Press Release: Great Lakes Water Levels Call to Action

For Immediate Release

Status quo recommendations for levels of upper Great Lakes should alarm Canadians and Americans

Midland, Parry Sound, Collingwood public urged to attend July 16-17

JUNE 25, 2012/ GEORGIAN BAY,ONTARIO, CANADA/ FoTTSA – Doing nothing about the dramatic lowering of Great Lakes water levels is not an option, says Paul Cowley, President of the Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations [FoTTSA]. “We can slow the outflow,” Cowley said, decrying the do-nothing solutions offered by the International Joint Commission.”We have viable technologicalsolutions. But it will take a determined effort by the public to protect our precious water.

The FoTTSA chief executive, representing 1,700 households around the picturesque beaches of Tiny Township in Simcoe County, Ontario,is sounding the alarm before 13 meetings are to be held by International Joint Commission, shortly, in July. “These meetings will offer Canadian and U.S residents the opportunity to let the IJC know that we want appropriate and responsible action to be taken regarding the alarming findings contained in the final report on Upper Great Lakes water levels” Cowley said.

Cowley feels that the Great Lakes water level issue is too big an issue with too little understanding by the public to allow far reaching conclusions to move ahead with feeble public input. “The status quo final report study recommendations for levels of upper Great Lakes should raise red flags for any resident, recreational or business owner on our Great Lakes, for anyone who sees the global water shortages coming. Citing the June 22, 2012 article published in the Port Huron Times Herald by Jordon Clime, Cowley feels that it promotes a short sighted message to pacify an uninformed public. “Lowering water level problems is solvable in consideration of all interests and we can do i in a non-controversial manner”. Cowley says that the public on both sides of the border need to wake up and tell the IJC that “do-nothing solutions are not an appropriate response”.

The Climes article asks… “ is there such a thing as too much beach?” stating that “Canadian residents along Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay think so, and they want water levels raised to compensate”. Cowley says that “No one contests the beauty of beaches but more beach also means less wetland, and increasingly impassable recreation and business water access in all perimeters of our Great Lakes”.

Cowley says that the recent study by the International Joint Commission called “Lake Superior Regulation: Addressing Uncertainty in Upper Great Lakes Water Levels” paints a deceptively simple but fundamentally incorrect picture. John Nevin, the public affairs adviser for the International Joint Commission is quoted as stating that “The key finding is there is no recommendation for regulation in the St. Clair River to raise the (water) level in Lake Huron,” saying that “The environmental harm to the river and ecosystem would be too great.”

“A very questionable conclusion”says Cowley. Other experts remain unconvinced. The Study itself has been contested in many facets by environmental groups, over a long period of time. One such notable is Mary Muter, Chair of the Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Ontario and a member of the Bi-National Great Lakes Coordinating Committee for all 9 Great Lakes Sierra Club Chapters.

Muter points out that 13 years of sustained low water levels have taken a toll of wetlands – the key indicator for making decisions about water levels according to the IJC previous water levels study. Muter sees that we have a changed landscape with thousands of dried up wetlands now converted to meadows with 5-6 feet tall trees growing, exposed shorelines taken over by the giant invasive reed Phragmites australis and enclosed bays with loss of water exchange resulting in algal blooms with dead fish and birds washed up on the shores.

“Allowing water levels to fluctuate back up again will allow restoration of all these areas and once again allow fish into the wetlands for spawning and nursery habitat. Under the Boundary Water Treaty the IJC has an obligation to act as their Study found a 5.8% increase in the St Clair River outflow or 3 times the Chicago diversion. The elevation difference between Lake Huron and Erie has declined from 2 meters to 1. If the increasing outflow is not stopped eventually there will be irreversible harm with less water going down both the St Clair and Detroit Rivers and Lake Erie will suffer the same lowering of levels. This problem is only going to get worse – the time to act is now”.

The article also quotes Nevin as saying that “In contrast to that popularly held notion, scientists found we will see a range of levels like we’ve seen in the past….”because they didn’t find a compelling case, they couldn’t make any additional regulation.”

Muter feels differently. “John Nevin fails to point out that the Study grossly exaggerated the downstream temporary impacts (5-7cm) of restoring Michigan Huron levels during their public meetings last summer or that the Study found the likelihood of higher water levels to be 5% compared to an over 80% likelihood of even lower levels.

Environmental groups like Sierra Club have struggled for years to find the resources to properly gather and evaluate data. There is quite a body of different and enlightening information.

Muter agrees that dredging and blasting all the connecting channels and placing significant regulation structures throughout the lakes including the St Lawrence River would have huge environmental impacts and would cost billions. “But a 25 cm gradual restoration of Lakes Michigan Huron/Georgian Bay as one option suggested by the IJC Commissioners can be done in an environmentally responsible way in consideration of both upstream and downstream conditions.

Muter says that in 2004 W.F. Baird, the internationally respected coastal consulting engineering firm, found the increase in the Lake Huron outflow to be 10%. In 2011, using the Study Board’s own data, Sierra Club’s engineer found the same 10% increase after he corrected the Study’s data for a missing 200 cuM/Sec St Clair River flow. “That is 200 tons of water a second that the Study has yet to account for….and the 10% increase is 5 times the Chicago diversion”.

The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s fresh surface water.Cowley’s FoTTSA group concurs with the report on the importance of the Great Lakes and their waterways. They provide for drinking water, fishing, recreation and spiritual needs. Navigation, hydroelectricity and thermal power depend on water levels. Certainly the report must clarify “how to manage fluctuating lake levels in the face of uncertainty over future water supplies to the basin while seeking to balance the needs of those interests served by the system.”

Cowley and FoTTSA call on the residents of Ontario and the U.S. states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York “to unite and ask the IJC to scrap the status quo and become proactive about slowing the outflow from the only Great Lake that has no outflow protection whatsoever.”

Contact:

Paul Cowley, President – FoTTSA 647-829-7633
Jonathon Shore, mrcpartners communications 705-812-0643

The International Joint Commission will have 13 meetings where residents can comment on the final report on Upper Great Lakes water levels.

The closest meetings here are:

Monday, July 16
Parry Sound 2:00 pm EDT, Bobby Orr Community Centre, 7-17 Marry Street
Midland 7:00 pm, North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre, 527 Len Self Boulevard

Tuesday July 17
Collingwood, ON 1:00 pm, Cranberry Resort, 19 Keith Ave, RR#4

Go to www.ijc.org for other meetings and input information.

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