The International Joint Commission advised the governments of Canada and the United States, by letter dated April 15, 2013, that it will implement this year an improved plan for regulating Lake Superior outflows at Sault Ste. Marie.
The new plan, Lake Superior Regulation Plan 2012, provides additional benefits compared to current regulation, especially during extreme water supply conditions.
In addition, the Commission recommends that the governments of Canada and the United States investigate structural options to restore water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron by 13 to 25 centimeters (about 5 to 10 inches), including a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and a detailed environmental impact study. Specifically, the Commission encouraged governments to focus on options that would not exacerbate future high water levels but that would provide relief during periods of low water.
“Although future water levels are uncertain, we cannot ignore the damage from record low water levels,” said Joe Comuzzi, Canadian chair of the Commission. “From Georgian Bay to Door County, from shoreline property owners to the shipping industry, we heard calls for action, and we urge governments to act in response to our recommendations.”
“While the improvements are modest, the new regulation plan for Lake Superior outflows is better for the environment, better for navigation and better for hydropower production,” said Rich Moy, U.S. Commissioner. “But all stakeholders need to be aware that changes in regulation are not the answer to the extremely low levels we are experiencing right now.”
The Commission endorses the Study Board’s modelling and monitoring recommendations recognizing that critical information and tools are needed to adaptively manage this dynamic system.
Dredging in the St. Clair River to provide access for deep-draft freighters into the upper Great Lakes has led to more water flowing out of Michigan and Huron and, ultimately, out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Press Release, April 29, 2013