Feds provide funding to look at options to compensate for loss of water from G. Lakes

ONTARIO—Local and provincial representatives are happy with funding being provided by the Canadian federal government in last week’s budget toward proposed solutions for declining water levels over the past 15 plus years for Lake Huron/Georgian Bay.

“There is some good news in the budget funding for waters levels in Lake Huron/Georgian Bay,” said Mary Muter, chair of the Great Lakes Project of the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation and Restore Our Water International, in an email to the Recorder. “Finally we have a government in place that seems to care about integrity of science. Sadly, now with less funding than the $17 million IUGLS, the International Joint Commission (IJC) is set to redo the St. Clair River, but the stars are aligned, and with a proper 3D model they can figure out what to do about the eroding upper St. Clair River.”

Ms. Muter explained that the federal minister of finance, Bill Morneau, announced funding support for upper Great Lakes Water levels. The federal government tabled a new budget last week acknowledging long standing concerns about water levels in the upper Great Lakes and help toward possible solutions.

“It’s gratifying that the Canadian government is moving forward following the IJC’s advice to help protect and restore the finite waters of the Great Lakes. Our team has been working on this since 2002. Delaying best mitigation options leaves the Great Lakes vulnerable facing climate change impacts and is ultimately costly to the environment and the economy. It’s important to act now,” said Ms. Muter.

Ms. Muter explained, “our new federal government is clearly behind the IJC, who in 2013 recommended that the commission “recommends that the governments undertake further investigation of structural options to restore water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron by 13 to 25 centimetres (about 5-10 inches).”

“In a decade of extreme low water levels we have been losing wetlands and the fish communities dependent on them,” said Ms. Muter. “The new government in Ottawa recognizes the problem is exacerbated by over 100 years of navigation dredging, shoreline hardening and the removal of sand supply from the St. Clair River. With this budget the IJC will finally receive funding needed to determine the best mitigation options to restore the St. Clair River and compensate for the loss of water from the Upper Great Lakes.”

“We consider the federal budget 2016 commitment an important step forward to protect the Great Lakes. We need to develop the ability to retain water in all the Great Lakes, not just Lakes Ontario and Superior. Now that everyone can see that we, the IJC and federal government are together on measures to save the Great Lakes from future extreme levels, let’s all pull together to make effective progress,” added Ms. Muter.

“Budget 2016 proposes to provide up to $19.5 million over five years starting in 2016-2017 to the IJC to enable Canada to match US funding to study these issues in order to protect the local environment and communities.”