GBGLF November 2022 Newsletter

As 2022 winds down it is time for us to report on our work this year. But first we need to bring to your attention the little known facts about Premier Ford’s  Bill 23. While public pressure forced the re-instatement of the democratic right to appeal planning decisions that threaten our high-quality wetlands, if enacted, Bill 23 will allow developers to delist Provincially Significant Wetlands, reassess and change boundaries so that wetlands could be filled in and developed on. And then developers can pay another entity to “offset” or create another wetland somewhere else. But you cannot create a wetland that has the same ecological values as a natural wetland. Developers could now pay to have a duck pond built to “offset” filling in a high-quality Georgian Bay coastal wetland. It makes no sense facing climate change since wetlands provide important flood retention abilities and filter to clear nutrients from the water.

Heads up though – Bill 23 contains a Section “Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022” ie will allow a significant increase in York Region’s intrabasin transfer without getting the necessary approvals from the eight US Great Lakes states!

So far, this legislation is being fast tracked through legislation, supports an increase in York Region’s existing intrabasin transfer of water from Lake Simcoe across the hydrological divide just south of Holland Marsh down to Lake Ontario to the York Durham Sewage Treatment Plant. No one at Queen’s Park seems to have noticed that Ontario is a signatory to the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (GLSLRBSWRA). No signatory such as Ontario (York Region) is allowed to increase an existing intrabasin/diversion from one Great Lake to another (Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario) without the review and approval of the Governing Body for this Agreement that Ontario signed onto in 2005 and finally enacted the legislation in Ontario in 2015. This part of Bill 23 is actually illegal without the Governing Body’s approval. Our organization has posted comments and the deadline has been extended to Dec. 9, 2022 so you can also post your concerns via this link https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-6192

And remember – this is why the founding president of GBA Foundation, Roy Schatz, created GBA Foundation way back in 1993 when York Region first started talking about diverting Georgian Bay water south to Lake Ontario by sending their sewage and stormwater down to Lake Ontario. York Region has spent $100M to design a high level sewage treatment plant for north York Region. Now Premier Ford wants to throw all the work and taxpayers money away and instead send groundwater stormwater and sewage across the hydrological divide down to Lake Ontario. What will be the impact on all the agricultural lands in north York Region? To learn more about this concern our comments are available here.

Below are the current USACE graphs for Lakes Superior and Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay. Our question remains – why do lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay have an ever-widening range of levels over 6 feet (including new record high and low levels within the past 10 years) while Lake Superior is tightly held to a range of 4 feet?

Water levels continue a very significant decline and for our team this decline reminds us of the similar decline that began in 1999 just over 20 years ago. And that decline was related to an ice jam in the St. Clair River that caused erosion of the riverbed and increased the outflow. Well folks, during both this past winter and in the winter of 2021, major ice jams occurred in the St. Clair River so that the ice layed up to 8 feet thick and the water pushes through – eroding the bottom soft sand and clay sediments.  Canada sends an Arctic ice cutter down to the St. Clair River to break up the ice jambs. And the USACE dredges the south navigation channel where the sediment builds up to maintain the shipping channel. Once the ice clears out the outflow is then increased. No entity to date is assessing the impacts on the St. Clair River conveyance capacity and thus on our lake levels.

But the Seaway is supposed to be closed in the winter! No ships transit through the St. Mary’s or St. Lawrence Rivers in the winter months. Why are they allowed through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers? And if they are allowed – then why are there not ice booms placed at the mouth of the St. Clair River to block the loose ice from entering the River – the same as there are ice booms in the Niagara River to block ice from entering the hydropower generators?

And it gets worse – our hydraulic control engineer Bill Bialkowski has done his careful analysis and has found that the IJC’s Regulation Plan 2012 has deviated from that plan many times in the past decade for the sole benefit of Lake Superior by discharging more water when levels were at or above record highs on M/H/GB or held back water during low levels on M/H/GB. Bill’s findings have been shared with the USACE (who agreed with Bill’s findings) and Canadian Hydrographic Services but we have received no response as of sending out this newsletter.

We hate to sound like a broken record but the fact is that we are very likely headed to a new record low again. AND in September ECCC released their final report on climate change impacts for the Great Lakes. ECCC is now predicting that by 2030 our water levels will decline to 3 feet or a 1 M below the 2013 record low!!! And our own Baird Report III has similar predictions.

The impact of that decline for Georgian Bay and Lakes Michigan and Huron will be catastrophic. Our high quality wetlands will dry up. Aquatic life will be impacted. Beaches will dry up and the concentrated nutrients will lead again to botulism killing many shore birds again. Navigation channels will be difficult if not impossible in some water access only areas. Marinas and public municipal docks will be high and dry. Environment Canada is silent on the impacts.

Our organization has requested funding support from Minister Philippe Champagne so that we can collect current St. Clair River bathymetric data and then retain W.F. Baird to determine the conveyance change and the impact on our water levels.

In the New Year we will report on Prof. Pat Chow-Fraser’s team of researchers, Township of Georgian Bay water quality assessment work, and our great success working with Moose Deer Point First Nations tracking and protecting SAR Blanding’s turtles.

Thanks for your support!

Mary Muter, Chair, Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation

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