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A Great Lakes freighter cruises down the Detroit River on its way from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie.  Some advocates say that something should be done to slow the the flow of water from Lake Huron through St. Clair and into Lake Erie.

A newly-released international study recommends no action on what Canadian advocates claim is a bathtub-drain effect that’s lowering the level of Lakes Huron and Michigan.  That’s what was reported Saturday by sources like the Chicago Tribune.

That same day our group of journalists – which includes Canadians – spent a couple of hours on the Detroit River with authors of the report and a representative of a group that disputes the findings.  After waiting for two lake freighters to pass by, we cruised north to Lake St. Clair, which some call the sixth Great Lake (it isn’t, either hydrologically or officially) on board the Pride of Michigan , a small river vessel used to train U.S. Navy sea scouts.

Mary Muter is a representative of what was formerly known as the Georgian Bay Association, a group of Canadian vacation home residents concerned about water loss in Georgian Bay in Lake Huron.  She says her group is now focusing in wetlands loss in Huron and plans to change its name.

For years, no data was collected to help inform scientists what was going on.  The International Joint Commission – the bi-national group that oversees boundary water issues – churned out its $ 15 million preliminary report in just two years.  They made full speed because the Georgian Bay Association, a group of Lake Huron residents initially concerned about falling water levels that left their island vacation homes high and dry – were asking  government authorities to do something to stop the water loss.

Lake St. Clair feeds into the Detroit River and connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie.  If the International Joint Commission had decided something needed to be done, the amount of water flowing into Lake Erie might have been reduced.  And that could have been a problem.  Whereas the upper lakes get most of their water from precipitation, Lake Erie gets most of its water from the upper lakes.   In Ohio, we could have been sitting on empty.

The big news is that this preliminary report isn’t the end.  What’s coming in the next year or so is a report on the real-time impacts of climate change on the lakes.  Along with that will come a series of recommendations about what to do to about those impacts.

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