Doing nothing about the dramatic lowering of Great Lakes water levels is not an option, says Paul Cowley, President of the Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations [FoTTSA] “We can slow the outflow," Cowley said, decrying the do-nothing solutions offered by the International Joint Commission. "We have viable technological solutions. But it will take a determined effort by the public to protect our precious water."The FoTTSA President, representing thousands of members around the picturesque beaches of Tiny Township in Simcoe County, Ontario, is sounding the alarm in advance of 13 public meetings being held by International Joint Commission in July.
“These meetings will offer Canadian and U.S residents the opportunity to let the IJC know that we want appropriate and responsible action to be taken regarding the alarming findings contained in the final report on Upper Great Lakes water levels” Cowley says. Both countries have demonstrated the will to agree on pro-business solutions. Canada and the US recently signed a deal to spend $1.4-billion on the Windsor-Essex Parkway, a multi-lane highway bridge to get across a Great Lake waterway. “We are trying to make sure that there will still be water under that bridge in future, but not enough people are listening," Cowley says.
The report promotes a short sighted message to pacify an uninformed public, Cowley says. American and Canadians alike need to wake up and tell the IJC that “do-nothing solutions are not an appropriate response,” he added.
Cowley notes that a recent article the Port Huron Times Herald by Jordon Clime, asks… “ is there such a thing as too much beach?" Yes, there is, Cowley responds. "No one contests the beauty of beaches. "But when more beach means less wetland, and increasingly impassable recreation and business water access, we must all draw a line in the sand and insist that the IJC live up to its obligation to safeguard the health of the Great Lakes."
The recent study by the International Joint Commission called “Lake Superior Regulation: Addressing Uncertainty in Upper Great Lakes Water Levels” paints a deceptively simple but fundamentally incorrect picture, Cowley says. John Nevin, the public affairs adviser for the International Joint Commission, is quoted as stating that “The key finding is there is no recommendation for regulation in the St. Clair River to raise the (water) level in Lake Huron ... the environmental harm to the river and ecosystem would be too great.”
“A very questionable conclusion” says Cowley.
Mary Muter agrees. She's Chair of the Great Lakes Section, Sierra Club Ontario and a member of the Bi-National Great Lakes Coordinating Committee for all nine Great Lakes Sierra Club Chapters. Thirteen years of sustained low water levels have taken a toll on wetlands - the key indicator for making decisions about water levels according to the IJC previous water levels study, she says. The time to act is now, Muter says. "We already have a changed landscape with thousands of dried up wetlands now converted to meadows with 5-6 feet tall trees growing, exposed shorelines taken over by the giant invasive reed Phragmites australis, and enclosed bays with loss of water exchange resulting in algal blooms with dead fish and birds washed up on the shores.”
Muter stresses that under the Boundary Water Treaty the IJC has an obligation to act as their Study found a 5.8% increase in the St Clair River outflow - three times the Chicago diversion! - and an elevation difference between Lake Huron and Erie decline from 2 metres to 1.
Cowley and FoTTSA call on the residents of Ontario and the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York “to demand the IJC scrap the status quo and take action to slow the outflow from the only Great Lake that has no outflow protection whatsoever.”