Water is life, and the Great Lakes are the largest fresh water ecosystem on the planet. Water levels set the water available for the life of 40 million people, 3,500 species of plants and animals, and the regional economy of about $5 trillion dollars. They impact drinking water, irrigation, industry, commercial navigation, hydro power, recreational boating, and the ecosystem where wetlands sustain the aquatic species. Extreme water levels that are the problem. High water levels cause flooding, shoreline erosion, and houses built on high bluffs toppling into the water. Low water levels can cripple shipping, reduce hydro generation, stop boating activity, disrupt drinking water, cause wetlands to dry up, fish, turtles and birds to die-off, invasive plants to take over the shoreline and harmful algae to develop in isolated bays.
Humans have been at it since 1850. Navigational channels were deepened to 20 feet, then to 25 feet and finally to 27 feet. This triggered erosion of the St. Clair River causing even more deepening . Lake Michigan-Huron dropped by 20 inches. The story of why the United States, and Canadian governments, the International Joint Commission (IJC), the US Army Corps of Engineers have collectively so far failed to provide compensation structures for this past dredging is complicated. Mary Muter of the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation has more than anyone else pursed a solution to this challenge – a solution that involves hydraulic modeling, wetland research, and government lobbying. At times huge steps forward have been made. There have also been colossal setbacks. A solution has been designed – a set of hydrofoil gates to go into the Upper St. Clair River which address both extreme high and low water as recommended the IJC. Persuading the current American Government remains the challenge.
Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation has been focussed on water levels and mechanisms where we can continue to focus on extreme highs and extreme lows and quality. We have broadened our focus to include Water Quality. In particular significant concerns over water quality from increased nutrient concentration leading to blue green algal blooms
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To find out more detail, you can read the rest of the article below and also the full story in Water-Levels- A Middle Great Lakes Dilema, on this site,.