May 23, 2006

IJC initiates study of upper Great Lakes

The International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States (IJC) announced today that it is starting a major study of the upper Great Lakes. The study area includes lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie, and their interconnecting channels (St. Mary's River, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and Niagara River), up to Niagara Falls.

The IJC will draw on the results of the study, for which it has now received letters of support from the governments of Canada and the United States, to determine whether the regulation of Lake Superior outflows can be improved to address the evolving needs of the upper Great Lakes, and whether it needs to update its Order of Approval at St. Mary's River between Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, to do so.

Major topics for investigation include determining the factors that affect water levels and flows, developing and testing the performance of potential new regulation plans including under climate change scenarios, and assessing the impacts of these potential plans on the ecosystem and human interests. Physical changes in the St. Clair River will be investigated early in the study as one factor that might be affecting water levels and flows. Depending on the nature and extent of the physical changes, and their potential impact on water levels and flows, the study may also explore potential remediation options.

The IJC will now appoint a binational study board and public advisory group, and work with the governments of the United States and Canada to put their funding mechanisms and other needed resources in place. The study is expected to take five years to complete and cost U.S. $14.6 million. These costs will be split equally by the two governments, and the Commission will continue to work with governments to secure the necessary resources for the study.

By initiating the study now, the IJC will be able to take advantage of the lessons learned and engage technical personnel from the recently-completed IJC Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study involving the IJC's Order of Approval at Massena, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario.

The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share. Its responsibilities include considering applications for projects that affect the natural levels and flows of boundary waters, such as the works in the St. Mary's River between Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, that are used to regulate Lake Superior outflows. If it approves a project, the Commission's Orders of Approval usually requires that the flows through the project meet certain conditions to protect interests in both countries and establishes a board of control to ensure that those conditions are met.

For more information, visit the Commission's website at or the study's website at


Frank Bevacqua Washington (202) 736-9024
Paula Fedeski-Koundakjian Ottawa (613) 947-1420


News Room         Top of Page