Wednesday, 3 October, 2007 11:47 AM
Great Lakes Losing 2.5 Billion
Gallons Per Day Due to Manmade Drain Hole Near Detroit
Research Finds St. Clair River Draining Water from Lakes Huron,
Michigan at Triple Rate Originally Thought
-- Two years after
specialists first linked declining water levels in Lakes Michigan
Huron to U.S. and Canadian navigation dredging, riverbed mining
shoreline alteration projects near Port Huron and Sarnia, recently
released research finds that the river "drain hole" is
triple the amount of water previously estimated -- causing widespread
ecological harm throughout the middle Great Lakes.
The updated findings
released by the Georgian Bay Association in August
(GBA) show that the drain hole in the St. Clair River is causing
Michigan -- Huron system to hemorrhage 2.5 billion gallons of water
day -- more than triple the 845 million gallons documented two years
by a consulting firm studying the impact of the U.S. Army Corps's
dredging in the river.
Those billions of gallons
of water lost down the drain each day -- more
water than what's used by all Chicagoland households in a day --
translate to rapidly declining water levels, which negatively affect
water quality, boating, fishing, and commercial shipping. And just
week the U.S. Army Corps predicted that Lakes Michigan/Huron will
inches lower by January than at the same time this year, which could
mean a record low for the lakes if the winter results in minimal
"This new report
reveals that the problem is far more serious than first
thought and underscores the need to fix the problem immediately,"
Mary Muter, local Georgian Baykeeper for the national Waterkeeper
Alliance and Chair of GBA's Environment Committee. "The longer
for mitigation measures to be put in place, the worse it will get.
time to stand up for the millions of boaters, shippers, anglers,
property owners, and beach-goers who rely on these lakes and stop
water loss now. We can't afford to wait."
"The historic changes
and dredging of the St. Clair River over the years
has resulted in changes to the riverbed that has increased the amount
water going down the river, carrying more and more water out of
and Huron, through the lower Lakes, and out to the ocean. This water
irreplaceable," explains Roger Gauthier, Lead Hydrologist for
Lakes Commission. "It has reached a point where the damage
It is now threatening the hydrological integrity of the entire upper
Since 1970, the drainage
hole, which continues to grow larger, has
resulted in an overall water level decline of nearly two feet, or
centimeters, in Lakes Michigan and Huron and Georgian Bay.
"We're seeing drastic sustained decline in the Michigan-Huron
the same time that Lake Erie is rising," said Bill Bialkowski,
Engineer who conducted the new GBA research. "This is indicative
water loss independent of naturally occurring fluctuations or those
to global warming. Research is showing us that this is a persistent,
unprecedented water loss."
These alarming findings
come as the International Joint Commission (IJC)
prepares to begin its Upper Great Lakes Study, which will examine
St. Clair drain hole and other possible causes to the water level
crisis. The study has met with some criticism and controversy among
advocates, as it is being led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Environment Canada, which are failing to acknowledge the danger
situation. IJC studies of this nature often take more than six years,
which advocates and scientists insist is too long to wait.
"We're getting killed,"
said James Weakley, president of the Lake
Carriers Association. "We're giving up 8,000 tons of freight
traveling from the Duluth-Superior area to the lower Great Lakes
that's enough steel to make 600 vehicles."
The new GBA research
uses water level data from the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Association's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab
extends through February 2007-data that was not available when the
original Baird Report was released.
signs including dried up wetlands, less fish
spawning, and unusually shallow waterways have begun to surface
Huron and Michigan as well, leading many to fear for the overall
of the region. There are several factors that have converged to
low water levels in the Middle Great Lakes, but the erosion in the
Clair River stands out among these problems as a man-made issue
be correctly fairly easily and within a relatively short timetable.