IJC trying to hold back the tide; mayor says Stag Island gate ‘grasping at straws’

Grasping at straws. That’s what St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold calls an idea to put flap gates from Stag Island to Corunna to help raise dangerously low water levels in the Great Lakes.

That idea is one of the options to be explored by the International Joint Commission to increase water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan. The IJC has been studying the problem for months now but says more action needs to be taken specifically on Lake Huron and Michigan since water levels have dropped up to 10 inches since the 1960s.

The flap gate is one of the solutions to be explored to improve the situation according to the IJC. But Arnold has reservations. “That’s the small channel; if you want to make a difference put it on the west side where the big side is. That’s a small cut,” says Arnold of the proposed location.

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold

“I think there are a lot of people grasping at straws trying to make decisions based on an overhead Google map and never having understood the area …the dynamics of the watershed,” he says. “If I put flappers there and back that thing up does that mean the water level in Lake St. Clair is going to go down to three feet?…Is that what somebody wants?”

Arnold isn’t the only one questioning the idea. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley voiced his concern for the proposed project and even the US Chair of the IJC, Lana Pollack, disagrees. She refused to sign the report containing the recommendation. She also cautioned against raising “false hopes that structures in the St. Clair River, if built, would be sufficient to resolve the suffering from low water levels of Lake Michigan-Huron, while at the same time causing possible disruption downstream in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.”

Arnold believes there is another way to deal with the issue of low water levels. “I think if anyone is actually serious about the Great Lakes and their levels, they’ll look at Niagara Falls. That’s where the water goes in large volumes and until you back up Lake Erie, back up Lake St. Clair, back up Lake Huron, right up to Superior; you’re not going to change the water levels of any great lake,” says Arnold.

“We’re sucking more water out of the Great Lakes than we ever have before and we’re surprised the lake levels are dropping?”

– Heather Wright