March 2022 Update

As we move out of COVID restrictions, we are finally able to host a GBGLF Science Reporting Symposium Sunday April 24 (beginning at 12 pm for lunch and the presentations will begin promptly at 1pm) again at the beautiful McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. We have rented the much larger McMichael Studio so there will be lots of room to spread out and we won’t have to cut off registration – we hope! Anyone attending our event can tour the gallery before or after at no cost or go for a hike on the adjacent trails.

McMichael Studio Room has lots of space and is ramp accessible

We have great news on two fronts!!
Not so good on a third – water levels.

We are pleased to inform everyone that we have 2 new directors – Bruce Rodgers and Adam Scott. They have broadened our expertise and we are very grateful for their volunteer help with our work.

Many Georgian Bay folks will remember with a great deal of respect Dr. Karl Schiefer.  Well – Bruce Rodgers has taken over as CEO of the environmental assessment company Ecometrix which Karl Schiefer started. We are delighted that he has joined our board.

As background here is a description of his qualification and work:

Bruce is a Professional Engineer who has worked as a coastal consulting engineer developing and applying hydrodynamic and water quality models in various environments across Canada, United States and abroad. His main focus has included: pollution source characterization, hydrodynamic mixing processes, fate and transport, water quality assessment, waste assimilative capacity. Parameters of concern included: fecal coliform, nutrients, suspended solids, dissolved oxygen, trace metals, mercury, dioxins, radionuclides, and any number of other substances of environmental concern. He continues to do mathematical modelling as his main area of expertise.

Bruce’s skills line up with a number of the concerns we are working on, including water quality and water levels. Bruce and his family have a cottage on the Bay, near Meaford.

One of GBGLF’s concerns is a proposal for a hydropower pumped storage facility that we, GBGLF, have written about in a submission to the authorities, expressing our concerns. Here are Bruce’s comments and his involvement in this proposal;

“In 2019, I learned about a proposal from TC Energy to construct a 1,000 MW pumped storage plant on the shores of Georgian Bay near Meaford. I’ve taken upon myself the task of learning what I can about the proposed project and its potential effects on the aquatic and terrestrial environments of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment. Through this, a group of other concerned property owners and I formed ‘Save Georgian Bay’. I am a member of SGB, but I do not serve on its Board. Our mandate is to learn what we can about this project and to inform those most affected.”

Adam Scott (also a new board member) is a former summer assistant who helped Dr. Pat Chow-Fraser and her research team get to Georgian Bay’s difficult-to access wetlands. He would actually get in the water and help pull out the nets and assist with the fish and turtle identification and release process. Adam’s family have a cottage at Go Home Bay, and he is well- known as an environmental advocate for the Bay.

Adam is now an involved father and the Executive Director of ‘Shift Action’. He is a climate change expert with extensive domestic and international experience in policy, energy and finance, as well as campaign design and execution. He has a lifelong commitment to supporting the transition to a zero carbon economy in Canada. At Shift, he works with wide-ranging stakeholders to bring international climate leadership into Canada’s financial sector. Previously, Adam was Senior Advisor to Oil Change International and manager of Environmental Defence Canada’s Climate & Energy program. Adam has advised governments, communicated through national and international media, and published numerous reports focused on various aspects of the low carbon transition. Adam and his family have recently returned to Toronto after living in the UK.

Welcome on-board Adam and Bruce. With your very related expertise, your knowledge will strengthen our organization. Thank you!

Grass Carp

Grass carp is one of four species of invasive carp that are now threatening the Great Lakes from the US side. Sterile (“triploid”) grass carp are stocked routinely in parts of the United States to keep ponds free of aquatic vegetation. Grass carp feed on aquatic vegetation and have the potential to disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem and its economy. Grass carp are particularly destructive to wetlands and nearshore habitats, which also are key nursery areas for sport and commercial fish and are places where people recreate.

In the past, we have reported on the threat that Grass Carp pose to Georgian Bay’s extensive high-quality wetlands. We now have a report from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) that has the good news that the US states and the GLFC are now conducting eradication programs with ten “strike teams”, mostly in Lake Erie. But the GLFC has reported that Grass Carp have also been found in Lake Huron. Concerning, to say the least.

Included in this report is the photo below of a 66 lb Grass Carp caught last summer in an Ohio River that drains into Lake Erie. This fish’s weight tells us that it is estimated to be about 22 years old! That means that it has been contributing to the 3 times a year spawn of these invasive fish. This is unacceptable and Canada needs to step up and help search for and eradicate these fish in the Canadian waters of Lake Huron before they make their way into Georgian Bay where we know they will thrive. The US States still allow the sale of Grass Carp; perhaps the U.S. would be willing to contribute to Canadian efforts?

Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Fisheries Division staff, Mike Guthard and Eric Vaitkevicius, holding a 66 pound Grass Carp removed from the Maumee River, Ohio in July 2021. Photo Credit: Mike Guthard, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

  • The Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s stated goal  is “Scientists believe that removal of at least 390 reproductive grass carp annually is necessary to prevent establishment.”
  • Our question is, How and why did they pick that number? Why not just keep sending out the 10 strike teams until they cannot find anymore?

Water levels are dropping quickly – 4 feet in the past 2 years – very similar to what happened 1999 to 2001. Is it any surprise? Yet again, ice jams have occurred in the St. Clair River which likely will result in riverbed erosion. And the US Army Corps have funding to dredge the lower sections of the river but without any assessment of the impact on St. Clair River flows or levels, upstream and downstream.

No, the water level decline is no surprise – not when you consider that, as of today, no government agency has collected St. Clair River depth profiles to be able to develop a 3-dimensional model to assess conveyance change – a recommendation made by the IJC to our governments in 2013.

By comparison, just look below at how tightly Lake Superior is kept to a 4 foot range, on the same scale.

With little ice cover this winter there is increased evaporation happening – see February satellite image below of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

GBGLF finds the IJC Regulation Plan 2012 does not “balance interests upstream and downstream” as it is required to do.

Plan 2012 sets the discharge requirements for the control gates in the St. Mary’s River – the outflow of Lake Superior into Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay. Late last year our dedicated hydraulic control engineer, Bill Bialkowski, decided to run the levels and flow data, (supplied by the USACE), through his mathematical model to see if the recent discharges did in fact “balance interests”.

After several months of working on this, Bill was able to determine that in fact the International Lake Superior Board of Control failed to meet their own criteria to “balance interests”. We sent Bill’s work to the USACE’s Detroit staff to review, and they came back with some editing suggestions, but overall they agreed with Bill’s conclusions!

Bill Bialkowski’s slides are posted on our website, noted here, and his key points are:

Water Levels Since 1900

  • The Lake Superior water level range is 1.16 meters (3.8 feet)
  • By contrast, Lakes Michigan-Huron water level range is 1.9 meters (6.3 feet) or nearly double that of Lake Superior,
  • During the 1998-2013 protracted low water epoch, Lake Superior had a 20 cubic kilometer/year deficit, while Lakes Michigan-Huron had a 50 cubic kilometer/year deficit.
  • During the 2015-2021 high water period, Lake Superior had a 17 cubic kilometer/year surplus, while Lakes Michigan-Huron had a 50 cubic kilometer/year surplus.
  • Plan 2012 provided only modest benefit in addressing these imbalances, due to the vast storage capacities of these lakes and the flow limits imposed within the plan.

And here are Bill’s recommendations.

  1. Further Plan 2012 assessments need to be made to verify the “skill” that the plan provides in predicting outcomes particularly when water supplies exceed the magnitude and duration of historic conditions.
  2. Property owners with riparians rights need to lobby the IJC to act on implementing its own Crisis Response Measures, as identified in the 1993 Levels Reference Study; modeling needs to be conducted to identify potential benefits from implementation of these measures to alleviate extreme levels.
  3. A detailed evaluation needs to be made of the benefits/disbenefits of restoring Lake Superior’s natural range on levels and flows on the lower Great Lakes.
  4. The Coordinated Regulation and Routing Model, employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environment and Climate Change Canada, needs to be run by an outside impartial entity to validate the performance of Plan 2012, and to assess the consequences of management changes that the IJC is incapable or unwilling to explore.
  5. The riparian community across the Great Lakes region needs to lobby governments for adequate funding to identify adequate mitigation measures to reduce damages caused by extreme water levels. “Adaptation” is a panacea without commensurate emphasis on “Mitigation” options.

To learn more please join us on Sunday April 24 at noon at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg.

On behalf of our entire board and all our wonderful donors,

Mary Muter, Chair, Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation

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

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