People who are seeking solutions to Georgian Bay’s low water level should be petitioning the International Joint Commission (IJC) set up for that task, said a representative for Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton.
Andy Dunford spoke from a prepared statement to a gathering of about 130 people at the Oakwood Community Centre Thursday night to discuss concerns and debate solutions to the problem of record low water levels in Georgian Bay.
“This has been discussed at a high level of government. The IJC is the centre for action,” he said.
Mary Muter, chair of the Great Lakes section of the Sierra Club of Ontario, who was the guest speaker at the event, quickly took the microphone.
“The IJC had $17 million and seven years to come up with a solution,” Muter said, adding they haven’t come up with any solutions. “Pass that message on to MP Stanton,” she said.
Tay Township Mayor Scott Warnock is among a coalition of Georgian Bay mayors from Owen Sound to Parry Sound who are hosting public meetings, gathering the impact this issue is having on all the lake- front municipalities.
Warnock was among a small group to meet with federal environment minister Peter Kent in the fall for 45 minutes.
“One thing became clear. They don’t get it. They just don’t get it,” Warnock said.
“That’s how the mayors coalition formed. We are saying, ‘You guys have to get it because if you don’t we won’t have any water left.’”
“We want to hear from you. We are taking your concerns to Ottawa and Queen’s Park,” Warnock told the audience.
“We want to take your message to the next two levels of government. We need to get the ear of the federal government.”
Muter and Warnock expressed their dismay with the IJC at last summer’s meeting in Midland that was attended by about 600 people with their ears open for solutions.
“They provided no viable options for water level restoration.
“It means do nothing and get used to it, folks,” said Muter.
A member of the audience asked if the water levels will continue to decline if nothing is done.
Muter said that’s exactly what will happen because there are no water regulation systems on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron as there is on Lake Ontario, which has remained relatively stable.
Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching drain into Georgian Bay and the five Great Lakes drain, eventually, into the Atlantic Ocean. All five Great Lakes are at lower levels than normal, but lakes Huron and Michigan have lost more water than the others.
Human manipulation of the St. Clair River that drains Lake Huron into Lake Erie is one of the areas that is a major cause of the lowering of Lake Huron water, said Muter, and it’s the area where remedial work should start.
“The reality is that it is possible to restore water levels,” she said.
The St. Clair River has become a drain from Lake Huron because of a century of human intervention that includes mining, repeated dredging, removal of wetlands and creating a steel wall on the U.S. side that causes water to flow faster and causes more erosion that results in an even deeper channel.
The U.S. Army Corps had a design 50 years ago to slow the flow by installing underwater sills and repairing erosion damage, but the work was never started. Muter said they are willing to go ahead with a refreshed design now.
A Canada, U.S. agreement that stood back then is still viable and the project just needs funding and agreement from both sides, she added.
She predicts the project would cost between $100 and $200 million over 10 years, but can start with an initial investment of just $3 to $5 million.
“It’s not a lot of money,” she said.
Warnock concluded the evening by saying that now is the time for action.
“It’s been an issue that has been neglected for far too long.”
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Article courtesy of The Free Press
Photo credits John Jamieson and HoneyHarbour.net