Reporter’s Notebook: Wild Variations in Water Levels Predicted for Huron/Michigan/Georgian Bay

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By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

Scoreboard at Ball Diamond

Tobermory Firefighters Association purchased a new scoreboard for the Tobermory ball diamond. It was delivered and installed just in time for the 2022 JP Johnstone Memorial Tournament.

It’s located behind the Visitors’ bench, where it is fully visible to fans in the stands and along the right field fence line.

Tobermory Firefighters Association purchased a scoreboard for the Tobermory ball diamond just in time for the 2022 JP Johnstone Memorial Tournament. (L-R) Dan Forbes accepted the scoreboard on behalf of the Chi-Cheemaun Weekend organizing committee; making the presentation were Firefighters Colin Tomchick and Chad Barchard, assisted by Sparky (Bill Gowland put in a long, hot day as Sparky).

New Info Booth at Harbour

Tobermory Chamber of Commerce has always had a challenge getting information to visitors. The Information Booth at the Community Centre is traditionally the busiest such facility in Grey Bruce (by a wide margin) but there were still a lot of visitors wandering around in need of help.

The last few years, the chamber has staffed an information table at the head of Little Tub Harbour on busy days to see if this would help. The experiment was extremely successful at reaching a lot of people, but a table is not practical on windy or rainy days. So in cooperation with the municipality, the chamber installed a small (portable with a forklift) building just off the south corner of the harbour, not far from the new public washrooms. Built to look like a fisherman’s shed, the new booth offers two service windows and a door than can stay open for ventilation purposes. The Chamber will staff the “information shed” seven days a week from nine to five until at least Labour Day.

Tobermory Chamber of Commerce installed its new information facility at the head of Little Tub Harbour, just in time for the 2022 season. In June it was almost as busy as the main office at the Community Centre; in July and August things will probably pick up even more.

Wild Water Level Variations

The Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to studying and predicting environmental changes around the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The organization (and its predecessor Georgian Bay Forever) have been studying and lobbying for decades. Their traditional focus has been on trying to persuade American and Canadian governments to mitigate the extreme water level variations that Lake Huron/Michigan and Georgian Bay are prone to.

They pointed out (loudly and often) that when water levels were extremely low (2000 to 2013), no attempts were being made to limit (or even monitor competently) the outflow of water through the St Clair River. The dredged shipping channel considerably increased the conveyance (flow capacity) of the river (further erosion of the bottom made it worse) and nothing was done (or even seriously contemplated) to limit that flow.

When increased precipitation in the late 2010s drove water levels up rapidly throughout the upper lakes, GBGLF pointed out that Lake Superior’s water levels were carefully kept within prescribed limits and all the excess water was dumped through the St Mary’s River into Lake Huron.

Government inaction, GBGLF insisted, caused both the high and the low water levels to be worse than they needed to be.

Environment Canada Climate Change recently released a slew of data and predictions about the next 80 years. GBGLF hired hydraulic control engineers Bill Bialkowski and Rob Nairn to explore and evaluate the information from ECCC on climate change water level predictions. Their findings were released in a webinar GBGLF held in May.

Their website offers links to that webinar as well as lots of other information on water levels, wetlands and invasive species: www.georgianbaygreatlakesfoundation.com

The Water Levels webinar is nearly an hour long but well worth the time. The last ten minutes are particularly compelling as Rob Nairn explores the various overlapping cycles that affect Great Lakes water levels and ties them to observed fluctuations since 1819.

Some highlights:

• Climate change will cause water levels to fluctuate more wildly than ever before.

• By 2030, water levels are expected to dip well below historic low-water records.

• By 2050, water levels are expected to rise somewhat but to fluctuate about 3m within any given 5-year period — from about half a metre below historic lows to at least a metre above historic highs.

• If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases, water level fluctuations will be even worse.