Gore Bay Fish and Game Club calls for government action on falling water levels

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORE BAY—The Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC) has given its support to a petition and resolutions calling on Canada and United States governments to take measures necessary to not only curtail depleting water levels in Lake Huron and the Great Lakes, but help to raise numbers to more normal levels.

“Within several generations, Manitoulin Island could become a peninsula rather than an island, but by lobbying and working together maybe we could get the governments to take some action to return water levels in the Great Lakes to more of what they should be,” Mike Wilton, a Spring Bay resident and member of the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Committee (MASC) water advisory committee, told members of the GBFGC at a meeting last week.

Mr. Wilton presented a video presentation, ‘Where has all the water gone,’ outlining the concerns and possible solutions. “As we go along, more people are becoming concerned with water levels on Lake Huron and the Great Lakes,” he said, pointing out that “the levels of Lake Huron have dropped at least four feet since 1997. In the past the levels worked on a cycle and water would come back, but this is no longer the case.”

“That is one of the reasons we are trying to get as many signatures on a petition,” Mr. Wilton said. An attempt at resolutions calling on both governments to act on the water issue were passed by Great Lakes United at its annual general meeting last December too, Mr. Wilton noted. “Once we get as many people and groups as we can to sign the petition, we will take these petitions and talk to our politicians,” said Mr. Wilton.

In his video presentation Mr. Wilton showed a photo of a healthy and unhealthy wetland, with the latter being caused in large part due to water levels depleting. “A lot of shoreline on Georgian Bay, the North Channel and Manitoulin are a prime basis for fish and other invertebrates to spawn and grow.” He said wetlands are needed by 80 percent of Great Lakes fish for spawn and/or nursing habitat.

One photo in the video was of a dock in Gore Bay, where a boat used to be stationed. However, taking a look at another picture from last year reveals the water levels have gone done five feet.

“This is a picture of the islands off Honora Bay,” said Mr. Wilton, showing a picture of the water having receded and sand becoming prominent. “It is quickly becoming a peninsula, instead of islands, and the water is not coming back.”

Mr. Wilton said there are several trouble spots that are leading to the declining water levels, and two come to mind. “One (is) the city of Chicago, (the other) a shipping canal,” he said. “There is two billion gallons of water being taken or diverted from Lake Michigan, for not only Chicago, but being exhausted into the Mississippi River system. This is all because of hydro generating plant which is downstream of Chicago.”

“Another trouble spot is by Sarnia on the southern end of Lake Huron, which empties in Lake St. Clair,” said Mr. Wilton. “Dredging has caused two-and-a-half times more water being taken than Chicago (takes).”

Mr. Wilton also explained, “the city of Niagara Falls is doubling the size of the Sir Adam Beck generating station. They are digging out a tunnel under Niagara Falls, so the pressure on water usage for hydro is going to at least double, with nothing going back in to keep water levels up.”

“Has there been any calculations or studies done of the amount of evaporation on the lakes?” asked Dan Desjardins.

While he hasn’t seen any studies concerning evaporation levels, Mr. Wilton said, “global warming is another small part of the entire problem. We live on the south shore and in the past there has always been large ice levels on the banks of waterways. This year they were maybe two or three feet in height at the most, when they used to be about 15 feet high.”

“We feel the only way to make progress on the issue of water levels is if we get the politicians involved, as a general rule they are not concerned about science, but they are concerned about votes,” said Mr. Wilton.

Mr. Wilton outlined several options curtail the depleting levels, such as underwater hydro turbines being used, as well as to redirect dams-flows in areas like Hudson’s Bay and Terrace Bay back to historical flow directions, which have been changed and has helped to cause the current problems.

“The United States is running out of water, so they will be looking to us more and more in the future,” said Mr. Wilton. “If we want protect our water as a nation we have to act. Maybe it is time our government got tougher and say diversions are not accepted from the Great Lakes.”

“Or we could do nothing, which seems to be the governments’ position,” said Mr. Wilton. “I am willing to make this presentation to as many groups as possible—quilting or church or euchre groups, it doesn’t matter what group—we just need as much support as we can get.”

“Are you going to try and expand your base of support beyond Manitoulin?” asked Ian Anderson. Although Mr. Wilton said he hadn’t been considering off-Island, “I would be willing to go to Spanish, Espanola, Sudbury… wherever we can get support.”

Mr. Anderson noted he and Jim Sloss are members of separate provincial fisheries management group teams and he would like to set up a time for Mr. Wilton to make presentations to both groups, which the latter indicated he would be willing to do.

“If a group wants me there all they have to do is contact me, we need to show we care about the environment. After all, once the water is gone it will never come back,” said Mr. Wilton.

“I would make the motion that we support and sign the petitions and the resolutions (which club members agreed to),” stated Stew Burns.

The GLU petition reads, “the purpose of this petition is to urge the Canadian and American governments to quickly and decisively act upon the two (attached) resolutions, which were passed by the (GLU) membership.”

The two motions passed by the GLU include, “the need for one coordinated Great Lakes Quantity Advisory Board for all the Great Lakes. This board would review levels and flows for all the lakes and would report to the IJC and the public. This board would be made up of appropriate scientific advisors and representatives of Great Lakes stakeholders including the public.”

The second motion states the GLU is requesting in part, “both the Canadian and United States governments to return the St. Clair River conveyance capacity to its state prior to the 1958-1962 navigation dredging. Therefore be it further resolved that this undertaking be carried out in such manner as to allow the levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron to fluctuate naturally again. Therefore be it also resolved that the governments ensure that a full environmental impact study be carried out to determine the most appropriate methods to return the conveyance capacity to its state prior to the 1958-1962 navigation dredging, with the study to be completed within two years.”