“In November, the IJC issued a 25-page report advising both governments take decisive steps to protect human health and the environment by reducing polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the lakes. The brominated flame retardants, which are bioaccumulative and found in many products, have been in use since the 1970s and exposure has been linked to cancers, reproductive health, thyroid, neurobehavioral and developmental disorders.”
US and Canada efforts towards cleaning up PCBs and other toxic chemicals in Au Sable river and Lake Huron.
Adaptive Management task force have come to conclusions on how to manage the Great Lakes as a resource in lieu of atmospheric changes we are experiencing today and their effects on us. ‘Instead of fighting nature, we need to figure out better ways to comfortably live alongside its changes.’ As lake levels will change our ability to adapt to these changes is a topic of debate – we can adapt to changes or struggle to maintain the status quo through engineering. The following is an excerpt from SODUS on the upcoming webinar focus on these changes in the Great Lakes:
The bi-national Adaptive Management Plan responds to changing climate and the limited ability to alter lake levels through regulation of flows from Lake Superior and Lake Ontario. “Our climate is changing and increases in temperature and alterations in patterns of precipitation are likely to affect water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River,” says U.S. co-chair of the Adaptive Management Task Team, Debbie Lee. “There is strong evidence that in the future we will experience extreme water levels – both high and low – that are outside the historical range seen over the past century. Indeed, we have seen record low water levels this past January on Lakes Michigan and Huron.”
The most recent IJC studies on lake levels – the International Upper Great Lakes Study and the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study – both concluded that adaptive management is the best way to address the uncertainties associated with climate change and the potential impacts from extreme water levels. Adaptive management uses the information obtained from long-term monitoring and modelling to support the evaluation of plans, policies and practices and adjust them as knowledge improves or as conditions change. “The proposed Adaptive Management Plan is based on working collaboratively with Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River partners to gather and share critical information over time, assess the information with state-of-the art tools, develop adaptation strategies, measure our collective success in managing the impacts of extreme water levels and adapt accordingly”, explains Canadian co-chair, Wendy Leger. “We believe it is a cost-efficient and effective way to support decision-making aimed at reducing the risk to communities, the economy and the environment from extreme water levels.”
The Adaptive Management Task Team is seeking input from the public on the draft Adaptive Management Plan between March 15 and April 15, 2013. Following public comment, the Task Team will revise the Plan and forward it to the IJC for its consideration.
MP Bruce Stanton encourages his constituents of Simcoe North to Petition the IJC for solutions to Low water levels of Georgian Bay. The IJC is the ‘center for action’ on the solution for this issue. Mary Muter of the Sierra Club of Ontario remarked at the Oakwood Community Centre that ‘the IJC has had $17 million and seven years to come up with a solution’. IJC recommendation to do nothing is not popular among these folks. The US Army Corps of Engineers solution for low water levels for Georgian Bay was conceived 50 years ago. According to Muter, water flows would be slowed by installing underwater sills and repairing erosion damage. As reported by Sarvus, the project costs today would range from $100 to $200 million over 10 years with start up of $3 to $5 million.
Excerpt from Midland Free Press report by Gisele Winton Sarvus on public meeting and solutions to low water levels:
Muter and Scott Warnock [Tay Township Mayor] expressed their dismay with the IJC at last summer’s meeting in Midland that was attended by about 600 people with their ears open for solutions. “They provided no viable options for water level restoration. “It means do nothing and get used to it, folks,” said Muter. An excerpt from local paper A member of the audience asked if the water levels will continue to decline if nothing is done. Muter said that’s exactly what will happen because there are no water regulation systems on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron as there is on Lake Ontario, which has remained relatively stable. Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching drain into Georgian Bay and the five Great Lakes drain, eventually, into the Atlantic Ocean. All five Great Lakes are at lower levels than normal, but lakes Huron and Michigan have lost more water than the others. Human manipulation of the St. Clair River that drains Lake Huron into Lake Erie is one of the areas that is a major cause of the lowering of Lake Huron water, said Muter, and it’s the area where remedial work should start. “The reality is that it is possible to restore water levels,” she said. The St. Clair River has become a drain from Lake Huron because of a century of human intervention that includes mining, repeated dredging, removal of wetlands and creating a steel wall on the U.S. side that causes water to flow faster and causes more erosion that results in an even deeper channel.
According to the Sierra Club the message heard by commissioners at the summer 2012 International Joint Commission hearings on Great Lakes water levels was “Restore Our Water Levels.” For emphasis,Canadian Commissioner Lyall Knott said, “we hear you loud and clear – restore our water levels.” But the 1,200 attendees at the hearings do not like the recommendation of the IJC for them to ‘get use to lower water levels.’ The many stakeholders – land owners, fisheries, boaters, shippers, recreators, chambers of commerce, local services to name a few – are not satisfied with this answers. Stakeholders and local governments want viable options to address the issue of lower lake levels especially in Lake Huron-Michigan where the water levels are declining far more than the other lakes even if within historic ranges. This is alarming not only to the region but our national interests. Studies have been done ad nauseum on this issue. Dredging is an obvious solution but local funds are not sufficient to undertake this task. Shipping loads dwindle ton by ton as water levels decrease inch by inch and income dollar by dollar. Evaporation is the culprit. The graphs provided by the US Army Corps of engineers show the dramatic decreases and forecasts within the context of historic levels. See for yourself the power of climate and evaporation in the following picture of dry docks compliments of the Sierra Club of Canda.