October 22, 2007

Contact: John Nevin, 202-256-1368

Key Great Lakes Advocates to Provide Public Input to International Upper Great Lakes Levels Study

Boaters, Anglers, Cities and Shipping Interests Come on Board

The International Joint Commission of Commission of the U.S. and Canada today announced the appointment of David Irish, Dan Thomas, James Weakley and Jeff Vito to the Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) that is advising the International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS). Given the urgency of moving the study forward as quickly as possible, they will meet shortly with their new colleagues and the Study Board. This binational water levels study is looking at whether the regulation of outflows from Lake Superior can be improved to address changing needs in the Upper Great Lakes.

In the study's first phase, a diverse array of experts are examining whether possible physical changes in the St. Clair River may be responsible for changes in water levels. More broadly, the researchers - with vital input from the public - will try to understand the impact of climate change on lake levels and how regulation of the lakes must take into consideration less precipitation, higher air and water temperatures, reduced ice cover and more evaporation.

"People who fish, boat and swim in the Upper Great Lakes and industries that depend on the lakes for shipping must play a critical role in the study," said Irene Brooks, acting U.S. chair of the IJC. Canadian chair Herb Gray added, "Broad and diverse public input will help make sure the results are valid, grounded in reality and useful to policy makers and managers in both the U.S. and Canada."

"Most importantly, the new PIAG members are independent and knowledgeable advocates for the Great Lakes," said Kay Felt, U.S. chair of the PIAG. "We all understand that the public wants scientifically sound answers as soon as possible, and I am looking forward to working with our new colleagues to see that that public concerns about low lake levels are fully understood and addressed."

The new members bring more than 125 years of experience on Great Lakes issues to the PIAG:

  • David Irish brings 55 years of experience racing sailboats on all of the Great Lakes. Irish founded a full service marina, boat yard and dealership in Harbor Springs 1961 and expanded to Charlevoix a decade later. Irish has served as president of the U.S. Sailing Association, is currently vice president of the International Sailing Federation and is a former director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. A dedicated public servant, Irish also served as mayor of Harbor Springs for six years.
  • Dan Thomas has been president of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council since 1989. Founded in 1973, the Council is non-profit binational umbrella organization representing 325,000 anglers in the U.S. and Canada and has been recognized as the leading advocacy group for sport fishermen and the sport fishing industry in the region. A resident of Illinois, Thomas is a lifelong fisherman and a founding officer and charter member of Salmon Unlimited and member of Illinois Steelheaders.
  • James H. I. Weakley is a 1984 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and has served as President of the Lake Carriers' Association since 2003. He is the chief spokesman for the U.S.-flagged Great Lakes carriers and is also an officer of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a member of the Board of Marine Transportation National Advisory Committee and represents Ohio as a Commissioner on the Great Lakes Commission. The Lake Carriers' Association is one of the oldest trade associations in the nation, representing 18 American corporations and 63 vessels.
  • Jeff Vito has devoted 33 years to municipal public service has currently serves as Superior's Director of Economic Development & Government Affairs. With 17 years as Superior's Director of Public Works, Vito oversaw a wide range of city services, including planning and administration of all major construction projects. Vito has an intimate knowledge of the Port of Superior, including development of a new marina and many other waterfront projects. Vito is also an active participant on behalf of Superior in the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

The International Joint Commission is an independent body established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of waters shared by the United States and Canada. IJC responsibilities include approving orders for the construction and operation of certain projects that change the natural levels and flows of boundary waters to ensure compliance with the terms of the treaty. The IUGLS is examining changes in the regulation of outflows from Lake Superior through control structures on the St. Mary's River at Sault Ste. Marie.

NOTE: A complete list of the IUGLS Study Board and PIAG is attached and complete biographies are available at

International Upper Lakes Study
Public Interest Advisory Group

  • Kay Felt, co-chair, Detroit, MI, retired attorney, first women member of Dykema Gossett PLLC
  • Dr. Jim Bruce, co-chair, Ottawa, ON, retired water and climate expert with Canadian government and international agencies
  • James Anderson, Renfrew, ON, policy advisor, Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Doug Cuddy, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, retired, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, CA; Lake Superior Conservancy and Watershed Council
  • Dick Hibma, Newmarket, ON, chairman, Conservation Ontario
  • Kenneth Higgs, Port Severn, ON, retired private citizen, shoreline property owner
  • William Hryb, Thunder Bay, ON, general manager, Lakehead Shipping Company, Ltd.
  • David Irish, Harbor Springs, MI, founder, Irish Boat Shop; 55 years experience sailing
  • John Jackson, Kitchener, ON, Director of Clean Production and Toxics Campaign, Great Lakes United
  • Donald Marles, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Lake Superior Advisory Committee; St. Mary's River Binational Public Advisory Council
  • Mary Muter, Toronto, ON, vice-president and environment chair, Georgian Bay Association and Georgian Baykeeper
  • David Powers, Bay City, MI, attorney, founder and vice president, Save Our Shoreline
  • Roger Smithe, Saugatuck, MI, chairman of the International Great Lakes Coalition
  • Sam Speck, Worthington, OH, former Director, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Dr. Alan Steinman, Muskegon, MI, Director of the Annis Water Resources Institute (Grand Valley State University) in Muskegon;
  • Dan Tadgerson, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, environmental director, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians;
  • Dan Thomas, Elmhurst, IL, President, Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council
  • Jeff Vito, Superior, WI, Director of Economic Development & Government Affairs, City of Superior
  • James Weakley, Cleveland, OH, President, Lake Carriers' Association

The IUGLS Study Board includes the co-chairs of the PIAG and a binational team of experts:

  • Dr. Eugene Stakhiv, co-chair, 37 years as hydrologic engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources with extensive international experience managing major water resource management studies
  • Ted Yuzyk, co-chair, former acting director of Water Survey of Canada (Environment Canada); hydrological adviser for Canada to the World Meteorological Association
  • Jim Bredin, nearly 30-year veteran at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality where he currently serves as assistant director of the Office of the Great Lakes
  • Dr. Jonathan Bulkley, Co-Director of the Center for Sustainable Systems, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Donald Burn, professor, University of Waterloo; editor, Canadian Water Resources Journal
  • Allan Chow, Engineering Services Supervisor, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
  • Jonathan H. Gee, Acting Senior Manager, Science Section, Meteorological Services of Canada, Ontario Operations, Environment Canada
News Room         Top of Page