This summer, public input meetings will take place throughout the Upper Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada to gather information for the second and final phase of the International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS). The study, launched in 2007 by the International Joint Commission (IJC), is examining the impact of fluctuating water levels in the Great Lakes. The final peer-reviewed report will be presented to the IJC in March 2012.
Those who cannot attend the meetings in person are invited to post their comments at www.iugls.org, www.facebook.com/iugls or twitter.com/IUGLS. A copy of the study’s progress report, Toward a New Regulation Plan, can be downloaded at http://www.iugls.org.
The first meeting took place July 18 in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and other meetings are scheduled through to Aug. 11 in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. The meeting schedule is posted at http://www.iugls.org.
Phase 2 of the study is specifically addressing possible improvements to the regulation plan for outflows from Lake Superior to the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie-improvements that could provide additional benefits to stakeholders, particularly in the face of a changing climate. Outflows have been controlled there since 1914.
Phase 2 is also exploring the effects of proposed water-level restoration options for Lake Michigan/Huron (considered one lake), as well as a multi-lake regulation in the context of climate change. A broad range of potentially affected areas tops the study’s agenda, including coastal and ecosystem issues, hydroelectric power, domestic and municipal water use, recreational boating and tourism, and commercial navigation.
Controlling water levels in the lakes will be no easy task. “The ability to influence high and low water levels through regulation is severely limited by the natural variation in climate conditions, the risks that climate change could introduce more extreme conditions in the future, and the physical geography of the lakes and connecting channels” the progress report authors wrote. “Moreover, the natural shifting of the earth’s crust has serious implications for both water regulation and coastal interests. There is a high degree of uncertainty about how climate change will affect future water levels over the next several decades.”