Binational Expert Panel: No Ongoing Erosion in St. Clair River - Draft Report Identifies Several Causes for Changes in Water Levels

    WASHINGTON AND OTTAWA, May 1 /CNW Telbec/ - In a draft report released
today nearly one year ahead of its original schedule, the International Upper
Great Lakes Study (IUGLS) determined that erosion of the St. Clair River is
not ongoing and recommended that "remedial measures not be undertaken at this
time." The report - Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River
- is the product of intense effort by a 10 member binational Study Board of
experts and public members, who commissioned 42 research projects that engaged
over 100 scientists. Fourteen public meetings have been scheduled throughout
the region where residents can learn about the findings and provide comments
(see page two or for the full report and other details regarding
the public consultation process).
    The Study Board was appointed by the International Joint Commission to
determine whether the conveyance capacity of the St. Clair River has changed,
to assess if there is ongoing erosion in the river bed and to identify other
factors that may be affecting water levels. Specifically, the independent
panel examined the change in head drop (or difference in water levels) between
Lake Huron and Lake Erie, estimating the decline to be 23 centimetres (cm) or
9 inches (in) between 1962 and 2006. After an exhaustive effort to collect and
verify historical data, conduct new research and analyze results, three key
factors were identified as contributing to the decline:

    - A change in the conveyance of the St. Clair River (deepening of the
      river bed) accounts for about 10 to 12 cm (3.9 to 4.7 in); a relatively
      dramatic and rapid change in conveyance appears to have occurred in the
      mid-1980s, possibly resulting from a single event, such as a major ice
      jam. This change in conveyance resulted in a temporary increase in
      flows, which returned to pre-change conditions by the end of the
    - Changes in climatic patterns (less water being supplied to Lake
      Michigan-Huron and Lake Superior) account for about 9 to 27 cm (3.5 to
      10.6 in); this factor has become even more important in recent years,
      accounting for an estimated 75 percent of the decline between 1996 and
    - Glacial isostatic adjustment (the rebounding of the earth's crust after
      the retreat of the glaciers) accounts for about 4 cm (about 1.6 in),
      but varies greatly throughout the basin.  For example, this effect is
      much larger (11 cm or 4.3 in) in Parry Sound on Georgian Bay with
      respect to the outlet at Lakeport, Michigan, where it is negligible.

    "Climate is the main driver of the lake level relationships between lakes
and over time," the report emphasized. "There has been a persistent decline in
net total supply of water to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron over the
past two decades that has resulted in declining lake levels and a change in
the relationship to Lake Erie."
    The Study Board also recommended that:  "The need for mitigative measures
in the St. Clair River continues to be examined as part of the continuing
Study that will include a comprehensive assessment of the future effects of
climate change on water supplies in the upper Great Lakes basin on Lake
Superior regulation."
    To assure the scientific credibility of the results, the IJC engaged the
Environmental & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil
Engineers and the Canadian Water Resources Association to select highly
credentialed engineers and scientists who are leaders in their fields to
review the Study methodology, key scientific reports and other major products
of the Study. While initial reviews have been positive, other reviews with
respect to the draft St. Clair River report are ongoing and will be completed
later this spring. After incorporating public comments, the results of
additional research and responses to both internal and independent reviews,
the Study Board will finalize the report for presentation to the International
Joint Commission in the fall of 2009.
    Funded equally by the U.S. and Canadian governments, this draft report is
the first output of the Study. The Study will continue to examine whether the
current regulation plan for outflows from Lake Superior through the
compensating works and power dams on the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie
needs to be modified to reflect broader interests and the potential impacts of
a changing climate. The St. Marys River regulation plan report is scheduled to
be completed early in 2012.

    Besides the St. Clair River scientific report, there is a concise summary
report available at

    The Study Board will be providing in-depth briefings and receiving
comments at fourteen public meetings throughout the upper Great Lakes basin in
May and June. Comments can also be provided via the Study website. The
schedule for these public meeting is below:

    May 19, 2009
    Sarnia City Hall
    Council Chambers
    255 North Christina Street
    Sarnia, ON  N7T 7N2
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Grosse Pointe War Memorial, Library  32 Lake Shore Drive
    Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Bayshore Community Centre
    Bay Room B
    1900 3rd Ave E.
    Owen Sound, ON  N4K 3M6
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    May 20, 2009
    Great Lakes Science Center, Auditorium
    601 Erieside Ave.
    Cleveland, Ohio 44114
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands Recreation Centre
    9001 Hwy-6 S
    Little Current, ON P0P1K0
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Hotel Orrington
    Heritage Room
    1710 Orrington Avenue
    Evanston, Illinois, 60201
    6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

    Lakehead University
    Theatre AT 1001
    955 Oliver Road
    Thunder Bay, ON  P7B 5E1
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    June 9, 2009
    Annis Water Resources Institute
    740 W. Shoreline Drive
    Muskegon, MI  49441
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Charles W. Stockey Center, Theatre
    Two Bay St.
    Parry Sound, ON  P2A 1S3
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Algoma University, Great West Life Amphitheatre
    1520 Queen St East
    Sault Ste. Marie, ON  P6A 2G4
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    June 11, 2009
    North Simcoe Sports and
    Recreation Centre, Community Hall A
    527 Len Self Boulevard
    Midland, ON  L4R 5N6
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Northwestern Michigan College
    Oleson Center 112
    1701 East Front St.
    Traverse City, MI 49686
    7:00 - 9:00 pm

    Wisconsin Indianhead
    Technical College
    Superior Conference Center
    600 North 21st Street
    Superior, WI 54880
    6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

    Delta College Planetarium
    and Learning Center
    Space Explorer Hall
    100 Center Ave.
    Bay City, MI 48708
    7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

For further information:

For further information: John Nevin, (202) 256-1368 or; Jill Wingfield, (734) 223-3131 or

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