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IJC responds to concerns about Great Lakes levels


TheInternationalJointCommission (IJC)has directed the Upper Great Lakes Study Board to explore what the effects would be of raising the average levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The IJC directive asks the Study Board to undertake an exploratory investigation of how raising the Lakes Michigan and Huron water-level regimes by different amounts would affect interests on the Great Lakes system from Lake Superior to the St. Lawrence River.

The move is a direct response to comments received during IJC public hearings last March about a Study Board report dealing with the St. Clair River's impact on water levels of the Upper Great Lakes. The report recom-mended that measures to remediate the increased conveyance, or water-carrying capacity, of the river "not be undertaken at this time."

Public reaction at the IJC hearings-including the one in North Simcoe-was critical of the Study Board's recom-mendation.

Mary Muter, a long-time proponent about matters affecting Georgian Bay, described the IJC decision as "huge"

When contacted for comment Muter said she could no longer speak as the Georgian Bay Baykeeper because she had recently been removed from that role, but would be happy to speak as an interested citizen.

"They have told the Study Board to look at raising Michigan Huron levels by zero, 10,25,40 and 50 centimetres. This is huge for them."

The IJC was created in 1909 under the terms of the Boundary Waters Treaty to deal with issues affecting the many rivers and lakes whose bound-aries are shared by Canada and the United States.

The Study Board report, Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River concluded the first phase of a study of the upper Great Lakes.

It examined the physical changes in the St. Clair River since 1962 and rec-ommended no action at this time. It also recommends that mitigation meas-ures in the St. Clair River be examined as part of the comprehensive assess-ment of the future effects of climate change in the second phase of the study.

The Study Board also recommended that over the long term the govern-ments of Canada and the U.S. under-take cooperative efforts to improve the monitoring and analysis of Great Lakes water supplies and connecting channel flows.

In addition, the Commission pro-vided guidance to the Study Board on three important matters raised in its 7th Progress Report, directing them to:

* propose one alternative to the exist-ing regulation plan based on its scien-tific investigations and extensive public input;

* establish a legal rationale for select-ing a future regulation plan that allows forthe possibility of new physical condi-tions under a changing climate; and,

* investigate and recommend institu-tional mechanisms for the management of water resources through one or more management boards in the Great Lake-sand St. Lawrence River System.

The study will continue to examine whether the IJC Order of Approval and plan for regulating Lake Superior out-flows should be modified to address the changing climate and the evolving needs of users on lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie.

The final report of the Study Board on the entire study is expected to be com-pleted and submitted to the IJC by early 2012.

The$17.5-million, jointly-funded study is being conducted by the bina-tional, independent International Upper Great Lakes Study Board at the request of the IJC under the authority of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.

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