Great Lakes backwash - must not continue
Written by South Bend Tribune   
Tuesday, 08 February 2005 09:36

We'd like our water back. But that probably isn't going to happen.

What can't happen soon enough is the end of the excessive draining of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron into Lake Erie.

That means the issue must become a high priority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the International Joint Commission, the agency that advises the Canadian and U.S. governments on Great Lakes policy. Any political pressure to speed the process certainly would be welcome.

There is strong evidence that erosion of a 1962 dredging project in the St. Clair River is causing vast amounts of water from the western Great Lakes to flow southeastward.

The dredging 43 years ago was to enable larger ships to clear the river bottom. But erosion has made the channel and parts of Lake St. Clair far deeper than called for -- twice as deep in some places. It appears that the effect has been to draw off enormous amounts of water from the big lakes.

A study conducted by the Georgian Bay Association, on behalf of the people who live on the eastern side of Lake Huron, has concluded that the draw-off has been a major factor in the decline in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels. The two have dropped as much as 13 inches. And they've lost 32 inches in the 145 years since the St. Clair River first was dredged.

We're not suggesting that the St. Clair River shouldn't continue to be a shipping conduit. And we understand that shipping requires that the river be deeper than nature intended. But it shouldn't be deeper than necessary.

The Great Lakes are under much environmental stress, made worse by dropping levels in the cases of Huron and Michigan. If, as the evidence suggests, the decline is manmade and not part of a natural cycle, it must be halted.

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