The following are the notes I prepared for remarks to the Commissioners from the IJC at the public meeting on Monday, July 16, 2012 at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre in Midland regarding the Upper Great Lakes Study Board’s 2nd and Final Report – Lake Superior Regulation: Addressing Uncertainty in Upper Great Lakes Water Levels.
Note: The actual delivery of these remarks was curtailed due to a 3-minute time limit for each presenter that evening. A five-minute limit had been anticipated so the notes were written for that expectation.
Firstly, I would like to thank the IJC for including Midland and North Simcoe in this round of public consulatations.
I believe we all recognize the magnitude of the task that has been in front of the Study Board these last five years, and appreciate the time and effort you have invested in studying this issue since 2007.
Each successive report highlights the incredible complexity of the question surrounding abnormally low water levels – in our case, on Georgian Bay – and the remaining gaps to fill in terms of broadening our understanding of the hydrology and dynamics of the Upper Lakes – and how that translates to the reality we experience along our shorelines.
I recognize that we, here on Georgian Bay, can’t consider ourselves isolated from the rest of the Great Lakes system. Our experience here is directly related to up and downstream realities. It should also be recognized that for the most part, the fluctuation, cycling and downward trend of Georgian Bay water levels are caused by forces on the Upper Lakes that are part of our natural environment and essentially not within our control, principally GIA (Glacial Isostatic Adjustment), hydro- climatic conditions.
It is encouraging to see this study recognize the additional areas of interest outside the original criterion in the IJC’s mandate – namely; ecosystems, recreational boating and tourism – all areas of interest and concern to us here in Georgian Bay. They are vital to our economy, the health of our environment, and our way of life.
In respect to the Study’s Key Findings, I support the IJC’s findings 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 – concerning Hydro climatic Conditions, Adaptive Management and forgoing a Multi-lake Regulation at this time.
However, on the 1st and 2nd findings, relating to the new Lake Superior Regulation, I recognize this new 2012 regulation (2012 Lake Superior Regulation Plan) improves on its predecessor (Regulation Plan 1977A), but I am concerned that the new regulation will provide a greater ability to restrict Lake Superior flows downstream to Huron-Michigan for the purpose of protecting navigation and hydro-electric power generation.
I realize it takes a larger contribution of Lake Superior to have even a small impact on water levels in Lake’s Huron-Michigan, but facing the likelihood of a continued downward trend in water levels here, Huron-Michigan will need all the help that can be mustered. This dynamic between Superior and the next tier down on Huron-Michigan is all the more reason I raise this final point
I understand the potential risk that restoration and remeidal measures in the St. Clair River pose for increasing the threat of reaching historical high levels in the future especially in the South-West portions of Lake’s Michigan-Huron. The difficulties that scenario poses include flooding/shoreline damage etc. However, one has to consider the greater plausibility of seeing more frequent historical lows (p. 157 of the report) based on the Global and Regional Climate Models presented, as well as the likelihood that more frequent historical lows will be experienced on Lake Superior – limiting the ability to give Huron-Michigan any means of forestalling further reductions, let alone stabilizing, water levels. It would therefore appear that restoration and mitigation measures in the St. Clair River remain our only basis for preventing further reductions in Georgian Bay water levels:
- We can’t control hydro-climatic conditions;
- There is nothing we can do about GIA;
- We’ve been just above chart datum for a decade;
- The trend line continues downward; and
- Lake St. Clair River – is all we have left – if we are to stabilize, and hopefully improve on the historically, and persistently low water level we have experienced since 2000.
By the Study Board’s own calculations, the 1962 dredging yielded about a 250 cm/s – about a 5.0% increase in conveyance of the St. Clair River. Voices representing shoreline owners in my region have submitted credible arguments suggesting the conveyance may even be 100 cm/s higher – about a 7% increase. I am disappointed those submissions have not been responded to as of yet.
Taking a serious look at these restoration and mitigation measures, in my view, need to be revisited. I take some encouragement from the rather conditional recommendation the Study Board first endorsed in the 2009 – St. Clair River report – “... that remedial measures not be taken – at this time”.
Fair enough, but may I suggest that you consider an 8th recommendation in this Phase 2 and Final report – “that as the hydro-climatic science and adaptive management strategy begins to build a body of scientific knowledge around this question – the remedial, restorative measures on the St. Clair River be revisited by the new Advisory Board on an annual basis – and if the downward water level trend on Huron-Michigan is persisting over that time – the Advisory Board recommend the IJC reverse its 2009 position – and indeed recommend that remedial measures in the St. Clair River be implemented without delay.