21 january 2013

Grave concern over low Great Lakes water levels


(Amy Satterthwaite)
In summers a decade ago small boats could easily navigate Sand Run passage near Go Home Bay, a tiny bay and river off Georgian Bay, Ontario

The Great Lakes of North America constitute an enormous reservoir of fresh water.  The surface area of Lake Superior alone at over 82-thousand square kilometres is virtually the size of Ireland.

It is a vital drinking water source to 8,5 million Canadians , and many millions more in the US.

It is also vital to the economies of both countries as the many industries along its shores ship products to and from other destinations in the continent through the St Lawrence river to the Atlantic Ocean and ports around the world.

(courtesy GBA) Receding water level at Manitoutln Island in Lake Superior. Normal summer water levels would be up to the shore near the tree line

In a variety of ways, the Great Lakes support business, industry, agriculture, and recreation worth over 200 billion dollars annually to the economies of both Canada and the US. Hundreds of thousands of livlihoods depend directly on the lakes as well.

As the water levels drop, a serious negative effect is felt immediately to industry as ships can no longer be fully loaded for fear of grounding.  Thus each cargo becomes more expensive with costs eventually passed on to consumers.

Businesses such as marinas become threatened as they become accessible to fewer and smaller boats, or not at all, with a ripple effect in communities with fewer visitors.  Fishing is negatively affected, and bird and animal species are affected as well as wetlands and marshes recede and dry up.

(Craig Bowden- GBA) Bridge to Picnic Island at Honey Harbour, Georgian Bay, Ontario, December 2012. Normally there would be well over 2 feet or 71cm of ice and water under the bridge in the December low

For these reasons business, industry, cities, environmental organizations and individual and collective groups like the Georgian Bay Association have been calling on their respective governments, Canadian and the US, to take action to prevent permanent water level drop.

(Craig Bowden-GBA) Winter dredging to maintain summer channels and access near Waubaushene on one of the southern bays of the huge Georgian Bay: January 2013

Initially there was reluctance of authorities to take action, citing the natural fluctuation of Great Lakes levels. 

However, as levels remained low year after year during the past decade, with historic lows this winter, there has been a  change in attitude.  A dredging of the St Clair river  decades ago to allow larger ships increased flow out of the upper lakes. Some are now saying that is being combined with the realization that global warming and climate change seem to be reducing natural recovery through rain and snowfall levels.

Governments, and the International Joint Commission, set up to regulate Canadian and American issues with the Great lakes have begun to take notice of the low levels that do not seem to be recovering

(Craig Bowden-GBA) Village Marina located in inside bay of Honey Harbour - Jan. 2013. Normally even in winter these floating docks would be almost horizontal

Georgian Bay is a huge body of water off Lake Huron in the central province of Ontario. Dozens of communities large and small dot it’s shores and depend on the lake directly and indirectly for their existence. Bob Duncanson, is executive of the Georgian Bay Association. RCI’s Marc Montgomery contacted him in Toronto
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31 January 2013 - 19:05

At my cottage in Minden Ontario, I can remember when the shoreline in spring was almost touching our lawn. Now, 25 years later, we start the year off with at least 10 feet of beach -- and end up with 20 or more by fall. 25 years is not exactly a lifetime, but things have certainly been changing for the worse...

Sent by Mark T, Pickering, Canada

29 January 2013 - 18:48

There's a company, I think it's Pepsico, that has property in Michigan sitting over water that's underground. They take water by the container ship full, in the form of bottled water, and ship it to China, That is one of many instances of water being taken that would otherwise have gone into the Great Lakes system. It should be stopped.

Sent by jimmy kraktov, London, Canada

22 January 2013 - 17:46

Thank you for helping to publicize this enormous problem. The Great Lakes provide cooling, drinking water, agricultural irrigation and a myriad other vital functions. It is absolutely necessary that something be done NOW to stem the outflow and save our lakes.

Sent by Bobette Jones, Seattle, USA

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