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October 5, 2010

IJC expands the scope of the International Upper Great Lakes Study

In response to the International Upper Great Lakes Study's report on the St. Clair River, and comments from the public on the report, the International Joint Commission (IJC) has issued a letter to the Study Board providing guidance on the ongoing work of the International Upper Great Lakes Study. The IJC has also issued letters to the Governments of Canada and the United States to inform them of this guidance.

Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River concluded the first phase of a study of the upper Great Lakes. It examined the physical changes in the St. Clair River since 1962 and recommends that measures to remediate the increased conveyance, or water-carrying capacity, of the river not be undertaken at this time. It also recommends that mitigation measures in the St. Clair River be examined as part of the comprehensive assessment of the future effects of climate change in the second phase of the study. Over the long term, the Study Board recommended that the Governments of Canada and the U.S. undertake cooperative efforts to improve the monitoring and analysis of Great Lakes water supplies and connecting channel flows.

The IJC concurs with the recommendations in the report and has provided further guidance to the Board pertaining to the first recommendation that remedial measures not be undertake in the St. Clair River at this time.

In this regard, the IJC has directed the Study Board to undertake an exploratory investigation of how raising the water-level regimes on Lakes Michigan and Huron by different amounts would affect interests on the Great Lakes system from Lake Superior to the St. Lawrence River. With respect to the second recommendation of the report, the Commission has agreed with the Study Board that it also review mitigative options based on potential climate change impacts.

In addition, the Commission provided guidance to the Study Board on three important matters raised in its 7th Progress Report, directing them to:

  • propose one alternative to the existing regulation plan based on its scientific investigations and extensive public input;
  • establish a legal rationale for selecting a future regulation plan that allows for the possibility of new physical conditions under a changing climate; and,
  • investigate and recommend institutional mechanisms for the management of water resources through one or more management boards in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River System.

The study will continue to examine whether the IJC Order of Approval and plan for regulating Lake Superior outflows should be modified to address the changing climate and the evolving needs of users on lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie. The final report of the Study Board on the entire study is expected to be completed and submitted to the IJC by early 2012.

Funded equally by the U.S. and Canadian governments, the $ 17.5 million (CND) study is being conducted by the binational, independent International Upper Great Lakes Study Board at the request of the IJC under the authority of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.

Related Document:

Public Consultations on the St. Clair River Report: Key Issues and IJC Responses


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

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