Georgian Bay High Water Levels

The following is taken from the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation August 2020 Update:

“This has been a strange, new-world summer as we dealt both with COVID 19 and extreme high water levels on our Bay. Adjusting our lives to prevent COVID spread is now with us until vaccines are widely available.  But tolerating the economic and ecological damages, including the loss of precious wetland and fish habitat caused by extreme IJC defined “crisis” levels, is unacceptable given that both the IJC and Ontario’s OPG could have taken measures to lower our levels.” Read the entire update here.

So what can and needs to be done? The Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation has “the following advice for our government agencies.

  1. Request to Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry: Reduce Long Lac and Ogoki diversions temporarily now for emergency relief. There are 3 precedents for this – in the 1970s, 1980s and again as recently as 3 years in the 1990s, these diversions were reduced.
  2. That the IJC direct the Lake Superior Board of Control to compensate for the 360CM/s of extra flow that they directed from Dec. 2019 to March 2020.
  3. That the IJC require that the Lake Superior Board of Control reduce Lake Superior discharges to alleviate “Crisis” conditions downstream in order to meet their own stated criterion to “balance upstream and downstream interests”.
  4. That all parties involved face facts and act on them. So far the IJC and the Ontario government are using the excuse that these measures would reduce our levels by only a few centimeters. The reality is that if both the Long Lac and Ogoki diversions and the Lake Superior discharges to the North Channel had been reduced beginning in 2014, when we hit IJC-defined “crisis alert high conditions”, the level of Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay would now be 8 inches or 20 cm below our current level. That is NOT “only a few centimeters”, as letters from officials and agencies state. To not take these actions is simply irresponsible of the IJC and the Government of Ontario.
  5. To both Federal governments: Request that the IJC undertake an immediate review of IJC Regulation Plan 2012. We need accurate St. Clair River flows and depths measured across the river’s entire width and length, not just the US side, in order to better understand this unstable riverbed, which Baird Report 1 (2004) determined was eroding. Such erosion likely continued until 2010. This is the only connecting Great Lakes channel that has no official government oversight. The other channels have Control Boards that meet monthly and set discharge amounts. The St. Clair River has nothing even close to that.”

And what can you as an IVDAARA member do? WRITE LETTERS OR MAKE PHONE CALLS!! Contact your MP and MPP. Here is a list of the appropriate Canadian Legislators and Members of Parliament:

Contact information for Canadian Legislators/ Federal MP:

1 Prime Minister of Canada : Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau

2 Deputy Prime Minister of Canada & Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs : Hon. Chrystia Freeland

3 Minister of Foreign Affairs : Hon. Francois-Philippe Champagne

4 Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness : Hon. Bill Blair

5 Minister of Transport : Hon. Marc Garneau

6 Minister of the Environment & Climate Change : Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson

7 Your MP

Contacts for ONTARIO:

8 Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry : Hon. John Yakabuski

9 Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing : Hon. Steve Clark

10 Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries : Hon. Lisa MacLeod

11 Minister of Environment, Conservation & Parks : Hon. Jeff Yurek

12 Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation & Trade : Hon. Vic Fedeli

13 Minister of Transportation : Hon. Caroline Mulroney

14 Solicitor General of Ontario : Hon. Sylvia Jones

15 Your MPP : Bill Walker

Restore Our Water International released the above letter on March 17, 2020. Click on Press Release to open document

IVDAARA Past President Brad Kuhn has written to the appropriate agencies. Following below are his letters and the reply he has received:

“Thursday, August 6, 2020

Dear Member of Parliament

I am sending you this letter to express my concern over current “crisis” high water levels on the middle Great Lakes. Our government agencies are trying to blame this entirely on the weather but in fact the levels data and satellite imagery tells another story and points to decreased conveyance capacity in the St. Clair River so that water is simply not able to flow out of Lakes Michigan/ Huron and Georgian Bay. However, I am concerned about the lack of action on the part of our political leadership to reduce these levels through existing methods such as reducing inflows into Lake Superior from the Long Lac-Ogoki Diversion and increasing outflows through the Lake Michigan Diversion at Chicago. I understand that using these diversion canals will only reduce extreme levels by a moderate amount, but we need any help that we can get now! We want all options to be implemented.

My cottage is located at Big Bay (504231 Grey Road 1 in Georgian Bluffs, Ontario) on Georgian Bay. The water level has risen more than four feet since 2014. I am not sure my cottage will make it through this winter due to the waves created on the high water level by the wind. I have installed over 200 tons of large rocks and the waves have undermined these rocks with relative ease. I need your assistance to address the high water levels in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is an emergency.

I ask you to formally request the Ontario government and Ontario Power Generation to immediately temporarily reduce the discharges from the Long Lac and Ogoki diversion. Further, I ask you to request that the US State Department work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase temporarily the Chicago diversion immediately. These measures would provide relief for all the Great Lake’s current high water level conditions. Furthermore, both Americans and Canadians want the International Joint Commission to establish an international working committee that includes riparian representatives to assess unreported changes that have been occurring in the St. Clair – Detroit River system. We need our governments and their agencies to focus their attention on ensuring that the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River system is more resilient to climate extremes over the remainder of this century. Our Great Lakes need this emphasis today.


Brad Kuhn”

And the reply:

“From: “Great Lakes and Water Policy Section (MNRF)” <>

Date: August 7, 2020 at 2:33:57 PM EDT

To: “” <>

Subject: FW: Concerns Regarding High Water Levels in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay

Dear Mr. Kuhn:

Minister Yakabuski has forwarded me your email outlining your concerns regarding water levels on the Great Lakes, and Georgian Bay in particular. I appreciate hearing your input and recognize the challenges and frustrations that many property owners along the Great Lakes are experiencing as a result of shoreline flooding and erosion and am pleased to respond on behalf of the Ministry.

The International Joint Commission (IJC), a bi-national organization established by the governments of the United States and Canada under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, governs outflows from the Great Lakes. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is a stakeholder in these discussions, and decisions and control reside with the IJC. Water levels are affected by a combination of factors such as rain, surface runoff and evaporation, as well as limited control that can be provided by the management of water control structures. Unintended potential impacts must be carefully considered when considering changes to management of water control structures. I assure you that the MNRF remains in close communication with the IJC and federal government representatives in Canada and the United States to support and provide input on Great Lakes water level management activities while continuing to bring forward Ontario’s interests, including the concerns you have identified in your email. For additional information about how the IJC control outflows, and for contact information, please visit their website.

I would like to clarify that the major dams involved in the Long Lac and Ogoki diversions are owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation, and managed in accordance with the Nipigon and Aquasabon Water Management Plans. It is important to understand that redirecting the diversions would likely provide limited relief to Lake Huron-Michigan shorelines, while creating potential downstream impacts to local infrastructure, hydropower and forestry operations, First Nations communities, and impacts to ecosystems that have adapted to the current regime.

I would also like to point out that for shoreline repair work resulting from high water levels, the MNRF provides a streamlined work permit process for permits under the Public Lands Act, to control for impacts to crown land (the beds of the Great Lakes). Conservation authority permits may also be required. More details can be found online.

Flooding is a serious problem and one that is becoming increasingly common as Ontario experiences more frequent extreme weather events. Protecting People and Property, Ontario’s Flooding Strategy, outlines the province’s next steps to reduce flood risks and help Ontarians be better prepared for flooding events. The Strategy introduces a series of new and enhanced actions that will reduce flood

risks and make our province better prepared for flooding events, better equipped to respond to them, and more capable of recovering quickly from them.

While we can’t prevent flooding, we can reduce the impacts when it happens. All levels of government, agencies and property owners have an important role to play in order to become better prepared for flooding.

Thank you again for writing.

Jen McKay, A/Manager

Water Resources Section

Policy Division

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry”

Mr Kuhn’s response:

Dear Minister Yakabuski,

I am responding to your recent response to my letter regarding my concerns about the damages occurring on the shoreline at my property on Georgian Bay.

I have continued my research concerning what is happening and not happening to address our extreme IJC defined “Crisis high levels” on Georgian Bay. It appears that the IJC (International Joint Commission) is ignoring its’ own recommendations. In the IJC’s 1993 best water levels report they determined crisis high and low levels definitions for all the Great Lakes and made recommendations of actions to be taken during these “crisis” conditions. But right now, you Minister Yakabuski, and the IJC are ignoring those recommendations and worse you are denying the benefits and relief that they could provide. Why is our part of the Great Lakes being treated as the forgotten and ignored part of the Great Lakes? In the 1970’s, in the 1980’s and again for several years in the 1990’s the Long Lac and Ogoki diversions were reduced. There is a clear precedent for this. If you had required OPG to reduce those diversions into Lake Superior in 2014 when our water levels rose to “crisis alert” IJC defined conditions, our water levels would now be 10 cm or 4 in lower than they are now. That is not “limited relief”. And given that conditions are currently dry in northern Ontario, a 4% increase (due to reducing these diversions) in the Albany River flow should not cause any concerns.

And if the IJC had in 2014, stopped allowing deviations and discharges well beyond what their Regulation Plan 2012 allowed and instead reduced the discharges by a modest 90 Cu.M/S that would also have reduced Georgian Bay levels today by another 10 cm or 4 in. That is in total a 20cm or 8 in reduction that would provide very significant relief to all shoreline property owners on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. That is not a “few centimeters”. How can you possibly justify not supporting these measures? Why has the IJC acted aggressively to lower Lake Ontario levels? Why do we have a range of 6.5 feet and Superior’s is kept to 4 feet? Plan 2012 has criteria that the IJC and their Control Board are supposed to “balance” interests both upstream and downstream. But there is no balance in these decisions. There are only Billions of dollars being spent by shoreline property owners and municipalities and very significant wetlands and fish habitat loss occurring. For whose benefit? Shipping and hydro power. This has to stop.

I would truly appreciate hearing your response to the information that I have shared above. We need you to act now Minister before the harm and damages become insurmountable.

Your careful consideration of the needs of Ontarians who have property along the shore line of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay will be appreciated.

Brad Kuhn”

And below, watch the webinar on Extreme Water Levels on the Upper Great Lakes” for detailed information on our present situation.

Comments are closed.