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Great Lakes steward lets down public

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In Lakes
Feb 19th, 2011
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Port Huron Times Heradl editorial February 18 2011
The International Joint Commission, which oversees the boundary waters on the U.S.-Canadian border, has thrown away its credibility. It no longer can be trusted.
In an outrageous display of poor judgment, the IJC has been circulating an “article” about Lake Michigan property owners and their opposition to the idea of restoring the St. Clair River to its natural flow.
The IJC would have us believe this was an impartial article based on unsolicited comments. We have learned otherwise, thanks to superb reporting by Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one of the finest environmental reporters in the Great Lakes region. (See previous posting on AWARE site for Egan article and link to IJC article.)
As it turns out, the IJC bought and paid for the article with government funds. The public comments it quoted, far from unsolicited, were requested by a prominent member of an IJC advisory board.
Americans and Canadians have been generous in funding the IJC. We expect it to be a good steward of the boundary waters. We expect it to protect the mutual interests of both nations. We expect its leaders to use good science and good judgment.
What we don’t expect is propaganda as a substitute for impartiality. We don’t expect improper meddling and influence peddling.
“This whole thing is so strange,” Melinda Koslow of the National Wildlife Federation told Egan. “It seems like they’re trying to conjure emotion instead of keeping the study focused on science.”
Ironically, the IJC’s manufactured article said a majority of the public wants government to “leave Mother Nature alone.”
If only we could. The St. Clair River, as it exists today, is anything but a natural waterway.
Mining and dredging over the past 150 years have reshaped the river. Its shipping channel was deepened to 21 feet in the 1920s, 25 feet in the 1930s and 27 feet in the 1960s.
Lakes Huron and Michigan form a single pool of water. In a hydrological sense, they are the largest of the Great Lakes, covering a combined 45,410 square miles.
Man-made changes to the St. Clair River have lowered the level of this vast lake by an estimated 20 to 24 inches. The pool also is being drained by the Chicago diversion, which pumps 2.068 billion gallons of water per day into the Mississippi watershed.
Today, the Huron-Michigan pool is within a foot of its all-time low for this time of year.
No matter what the IJC says, leaving Mother Nature alone is not an option. Our choices are either to restore the natural condition or to keep what man has wrought.

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