GBGLF June 2022 Newsletter

We hope you are sitting down when you read this.

By 2030, Environment Canada Climate Change (ECCC) are predicting that Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay water levels will decline by 2030 to 3+feet or 1M below the record low 2013 levels! And that by mid-century that our levels will be 6+feet or 2M higher than 2020 record highs!

Get ready – water levels are going back down – lower than anything we have seen so far


To quote from ECCC’s recent report;

RCP 4.5

(Some mitigation of climate change impacts over the period in question (2025-2095)

Extreme highs:
upper range up to 2 feet above 2019/20 levels;

Extreme lows:
lower range down to 3 feet below 2013 levels.

RCP 8.5

(Business-as-usual with only minimal action on climate change)

Extreme highs:
upper range up to 7 feet above 2019/20 levels;

Extreme lows:
lower range down to 3 and a half feet below 2013 levels.

Given the lack of progress globally in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (they are still increasing), the business-as-usual scenario may be more realistic, and it therefore might be expedient to plan for the extreme water level events that are predicted to arise under RCP 8.5.

What is most egregious about this report is that they provided no information on the implications or what could be done to alleviate these extreme predictions. BUT only our part of the Great Lakes will suffer these extremes. The other have control gates and will be able to prevent this increase in ranges. These low-level predictions will mean many of the 30,000 granite islands will join together and getting there by boat next to impossible unless you and your friends and families are up for long meandering hikes to your cottage. And the beaches will dry up also. And the predicted extreme highs will flood out towns and cities including Chicago!

These findings are very concerning and it is now obvious that Canada needs to step up, work with US agencies and take action to be able to alleviate these extremes. This is egregious after our 20 years of warning ECCC that their action to protect Georgian Bay are woefully inadequate.

Do we want to see more of this?

Summer is upon us and for GBGLF it means that we are on the ground helping McMaster U’s SAR turtle researchers and our team of hydraulic engineers continue to analyze the Environment Canada Climate Change’s increased range of water levels predictions and the implications. Our May webinars are now posted on our website. We highly recommend that you listen in since no other Georgian Bay organization has the expertise to understand the ECCC predictions or implications. You will hear and see our hydraulic control engineer Bill Bialkowski explain ECCC’s dire extreme predictions and Rob Nairn’s explanation of his Baird Report III for us with very similar predictions for lower water levels by 2030 using totally different methodology.

After many delays, 5 years of work and multi Millions of $$, Environment Canada has not yet released their data to show how they arrived at these conclusions.  (They are apparently going to be released at the end of the summer.) What is very concerning is that there was no discussion of the implications. They did do some wetlands assessment on Lakes Ontario and Erie but failed to properly assess Georgian Bay’s high quality, diverse and extensive Shield wetlands. (We did host and assist a Canada Wildlife Service crew to assess one Shield wetland but they did not have good bathymetry data so they scrapped that site and instead concluded that Georgian Bay wetlands would be resilient to their predicted extreme increased range of water levels. They relied entirely on very costly LIDAR depth data that could not read through dense wetland plant vegetation.) But we know that 3.5 feet or 1M lower water will dry up most Shield wetlands including all the critical fish spawning and nursery habitat and the habitat for Species At Risk turtles and snakes plus frogs and toads.

What are we doing about this devastating information from ECCC? We have asked our Federal government to provide funding to our organization to be able to contract W.F. Baird & Associates to collect St. Clair River bathymetric (depth) data and then develop a model to determine the amount of recent riverbed erosion that has taken place and what could be done to finally after 60 years – stabilize the riverbed and figure out best measures to reduce that extreme range of water levels using flexible measures that would only be deployed during extreme highs or lows. This is entirely in line with the IJC Commissioners 2013 recommendations. The US Army Corps have for 5 years been attempting to collect bathymetric data but so far have failed to collect valid data.

What’s wrong with the graphs below showing water levels on Lake Superior compared to our water levels?  A lot! Lake Superior has a range of 4 ft. or 1M compared to our 6+ft. or 2M foot. When the Superior control measures were put in, in the 1930’s the IJC agreed to lower the range of Superior by 1 ft. and in doing so increased the range for Michigan/Huron/GB. But the St Clair River has a very long history of mining the natural weir at the outflow and the river for sand and gravel. Plus it has undergone many uncompensated navigation dredging events under the IJC’s agreement. And the IJC’s study found erosion of the St Clair River had increased the outflow and contributed to the extreme low levels of 2000 to 2013. And now the evidence shows there may have been recently more riverbed erosion increasing the outflow.  

It is high time that the Canadian government stepped up and took actions to protect Georgian Bay from the economic and ecological harm caused by the ECCC’s predicted increased range of water levels – from a 2 M to a 5M range. The lower range may mean that many of Georgian Bay’s 30,000 islands will not be boat accessible but maybe we could walk to some of them! If Georgian Bay was in the US it would have long ago been recognized as a National Ecological Reserve and measures would have been in place to prevent this increased range.

So listen to our webinar and then donate so we can attend Great Lakes meetings to help get this information out there and be able to retain the internationally respected coastal consulting firm W.F. Baird & Assoc. They have worked, for example, with the USACE and universities to put in place structures to prevent flooding on the Mississippi River into cities like New Orleans. If they can do that, they can figure out what is happening in the St. Clair River and what can be done to reduce the ECCC’s predicted increase in extreme water levels.

The Toronto Star published an article on May 25 from The Manitoulin Expositor referencing our May 2022 Science Reporting Webinar and Baird Report III:

A study on water levels projects an unprecedented drop of water levels on Lakes Michigan-Huron and Georgian Bay to 1.1 metres (3.5 feet) below the record low by 2030. By 2040, levels may rise to 0.3 metres (one foot) higher than the 1986 record high. The study by W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd. was commissioned by the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation (GBGLF) and was shared virtually by GBGLF on May 16/17. The Baird conclusions are essentially the same as those found in a recently completed five-year study by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), presented during a week-long Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands webinar series from April 4 to 8. READ THE ARTICLE

We will soon provide an update on our research with McMaster U’s Prof. Pat Chow Fraser lab water quality and SAR turtles. Watch for it in our next newsletter.

Enjoy the summer but please keep in touch. If you have suggestions on how to help us move forward please send a message to

Thanks for your support!

Mary Muter, Chair, Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation

And to help support our research and education here is how you can donate


Donations help us make a difference
because we can continue our work and bring it to a conclusion for future generations. We depend on private donors, foundations and sponsors like you.

Charitable donations can help reduce, or even cancel out, the tax
you would otherwise have to pay to the government.


Please make out your cheque to
Huronia Community Foundation

and mark in the notation line
“for Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation”
and mail it to:
Huronia Community Foundation,
P.O. Box 324, Midland, Ontario, L4R 4L1



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affiliated with the federally-registered charity, Huronia Community Foundation

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