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September 23, 2009

International Joint Commission to hold Public Hearings on Report on Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River

The International Joint Commission (IJC) announced today that it will hold public hearings to invite comment on the report of its International Upper Great Lakes Study Board regarding Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River. The report is scheduled to be released December 15, 2009, and the hearings will be held at times and locations to be announced early in the new year.

The report will conclude the first phase of the study and will examine the physical changes in the St. Clair River since 1962. The report will provide recommendations from the Study Board to the IJC on whether further consideration of measures to remediate the increased conveyance, or water-carrying capacity, of the river since 1962 is warranted.

The second phase of the study will continue to examine whether the regulation plan set by an IJC order for outflows from Lake Superior through the compensating works and power dams on the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie might be improved to take into consideration changing interests and changing climate. The second phase of the study will also examine whether mitigation measures in the St. Clair River might be necessary based on the Board's assessment of the potential future impacts of climate change on levels in the upper Great Lakes. The final report of the Study Board on the entire study is expected to be completed and submitted to the IJC by early 2012.

"We are inviting full public scrutiny of the issues regarding flows in the St. Clair River because they are of critical importance to the future management of water supplies in the upper Great Lakes," said Irene Brooks, chair of the IJC's U.S. Section.

"We will carefully consider any concern that is raised during the public discussions of the issues related to flows in the St. Clair River," said Herb Gray, chair of the IJC's Canadian Section.

The Study Board invited public comment on its draft report regarding Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River from May 1 to August 1, 2009. After considering public comments, peer reviews and the results of additional research, the Study Board is expected to transmit the report to the IJC in final form and release it to the public on December 15, 2009. The new release date reflects the extension of the public comment period, delays in receiving independent peer reviews and time needed to complete additional investigations.

During the public comment period on the draft Study Board report, concerns were raised that, due to delays in the independent peer review process, not all peer review documents were available to the public and that some of the technical reports might be subject to change as a result of the peer review. Therefore, the IJC will schedule its public hearings after the public has had sufficient opportunity to review all documents related to the Study Board's report regarding Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River. After considering the report of its Study Board and comments from the public, the IJC will inform the Governments of Canada and the United States about physical changes in the St. Clair River, their impacts on the upper Great Lakes and its conclusions to date regarding remedial measures in the St. Clair River.

Funded equally by the U.S. and Canadian governments, the International Upper Great Lakes Study seeks to determine whether the IJC Order of Approval and plan for regulating Lake Superior outflows should be modified to address the evolving needs of users on Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie. Physical changes in the St. Clair River, which forms part of the connecting channel between Lakes Huron and Erie, were a priority topic for investigation in the first phase of the study as one factor that might be affecting water levels and flows. The study is being conducted by the bi-national, independent International Upper Great Lakes Study Board at the request of the IJC under the authority of the Boundary Waters Treaty.

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 diversion of water for hydropower production and the compensating works in the St. Marys River. The Commission's Orders of Approval require that the flows through the project meet certain conditions to protect interests in both countries. For more information, visit the Commission's website at


Ottawa Bernard Beckhoff (613) 947-1420
Washington Frank Bevacqua (202) 736-9024

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