Mother Nature filled the Great Lakes to overflowing and it will be up to Mother Nature to bring them down to historic levels.
That’s the message the Long Point Region Conservation Authority has for property owners who wonder if there is a manmade solution to the Lake Erie waves eroding their waterfront.
Ben Hodi, a water resources analyst with the LPRCA, says no one can control how quickly water from Lake Erie passes over Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario. The only relief available are evaporation and a moderation in the rate of precipitation in this part of North America, he said.
“The Great Lakes have received so much precipitation through the winter and more recently for rainfall as well.”
Lake Erie is about 80 centimetres higher than its historic average. It reached that point last spring and is at its highest point above sea level since record-keeping began.
The high water has wiped out popular beaches and is menacing waterfront properties in communities such as Long Point.
Standing water has been an issue in Long Point and – to a lesser extent – in Turkey Point, since spring. This is not ponding as traditionally understood but rather the lake at its current level moving inland.
Hodi said proactive measures to reduce water levels are problematic for several reasons.
For example, water could be hastened out of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence Seaway by opening the Iroquois Dam between Cornwall and Brockville. However, for every centimetre Lake Ontario is lowered the water level at Montreal on the St. Lawrence River would rise nearly 15 centimetres, too much for any waterfront city, he said.
And the action would do nothing to increase the outflow of Lake Erie at Niagara Falls, Hodi said.
The high water in Long Point is having an impact on area businesses. Long Point Provincial Park and its 256 campsites attract about 100,000 visitors a season to this part of Norfolk County.
The park has been open this summer for day-use. However, standing water has kept several campgrounds closed for prolonged periods of time. Ontario Parks is monitoring the situation and reviewing the park’s status daily.
Traffic through the park is a prime generator of revenue for Long Point and Port Rowan-area businesses. The situation at the park has prompted the Long Point Country Chamber of Commerce to take its case to social media.
“This is a shout-out to our friends and followers,” the chamber said on its Facebook page last Friday. “Please help us spread the word.
“Our beautiful Long Point Country is open for business. The marinas are open and renting boats, kayaks, paddle boards, Sea-doos and more! The boat charters are running! The eateries are open! The stores have exactly what you are looking for in stock! And — most importantly — there are other campgrounds besides the provincial park in the area and open to campers. And even the provincial park is not fully closed: Day-use for the beach is still open.
“Even though the water is high, there are still stretches of nice beach available. Please help us counteract the press that is scaring away you — our friends and neighbours. We miss you.”
Canada and the United States formed the International Joint Commission in 1909 to mediate disputes involving shared waterways.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway are key jurisdictions. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the large volume of water that has entered the Great Lakes basin over the past two years hasn’t translated into better water quality.
Sally Cole-Misch, a public affairs officer with the IJC in Windsor, said major rain events overwhelmed many sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment plants in communities throughout the Great Lakes area.
As a result, Cole-Misch says far more untreated sewage has entered the Great Lakes than would have been the case under normal conditions, degrading the overall quality of the ecosystem.