outflow from Lake Huron and further deepened the river at some locations to be over 60 feet deep. Ships only need 27 feet to pass when they are fully-loaded.

Mary Muter is one of a team of Sierra Club researchers that have supported the need to retain water in all the Great Lakes including St. Clair River compensation measures. She is chair of Sierra Club Canada’s Great Lakes Section and the Vice Chair of a new binational group known as ‘Restore Our Water International’ who has pushed for the Obama Administration to act. “The loss of wetland and fish habitat as a result of the last 12 years critically low water levels, is unacceptable. The exposed shorelines have been taken over by the invasive plants including Phragmites australis and Eurasian Milfoil whose very dense growth provide little habitat for fish and wildlife. “We know that compensation measures can be deployed in the St. Clair River in an environmentally responsible manner, with full consideration of both upstream and downstream interests,” Muter added.

About the Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Canada: The Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Canada undertakes research and education efforts related to water quality, water quantity and invasive species concerns impacting the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Section of Sierra Club Canada is a founding member of ROWI.

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 represents at least 15,000 shoreline owners and small business interests across these water bodies.


For more information contact:

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

Roy Schatz, Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Canada, 416-922-4415
Roy is available en Françoise