AP Environmental Writer
Detroit (AP) — Lakes Huron and Michigan are not losing an unnaturally high volume of water to Lake Erie, and there is no need to place barriers in the St. Clair River to stem the outflow as a Canadian group is demanding, according to an engineering study released Friday.
A draft report prepared for the International Joint Commission, which advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on Great Lakes issues, acknowledges roughly 4.6 billion gallons more than normal escaped daily from Lake Huron in the mid-to-late 1980s.
But the excess was due to natural causes, including a 1984 ice jam, instead of dredging and other manmade alterations as claimed by the Georgian Bay Association, according to the report.
It disputes the Canadian group’s insistence that Huron and Michigan, which geographically are the same lake, still are losing billions of excess gallons daily as if a giant drain hole had been punched in the St. Clair, which is part of the southerly flowing river channel that links Huron and Erie.
The recent drop in Huron water levels that led the Georgian Bay Association to commission its own study resulted largely from drought and warmer temperatures, according to the report.
“Climate is the main driver of the lake level relationships between lakes over time,” according to the report.
“There has been a persistent decline in net total supply of water to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron over the past two decades that has resulted in declining lake levels and a change in the relationship to Lake Erie.”
The association, an environmental charity representing thousands of waterfront property owners on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, accused the government study board of rushing to judgment and ignoring crucial information.
“They started with flawed data, and they got flawed conclusions,” said Bill Bialkowski, a retired engineer and member of the association’s water levels committee.
Eugene Stakhiv, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water specialist and co-chairman of the team that produced the government study, defended its work.
“We had an open mind, we had no idea what the evidence was going to show us,” he said.