Climate Change and the Great Lakes Water Levels:
Are the Potential Impacts, and What Can We Do?
Gary Gulezian, director of EPA´s Great Lakes Program Office, welcomed 90 participants that included marina owners, academics, private citizens, and owners from the marine transport industry, as well as representatives of environmental organizations, shipping associations, state and local environmental agencies, and federal agencies. We have a responsibility to protect this magnificent resource for this and future generations, Gulezian said as he opened the meeting.
Recent findings from the Great Lakes Regional Assessment suggest that increased water temperatures and evaporation could contribute to a lake level decline of approximately 1.5 to 3 feet on various Great Lakes within the next 30 years. What does that mean for the stakeholders who rely on using the Great Lakes for commercial and recreational purposes? Speakers at the workshop will address challenges faced by marina and water-borne cargo business owners, as well as critical water management and mitigation strategies. Panel discussions will follow, creating a forum for discussion among stakeholders, regarding not only the potential effects of climate change, but also policy options to address these impacts. Additional
Background Information: Because the Great Lakes basin is an internationally shared resource, numerous state, provincial, county, and municipal authorities make up a complex jurisdictional structure. Within that structure, water regulation strategies must be able to accommodate both high and low water levels. Commercial carriers, for example, are very dependent on water depth in the channel-ways and harbors. Lower lake levels mean that ships cannot carry as much cargo. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence water transportation system supports more than 30,000 jobs in the US and Canada. Also, there are more than 4 million recreational boats owned in the Great Lakes region and a large network of marinas. With lower lake levels, there is a greater risk of running aground in harbors and marinas, or while underway in lakes or rivers because of propeller, keel, or hull strikes on the bottom. Dredging activities may be used to offset some of the effects from low lake levels but are not without their own potentially negative consequences namely the cost involved and the resuspension of toxic sediments.
Agenda (html / pdf)
Q&A Periods (Morning / Afternoon)
Workshop Report (pdf)
Paper Report Available on Request
Invitation or Flyer
Others (ex. video)
*The Chicago workshop attracted strong public and media attention, reflecting the importance of the lakes as the foundation of the region´s industrial strength and multibillion-dollar tourist industry.
The Chicago Tribune
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Times Northwest Indiana