Water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan have risen due to heavy snow and rainfall. However, they remain below historic levels. Both lakes are two centimeters higher than they were in 2010, but 34 centimeters lower than typical summer averages, Chuck Southam, Environment Canada water level expert, told the Owen Sound Sun Times.
Southam said lake levels fluctuate based on inflows, outflows, and precipitation. Lake outflows in particular are being scrutinized. A number of organizations think the speed at which the northern Great Lakes empty into the St. Clair and Detroit rivers is too fast. The International Upper Great Lakes Study Group, founded by the International Joint Commission, explored ways to address this problem. Its report outlined four rehabilitation suggestions, along with their possible effects on the Lakes Michigan and Huron and Georgian Bay based on varying degrees of water levels raised.
Potential methods for diminishing outflow include underwater turbines, inflatable weirs, and parallel dikes. The estimated cost for the outflow regulation project is $200+ million, according the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. UGLS has arranged sessions for the public during the summer to educate and gather feedback. UGLS has posted a schedule on its website with meeting dates and locations.
Mary Muter, chair of the Great Lakes Section of the Sierra Club Ontario, said she’s wary of the study’s findings.
“They have underestimated the benefits but exaggerated the impacts downstream,” Muter told the Times. She also said Lakes Erie and Ontario, as well as the St. Clair River, show levels higher than usual, which presents the perfect opportunity to rebalance the lake levels.
Muter also posted an article on the Sierra Club’s website critiquing the IJC’s response. She rebuked the IJC for having knowledge of the St. Clair River’s increasing levels but doing nothing to address it. She also disapproved of the International Lake Superior Board of Control’s increase of Lake Superior’s outflow to advance Huron and Michigan’s levels, saying it’s “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Muter warned if no action was taken, a chain reaction could occur that would result in reducing the flow of the St. Clair and Detroit rivers. She proposed placing a single control board in charge of all the Great Lakes and placing interim outflow regulation devices in the three conjoining rivers of the middle lakes until the government can propose an environmentally appropriate response.
“If we miss this opportunity, it may be gone forever,” Muter told the Times.
Lake rises, but concerns remain [The Owen Sound Sun Times] Slow the Outflow to Save the Great Lakes [Sierra Club Ontario] Public to get chance to weigh in on lake levels study [The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Image Credit: Image Credit: Mark Alberts