Options

Great Lakes Water Level Relief

mvnmvn Member, Moderator Posts: 744 mod
edited April 2013 in Ontario Canada

Great Lakes to get relief from low water levels: Porter

The International Joint Commission has recommended restoring 13 to 25 centimetres of water to Lakes Huron and Michigan, likely through flexible structures in the St. Clair River, after doing an environmental assessment and cost-benefit analysis.
A photo taken in September 2012 shows a dock that once stood by the edge of the water near Waubaushene on Georgian Bay now stranded in a field. The water has crept back about 140 metres, leaving tall grass behind it. Water levels are currently at historically low levels.

Cody Storm Cooper / for the Toronto Star

A photo taken in September 2012 shows a dock that once stood by the edge of the water near Waubaushene on Georgian Bay now stranded in a field. The water has crept back about 140 metres, leaving tall grass behind it. Water levels are currently at historically low levels.

If you love Georgian Bay, as I do, I have good news for you.

We might be getting more water soon. Or, more aptly: we might stop losing as much water as we have been these past 14 years.

After years of cheerleading the “do-nothing” approach to the frightening drop in water levels on Lakes Huron and Michigan, the binational referee of water levels, the International Joint Commission, did a stunning about-face last Friday.

It instructed the Canadian and American governments to do something. In particular, research putting an adjustable plug in the St. Clair River, which drains water from Lakes Huron and Michigan down toward Lake Erie.

Hallelujah.

Let me take a step back for those readers who from misfortune or folly have not yet set bare foot on a hot granite rock of Georgian Bay. The bay is a large lobe of Lake Huron, which is actually joined to Lake Michigan by the Straits of Mackinac.

You can get there in 1.5 hours, if you drive fast out of Toronto, up Highway 400, preferably at dawn. When the wall of trees on your left opens up to a tableau of rocky islands, fainting red pines and blue water, you have arrived.

It is a place I go every summer to confide my city troubles to the ducks and snapping turtles.

It is paradise. It’s in trouble.

Lakes Huron and Michigan, and therefore Georgian Bay, hit a record low water level (175.57 metres) this past January. That’s the lowest the water has been since the 1860s. Plus, it came during a record slump in lake levels. We are in a 14-year period of low water.

Some context: As a kid, I could dive off the end of the dock at my family cottage. If I’d tried that last October, I’d be crippled. The water barely reached my knees.

Since its high point in 1997, we’ve lost two metres of water.

Most of that is natural — the Great Lakes oscillate between wet and dry spells. But a healthy amount of that water will never come back, because we’ve been dredging the St. Clair River for years, to make way for bigger ships.

Some 150 years ago, the St. Clair River was only six metres deep. Now, it’s 8.2 metres deep. Put a bigger hose on your water tank and you’d expect to spurt out water quicker (at least until the pool it was spurting into was so full, it had more pressure than the water in the tank.)

After the last big dredging in 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers was supposed to put speed bumps on the river floor to damper the drain. But that never happened.

For years, it seemed like it never would, despite the screams of cottagers, marina operators, environmentalists, freight operators and the mayors of 96 cities around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

But on Friday that all changed.

“The middle lakes need some relief,” explained IJC science and engineering director Ted Yuzyk during a follow-up teleconference Monday.

The recommendation: Restore 13 to 25 centimetres of water to Lakes Huron and Michigan, likely through flexible structures in the St. Clair River. But, do an environmental assessment and cost-benefit analysis — both of which could take three to five years, Yuzyk estimated.

In the latest IJC study on the subject, experts suggested the cost of putting things like underwater sills or turbines into the St. Clair River could range from $30 million to $170 million. They also flagged environmental concerns, including the precious spawning grounds of sturgeon in the river.

Finally, they said it would take 30 years to fully restore that amount of water to Lakes Huron and Michigan. On Monday, Yuzyk said it would likely be eight to 10 years.

We are in for a long process, either way. But, at least we are on the way.

Good,  fast,  cheap.... pick two. 
2019 MTX20 Extreme

Comments

  • Options
    Black_DiamondBlack_Diamond Member Posts: 5,439 ✭✭✭✭✭
    About time someone finally did something.  now close off the Chicago river locks to stop the outflow and the Asian Carp.

    Past owner of a 2003 342FV
    PC BYC, Holland, MI
  • Options
    SERENDIPITYSERENDIPITY Member Posts: 83 ✭✭
    TKS for the info MVN  hope it happens
  • Options
    TikiHut2TikiHut2 Member Posts: 1,431 ✭✭✭✭✭
    A great synopsis of a local problem being rectified that I'd have never known about. Makes me want to see Georgian Bay for myself. Just added another item to the bucket list. Now if you could just fix that short boating season ;) .

    Thanks, Mike
    2004 FV270, 300hp 5.7 350mag MPI Merc 305hrs, 2:20 Bravo3 OD w.22p props, 12v Lenco tabs, Kohler 5kw genset, A/C, etc.etc...
    Regular weekender, Trailer stored indoors, M/V TikiHut, Sarasota, Fl
  • Options
    Black_DiamondBlack_Diamond Member Posts: 5,439 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Short boating season, but no chalked colored hulls! lol

    Past owner of a 2003 342FV
    PC BYC, Holland, MI
  • Options
    JoeStangJoeStang Member Posts: 1,122 ✭✭✭✭
    I'm sure the representatives of people on Lake St Clair, Erie, & Ontario will have some serious concerns with those plans. Are they going to plug the Detroit River, and what about the Niagara when Erie & Ottawa start dropping?

    As a boater on St Clair I can appreciate them wanting to improve the level, but if the dredging is the sole reason why has there been major periods of above average depth in the mid 80's & late 90's?


    2013 276 Cuddy ~ 350 MAG / B3
  • Options
    Black_DiamondBlack_Diamond Member Posts: 5,439 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The falls are basically the height regulator for Erie/ontario. The latest dredging in the '60's allowed the water to start carving out a deeper channel in the bottom, increasing the water flow even more. Add this to little rain/snow in the last few years and very low water levels. We should be (and many are) thankful for Canada being a player for the lakes or the situation would be even worse from exporting water and drainage outside the basin.

    Past owner of a 2003 342FV
    PC BYC, Holland, MI
Sign In or Register to comment.