Water level study under review 0
A study of the upper Great Lakes has made its final recommendations, including a new regulation plan for Lake Superior outflows, but it won't affect Georgian Bay's water levels.
Over the course of the five-year, $17.6-million study, International Upper Great Lakes Study representatives have made three stops in Collingwood to hear public input, most recently last August.
IUGLS Board co-director Ted Yuzyk says they heard a mix of opinions in Collingwood.
The water levels in Georgian Bay have been down since the late 1990s.
"There was tremendous hope from Georgian Bay (area residents) that the study would recommend structures in the St. Clair River to bring the water levels back up," said Yuzyk.
He says the International Joint Commission (IJC) asked the independent study to look at "restoring" smaller structures to elevate the water level. He says those short of structures only work one way, and wouldn't alleviate potential high levels. They are also costly, and have environmental implications.
"If you increase those water levels, that's great for the wetlands, particularly Georgian Bay, which has very valuable wetlands, however there would be negative impacts on the whole St. Clair/Detroit River system by doing that," said Yuzyk.
He says the IJC also asked the researcher to look at regulating the Great Lakes as one system.
Yuzyk says it would involve dam structures in the St. Clair and Niagara Rivers, which would cost billions of dollars, require a lot of excavation, and wouldn't produce hydropower.
He says there is no case for these types of structures, especially because Lake Huron and Michigan work as one water system, and raising the water levels in Georgian Bay would result in eroding the shorelines of Lake Michigan and Huron.
"There's so many trade-offs there that it's not a viable solution. We recognize that Georgian Bay has important wetlands," said Yuzyk, adding the Federal Government should look at local solutions to try and help the wetlands by holding back water with smaller structures and dikes.
"You are then protecting that resource you want without harming another resource," said Yuzyk, adding nature also adjusts to high and low water levels.
He says regional climate models show there will be cycles of high and low water levels - what's been seen in the last decade is similar to what was seen in the 1930s.
"The lakes kind of go through these large fluctuations and as far as we understand they will continue to go through that," he said.
He says currently people are preoccupied with low water levels, which will begin to change.
He says people living along the Great Lakes will have to adapt and shouldn't expect a broad, major solution. He suggests looking at local ways to deal with Mother Nature.
The report and recommended plan, named the Lake Superior Regulation Plan 2012, is available to the public and is in the hands of the IJC.
The IJC will tour relevant communities in July for final public information and feedback meetings.
The purpose of the study was to evaluate the current regulation plan, and Yuzyk says the new recommended plan is more "robust," increases environmental protection, is more efficient for hydropower, and is better positioned to react to potential severe climate change.