Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meetings & Comment On St. Clair River Water Level Study

Feb 22: The International Joint Commission (IJC) announced that it will hold public consultations from March 22-31, 2010 to invite comment on the report of its International Upper Great Lakes Study Board (IUGLSB) entitled Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River, which was release on December 15, 2009 [See WIMS 12/16/09]. IJC indicates that the report concludes the first phase of the International Upper Great Lakes Study and examines the physical changes in the St. Clair River since 1962. It recommends that measures to remediate the increased conveyance, or water-carrying capacity, of the river not be undertaken at this time. It also recommends that mitigation measures in the St. Clair River be examined as part of the comprehensive assessment of the future effects of climate change in the second phase of the study.

    The Study Board concluded that: The difference in water levels between Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie has declined by about 23 centimetres (cm) (9 inches) between 1963 (following the last major navigational channel dredging in the St. Clair River) and 2006. They also concluded that Three key factors contributed to this 23 cm (9 inches) change including: (1) A change in the conveyance (water-carrying capacity) of the St. Clair River accounts for an estimated 7 to 14 cm (2.8 to 5.5 inches) of the decline. (2) Glacial isostatic adjustment (the uneven shifts of the earth's crust since the last period of continental glaciations ended) accounts for about 4 to 5 cm (1.6 to 2.0 inches) of the fall. (3) Changes in climatic patterns account for 9 to 17 cm (3.5 to 6.7 inches); this factor has become even more important in recent years, accounting for an estimated 58 to 76 percent of the decline between 1996 and 2005.

    The organization Georgian Bay Forever (GBF), a Canadian environmental charity which has been the leading voice in raising concerns about the impact of low water levels on the unique ecology of Georgian Bay said the IUGLSB "missed a historic opportunity to recommend environmentally sound solutions to the serious water levels situation facing the middle Great Lakes." The group is now calling on IJC Commissioners to reconsider and overrule the "do nothing' recommendations" of the IUGLSB.

    Access a release from IJC with details on the meeting locations, two teleconferences and commenting procedures (click here). Access a 28-page summary report (click here). Access more background and additional information on the report and study (click here). Access a release from GBF (click here). Access the GBF website for links to a critique of the report and extensive background information (click here).