• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

IJC urged to act on Lakes Michigan/Huron emergency

In Council Watch
Jul 16th, 2020
IJC Canadian Chair Pierre Béland

Letter to Pierre Béland, Chair of the International Joint Commission, from Rene and Danny Vistoli,  Tiny Township

We are sending this email to formally request the assistance of the IJC in conjunction with the federal/provincial governments and OPG to manage the high water level crisis occurring in the middle Great Lakes.

We are formally requesting the Ontario Provincial government and the Government of Canada to intervene with the International Joint Commission to better manage Lake Michigan-Georgian Bay levels as set out within the IJC Mission Statement. Lakes Michigan, Huron/Georgian Bay and Erie, for the month of June are over 30 inches higher than the long term average recorded by the US Army Corp of Engineers.

My husband and I live on the shoreline of Georgian Bay and we have witnessed the unprecedented environmental and damage to private property that has occurred in the last 3 years. Climate change may be a factor however additional and more impactful factors are at play.

According to experts like Mary Muter, Chair of GBGLF and Bill Bialkowski GBGLF Board member and Hydraulic Engineer, the levels data and satellite imagery points to decreased conveyance capacity in the St. Clair River so that water is simply not able to flow out of Lakes Michigan/ Huron and Georgian Bay. Lake Superior and Lake Ontario are up 11 and 13 inches respectively compared to the 30 plus inches Lakes Michigan, Huron/Georgian Bay and Erie are experiencing.

Where is the coordination?

Secondly in the first quarter of 2020, the Long Lac diversion dumped excessive amounts of water into Lake Superior then Superior dumped it into Huron/Michigan. Michigan/Huron is now at emergency alert level.

In 1993 the International Joint Commission (IJC) prepared a report to address the adverse effect of fluctuating water levels. It is important to note that some of the guiding principles of the study listed below are not being followed.

“Actions approved or taken will be beneficial to the Great Lakes-St.Lawrence River System and not result in undue hardship to any particular group.”

Coordinated management of the system needs to respect and accommodate the dynamic nature of the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System.”

Management of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System will be based on coordination of actions relating to levels and flows.”

The board also recommended the implementation of the following recommendations to manage water levels:

*The authority necessary for deviation from Lake Superior Regulation Plan during an emergency, similar to the authority to deviate that exists for Lake Ontario

*The installation of an ice boom at the head of the St. Clair River to reduce the risks of jams and flooding.

*An increase in the flow capacity of the Black Rock Lock, so the flow through the Lock may be increased in emergency situations by an additional 340cms (12,000cfs)

*The manipulation of the four major Great Lakes diversions; Long Lac, Ogoki, Lake Michigan at Chicago, and the Welland Canal during crisis situations when conditions permit

Why have none of the recommendations been implemented to provide some relief from the current high water levels?

In closing, we ask that the government use the guiding principles developed in 1993 to ensure that the Great Lakes system from Lake Superior to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River be looked at as a complete system so that actions taken will evenly distribute to the entire system any potential impact and not result in undue hardship to any particular area.

Immediately implement the four recommendations developed by the IJC.

Furthermore, both Americans and Canadians want the International Joint Commission to establish an international working committee that includes riparian representatives to assess unreported changes that have been occurring in the St. Clair – Detroit River system.

We need our governments and their agencies to focus their attention on ensuring that the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River system is more resilient to climate extremes over the remainder of this century.

We look forward to hearing from you on next steps

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