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.
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.