Between living in Collingwood and owning a cottage on Manitoulin Island, this marks the 56th summer that I have spent time on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron . During this time frame I have seen it all from the record low water levels of the mid 1960's when I was a kid to several years in the late 1980's when there was no shoreline at all in some areas due to abnormally high water levels. It should be noted that Lakes Michigan and Huron and the only two of the five Great Lakes that do not have a mechanism to control the outflow of water which exits at will down the St. Clair River.
During the past two years over 100 scientists in Canada and the U.S have been studying the St. Clair River system between Lakes Michigan-Huron to Lake Erie. Many people myself included have held the belief that the deepening of the St. Clair River stemming from dredging in 1963 to accommodate larger freighters through the St. Lawrence Seaway and subsequent erosion of the river bed has increased the outflow of water thus depleting the levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron which of course includes Georgian Bay. Preliminary results from these studies tends to downplay the increased flow rate of the St. Clair River which has raised the ire of many including the Georgian Bay Association which commissioned its own study known as the Baird Report.
Current water levels in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Georgian Bay are up approximately 9" over last year which is encouraging. According to the most recent studies, the St Clair riverbed has been stable with no further evidence of erosion resulting in no increased outflow from these bodies of water since 2000. It was also emphasized last week, that the area surrounding Georgian Bay has experienced a significant amount of glacial isostatic adjustment which is the rebounding of the earth's crust after the melting of the glaciers that covered this area some 10,000 years ago. In essence, the land surrounding Georgian Bay has risen some 4.3 inches since 1963 so it's not so much a matter of the water going down as the land is going up. That's fine but does not explain where the other 30+ inches of water has disappeared to since the late 1980's. Many of those that attended the meeting in Collingwood, were like myself, waterfront property owners. Many expressed their frustration with the fact that there appears to be a classic example of paralysis by analysis going on with countless studies, many of which contradict each other and no action. While the current studies pertaining to the St. Clair River are to be finalized and submitted by October of this year, their position at the present time is that no remedial action should be taken on the St. Clair River at this time. I suspect it will be many years and perhaps not even in many of our lifetimes before any action is taken to control the outflow of water from Lakes Michigan-Huron via the St. Clair River. As such we will no doubt see many years of continued water level fluctuations and perhaps to chronically low levels before action is taken to protect these critical fresh-water resources.