Water levels woes: further discussions planned

by Nancy McDermid

MANITOULIN—-Members of the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council (MASC,) who helped to organize an information meeting on declining Lake Huron water levels, feel that the issue is ongoing and efforts are being made to organize information for the public and possibly provide a forum for further discussion.

A public meeting held by the International Upper Great Lakes Study Board (IUGLSB) on August 6 at the Kagawong Park Centre that laid out its preliminary findings and potential regulation plans for the Great Lakes water levels brought out a large crowd with many questions and concerns being raised following the presentation in a question and answer session.

“The Manitoulin Island Stewardship Council is in the process of setting up a forum (i.e. Facebook page and/or website) which will be available to the public,” MASC’s secretary, Therese Trainor, told the Expositor. “This forum will allow the public to access information so they can keep updated about the Great Lakes water levels, converse with like-minded individuals, participate in related events and find out how they can make their voices heard on this very important issue,” Ms. Trainor added.

Several studies have been completed that refute information presented by the IUGLSB at the August 6 forum and they may be of interest to people wanting to know more about the issue.

One such study was prepared for the Great Lakes Section of the Ontario Chapter of the Sierra Club by Bill Bialkowski, an engineer who specializes in process control, and who has developed many advanced computer modelling techniques over his career.

The study says that “during the last eight years, Mr. Bialkowski has studied and modeled the hydrology of the St. Clair River and the Upper Great Lakes, and has written a number of reports linking changes in the St. Clair River’s structure to the level of Lakes Michigan/Huron.” Running data provided by the IUGLSB through his own models, Mr. Bialkowski came up with different conclusions.

Another issue that has been raised is that the study board is presenting its findings so that “negative impacts are elaborately presented in the worst-case scenarios while the positive benefits are typically understated,” according to a response to the study by the environmental group, Georgian Bay Forever.

“The scientific findings contained in the Restoration study (Upper Great Lakes Study, Options for Restoring Lake Michigan Huron Water Levels: An Exploratory Analysis, May 26, 2011 completed by the IGLSB)shows that restoration can be accomplished with many attendant environmental and economic benefits and that any negative impacts can be mitigated through proper design, implementation and regulatory control. However, in the Restoration Study, the Study Board continues to present its findings in a manner that supports their original “do nothing” recommendation that it made when assessing the changes in the St. Clair River following the dredging operations in 1962,” the response reads.

That opinion was put forth at the public meeting in Kagawong by Bob Florean, a member of the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council’s water level committee. He questioned the “‘do nothing'” approach to controlling the water levels via the St. Clair River at Sarnia when so much valuation and strategic priority-setting effort has been given to restoring Lake Huron’s waters and aquatic ecosystems.

One such priority-setting effort is the international biodiversity restoration strategy for Lake Huron that is well on its way to being developed with two local stewardship initiatives; Manitoulin Streams, and the MASC and its partners the Eastern Georgian Bay-North Channel Fisheries and Economic Re-Vitalization Initiative.