Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

May 14, 2007

International Joint Commission (IJC) to study water levels

From The Sault Star (Ontario):

Are the upper Great Lakes shrinking because of dredging on the St. Clair River?

That’s one contentious theory the International Joint Commission is trying to sort out.

The IJC, established by the Canada and U.S. governments in 1909 as an independent body to resolve and dispute issues that touch on our shared waters, has just embarked on a five-year, $17.5-million study meant to explore decreasing water levels on lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron.

The most urgent priority is to look at the St. Clair.

In the 1920s and ’30s and 1950s and ’60s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged deeper channels to accommodate increased commercial traffic through the St. Clair, which links the upper and lower lakes beginning at Sarnia.

“There’s been a lot of erosion on the St. Clair River. There’s been a study saying . . . it’s draining water three times faster,” said Ted Yukyk, Canadian director of the International Upper Great Lakes Study.

The International Upper Great Lakes Study group will use “the best science we have now” to objectively explore all possibilities, including flaws in earlier studies, Yukyk said.

They’ll look at Superior longer-term.

The world’s largest freshwater body of water has been on an unprecedented nine-year decline and hasn’t been lower since 1926.

Water flow regulations at the compensating gates on the St. Mary’s River will also be updated for the first time in two decades.

Yukyk expects results from the first part of the study, along with recommendations, in two years.

Two years seems like a long time to wait.

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