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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Destinations > Great Lakes > Lake Huron
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  #11  
Old 02-07-2013
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Re: Low Water

I would like to see a study on how much more water over the years is being sent from the Great Lakes south, to feed the farmers of the Midwest and even California.
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Old 02-07-2013
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Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by sony2000 View Post
I would like to see a study on how much more water over the years is being sent from the Great Lakes south, to feed the farmers of the Midwest and even California.
That ain't south.
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  #13  
Old 02-07-2013
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Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by sony2000 View Post
I would like to see a study on how much more water over the years is being sent from the Great Lakes south, to feed the farmers of the Midwest and even California.
Here's one paper which attempts to survey the existing diversions. The most significant diversion is the Chicago one, sending water to the Mississippi system. To my knowledge there are no direct diversions to places as far away as California ... at least not yet. But the pressure to do so is growing.
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  #14  
Old 02-08-2013
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Re: Low Water

"Glacial isostatic adjustment (the uneven shifts of the earth’s crust since the last period of continental glaciations ended) accounts for about 4 to 5 cm (1.6 to 2.0 inches) of the fall"-

While it has been a few decades since my geology days, I seem to recall that Isostatic adjustment has to do with the depth of the lake and not water levels. At one point it was given as a reason for rising water levels in Erie.
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Old 02-08-2013
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It has been several decades since my studies of isostatic rebound, but as I remember, what is happening is that the rebound further south is pretty much done in comparison to further north. The result is the land is slowly tilting with areas to the north getting higher which tends to drain Huron more. Not saying that dredging has not had an impact, but if it did have a huge impact then Erie would be much fuller than it is.
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  #16  
Old 02-09-2013
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Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by sony2000 View Post
I would like to see a study on how much more water over the years is being sent from the Great Lakes south, to feed the farmers of the Midwest and even California.
None, other than flushing Chicago's toilets down the Mississippi. There are pretty strong International & US Federal regulations in place that states any water pumped out of the basin must be returned to the basin.

We currently have two WI cities, just over the basin divide, that are trying to get access to Lake Michigan water. The holdup is getting approval from the six Great Lakes Governors and two Canadian Provinces after they can show they will treat waste water and return it to Lake Michigan.
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  #17  
Old 02-09-2013
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Arrow Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeOReilly View Post
News media is notoriously poor at digesting and presenting research. Here's one recent paper based on actual research. It says what I said, that the St. Clair dredging has had a small contribution to lowering Huron/Michigan:

http://pub.iugls.org/en/Other_Public..._Report_EN.pdf

....

Perhaps there is more recent research on the subject. If so, please post the link (to the paper, not to media reports).
That study is very old and contains data that is no longer valid. And Lake Superior can regulate its water outflow with very little effort where Michigan-Huron can't.

At the end of the day, we boaters are going to be the losers. The International Upper Great Lakes Study group has recently finished and published the results of their most recent studies.

http://pub.iugls.org/en/Other_Public..._Report_EN.pdf

The Study | International Upper Great Lakes Study

In a nutshell, commercial interests ashore who were/are adversely affected by high water levels in the past made a bigger impact on the study than those of us that just use the lakes as a recreational outlet. Another thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't cost anybody anything if they do nothing. Here is a key section in the most recent report summary:

At the direction of the IJC, the Study Board considered the feasibility and implications of raising water levels of Lake Michigan-Huron by means of restoration structures in the St. Clair River to compensate for past natural and human induced changes. The IJC did not request that the Study Board make any recommendation as to implementing a particular restoration option. Based on this analysis, the Study Board concluded that:

> Several of the restoration options reviewed are technically feasible. Construction cost estimates ranged from about $30 million to about $170 million, depending on the technology and level of restoration provided.

> Restoration would reduce the occurrences of extreme low water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron, but also increase the number of occurrences of extreme high lake levels.

> Commercial navigation and recreational boating and tourism interests would benefit, while coastal zone interests, hydroelectric generation and indigenous peoples would be adversely affected.

> Positive environmental effects would be concentrated in the wetlands of the Georgian Bay region, which have suffered significantly during low water levels in the past and would benefit from higher Lake Michigan-Huron levels. In contrast, restoration structures in the St. Clair River would adversely affect important spawning habitat of the lake sturgeon, an endangered species, and would have adverse effects on the Lake St. Clair fishery.

> Restoration of Lake Michigan-Huron levels would temporarily help to counteract the effects of GIA on lowering water levels in Georgian Bay. However, restoration would compound the effects of GIA in much of the densely populated southern portion of the upper Great Lakes, resulting in more high water impacts.

> Climate change could magnify the impacts of restoring Lake Michigan-Huron water levels. If water levels become generally lower in the future as a result of climate change, then the commercial navigation sector and Georgian Bay wetlands would be adversely affected, and restoration could help mitigate these adverse effects. Conversely, if water levels become higher at times in the future, flood damages would increase, and restoration would exacerbate these adverse effects.

> Restoration structures would require the ongoing commitment and financing of the governments of Canada and the United States, a process that could take 20 years or more for the full range of planning, environmental reviews, regulatory approvals and design steps.


So ... We can whine about it all day and it isn't going to matter. "Government" will take no action to return the upper Great Lakes to their "historical" levels.

I don't know about your local area but the two major marinas in Milwaukee will likely find a good number of their slips to be closed to boats that draw more than 6 1/2 feet if the current trend doesn't reverse itself real soon.
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Last edited by MSN2Travelers; 02-09-2013 at 08:55 PM.
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  #18  
Old 02-09-2013
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Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by MSN2Travelers View Post
That study is very old and contains data that is no longer valid. And Lake Superior can regulate its water outflow with very little effort where Michigan-Huron can't.

At the end of the day, we boaters are going to be the losers. The International Upper Great Lakes Study group has recently finished and published the results of their most recent studies.

http://pub.iugls.org/en/Other_Public..._Report_EN.pdf

The Study | International Upper Great Lakes Study
MSN2Travelers, I'm a bit confused about your comments and your summary. The report I cite -- the one you say is "very old and contains data that is no longer valid" -- is the exact same one you cite. You do realize the link I posted was the first report from this study, and you simply posted the first and then final reports. The final report specifically states:

"In its first report to the IJC, Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River, the Study Board identified a number of specific “legacy” recommendations regarding strengthening data collection, scientific knowledge and institutional capacity. In this final report, the Study Board reaffirms those recommendations..."

In addition, your summary seems to misrepresents the report(s) you are citing. Perhaps you are more intimately connected with the IJC process, so are drawing on different sources for your final comments. If so, I'd value seeing the references. This is a complicated subject (a point the report that you and I referenced keeps making). This research is not the final piece of the puzzle. That said, this IJC report seems to be the most definitive and complete piece of work to date.

It concludes, amongst other things, that "Restoration structures designed to raise Lake Michigan- Huron water levels would result in adverse effects on certain key interests served by the upper Great Lakes system." IOW some interests would suffer while some would benefit. Specifically, as you quote, "Commercial navigation and recreational boating and tourism interests would benefit, while coastal zone interests, hydroelectric generation and indigenous peoples would be adversely affected. (my underline).

So, the actual conclusion they reach is that while it is possible to engineer a solution that would raise Michigan and Huron, it is unclear whether this would be a good idea. There would be winners, and there would be losers.

I agree with you that the upper lakes are at a historic low, and appear to be into a period that is unprecedented. I don't agree (and the research you and I both cite) that the principal cause of this is the St. Clair engineering, although it is has contributed to the problem.

The major contributor to lower lake levels appears to be increased winter evaporation due to decreased ice coverage. A second contributor (at least for Lake Superior) appears to be reduced precipitation levels. The real solution is to address the causes of climate change, but that is hard, and requires that we all do something (not just "government"). And none of this is going to help marinas in Milwaukee.
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  #19  
Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Low Water

Mike,

I agree with you on the St Clair dredging. It would be nice to point a finger at one thing and blame everything on that. I believe Mother Nature is at fault for the current low water levels more than anything else. Lack of moisture and lack of cold weather lake freezes have hurt Lakes Michigan-Huron the most.

Then again, the current study does indicate that they know what the rate of flow out of the Upper Great Lakes (UGL) is now but there is no indication that they know (or want to admit) what it was before the most recent dredging. In plain English, they really don’t know how dredging the St Clair channel has affected water levels on the UGL.

I find it interesting that the study that justified the dredging of the St Clair from 25 feet to 27 feet cited the financial benefits to commercial shipping but the current study doesn’t address the impact on commercial shipping now that they have lost over half of that increased channel depth. Perhaps commercial shipping on the UGL isn’t as important any more.

When you get into the guts of the reports, you will find that they feel the costs associated with mitigating the damage from potential flooding in high water periods will exceed the benefits that would come from water level restoration.

My conclusion that nothing will be done is based primarily on this statement in the report summary:

> Restoration structures would require the ongoing commitment and financing of the governments of Canada and the United States, a process that could take 20 years or more for the full range of planning, environmental reviews, regulatory approvals and design steps.

If somebody handed them a $150 million check today, it would take 20 years to get to the point where construction would likely begin. So why bother. 36 years in the military and 29 years Fed civil service has made me very cynical when it comes to government reports, government planning and international agreements.
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  #20  
Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Low Water

Quote:
Originally Posted by MSN2Travelers View Post
When you get into the guts of the reports, you will find that they feel the costs associated with mitigating the damage from potential flooding in high water periods will exceed the benefits that would come from water level restoration.

My conclusion that nothing will be done is based primarily on this statement in the report summary:

> Restoration structures would require the ongoing commitment and financing of the governments of Canada and the United States, a process that could take 20 years or more for the full range of planning, environmental reviews, regulatory approvals and design steps.

If somebody handed them a $150 million check today, it would take 20 years to get to the point where construction would likely begin. So why bother. 36 years in the military and 29 years Fed civil service has made me very cynical when it comes to government reports, government planning and international agreements.
Hi Paul, I fully agree with you. Nothing will be done b/c it not in the interests of those who have power and money in our two countries. I too wonder about the short and medium term implications for those of us with deep keels.

Unfortunately, as you say, there is no one single cause. And the real issue appears to be changing climate. I guess we're all going to have to get used to sailing in thinner water.
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