2007-07-19 / News

Lake Huron in Crisis Is Focus of Cedarville Program

By Amy Polk

The health and well-being of Lake Huron and its historically low water levels will be discussed at a Friday, August 10, seminar, "Our Middle Lakes Crises: An Update on Issues, Programs, and Progress" at the Community Center in Cedarville. Cedarville Bay's weevil treatment and local water quality will also be discussed.

The program is open to the public and free of charge, and follows the Les Cheneaux Islands Association's 2005 meeting with the Georgian Bay Association in Cedarville. This meeting will update the information provided at that meeting, and report progress by the groups. Doughnuts and coffee will be available at 9:30 a.m., and the presentations will begin at 10 a.m. Aquestion and answer session will begin at noon.

Mary Muter, vice president and environmental chair of the Georgian Bay Association of Canada, and Bill Bialkowski, director, consulting engineer, and hydrologist for the Georgian Bay Association, will present the water levels update, discuss other key Lake Huron issues, and describe international progress toward a solution to low water levels.

In addition to the Georgian Bay Association presentation, Bob Smith, environmental chair for the Les Cheneaux Islands Association, will discuss Cedarville Bay water quality, and the Les Cheneaux Watershed Council's weevil treatment program to fight Eurasian watermilfoil in Cedarville Bay.

The Les Cheneaux Islands Association and Clark Township Board of Trustees are co-hosting the seminar because of low water level complaints and concerns raised by the community.

Three years ago, the Les Cheneaux Islands Association joined the Ontario-based Georgian Bay Association in its call for a remedy to falling water levels members believe exceed cyclical levels recorded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

"According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, water levels have never been this low, for this long," said Les Cheneaux Islands Association member Mike Mahoney.

Mr. Mahoney is spearheading the Islands Association's involvement with the Georgian Bay Association, and has been a liaison between the two groups since 2004. The Georgian Bay Association (GBA) has broad international reach, Mr. Mahoney said, and has worked with the Healing Waters Coalition, Great Lakes Think Tank, Ontario's Round Table, and the International Joint Commission, a bi-national organization that prevents and resolves disputes between the United States and Canada on shared Great Lakes boundary waters like the St. Marys River and Lake Huron. The GBA has lobbied Environment Canada, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and International Joint Commission for action on water levels.

The Georgian Bay Association has commissioned research on Lake Huron water levels, which resulted in the widely read W.F. Baird study, which shows Lake Huron and Lake Michigan water levels dropping, despite increasing levels in Lake Erie.

The study speculates the drop is caused by extensive erosion of the St. Clair River bottom, near its source at Lake Huron's southern shore, Mr. Mahoney said. The study connects the erosion to escalating outflow from Lake Huron into the lower lakes via the St. Clair River. The Baird study estimates lakes Huron and Michigan are losing 845 million gallons of water, in addition to normal losses, down the river every day. According to the study, the loss is contributing to lower water levels that deviate from the lakes' natural cycle.

If the lakes continue to lose water, the Georgian Bay Association believes water levels will remain low and impact crucial wetlands and marshes, as well as commerce around the Great Lakes. Algal blooms owing to increased sunlight penetration of shallow waters, limited fish spawning area, and compromised shipping are some of the consequences of low water levels.

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