Georgian Bay, ON - Mary Muter
My name is Mary Muter. The name of my waterbody is Georgian Bay and I am the Chair of the Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation.
For about 25 years, I've been involved in water quality, fisheries assessment, but in around 2001 after water levels fell between 4 and 5 ft on Georgian Bay, which is part of Lake Huron and connected with Lake Michigan, I was stunned because it just seemed out of whack with the normal rise and fall of water levels. So I started investigating it, I actually drove down to the St. Clair River which is the outflow for that huge body of water into the St. Clair River. I was astounded by a) the rate of flow in the St. Clair River, how turbulent it was, the sharp turns everywhere, and big ships transiting along with small recreational boats through what looked like almost treacherous narrow channels. As I stood on the side and could see the sandy bottom, I looked out maybe only 200-300 ft and there was a big ship transiting through. So the question in my mind was how deep is it out there for the big ships to transit there. So I, at that point haven’t been involved in Great Lake work, called a US army corp of engineers that I knew of and said how deep is the St. Clair River at the blue water bridge at Sarnia. And he said, well we don’t really know because we haven’t taken any measurements there for about 30 years. So he said to me, as a Canadian citizen, “would you like me to send a crew out to figure out how deep it is?”. And I said, “that would be nice”. And he phoned me back only a couple of days later and said “wow, we had no idea it was that deep there. We dredged that channel in the 1960s to 30 ft. it’s now over 50 ft deep”. And I said, “wow”, and he said “would you like me to see if we have any historical data?”. He phoned me back a couple of days later and said “we found some historical data, but it wasn’t taken at the exact same place as where we took the measurements last week. Would you like us to send the crew out and redo the measurement at the exact same spot?”. And he did that, and he said “wow, there’s been a big change”. So he said, “would you like me to send you this data in profile format as an attachment in an email”, and I said “that would be great”. Then I started talking to Environment Canada who monitor water levels and flow in the Great Lakes and I said “can you give me the flow data and the levels data at that point from 1865 to 2000”. “Sure”. “Send it to me as an excel file, both files”. My son was in his last year of engineering and he said “would you like me to create a profile for both of these sets of data? There should be relationship between the two”. So I said, “yes”. So he did and he said “look, come and look mom”. And he said there was a relationship between levels and flow from 1965 to the mid 1980s and the relationship fell apart.
So that started a long journey on my part to find engineers and experts that understood this. We eventually determined the ongoing erosion in the St. Clair River was a contributing factor big time to lowering water levels in Lake Michigan and Huron at Georgian Bay. Now the IJC has investigated it, recommended that steps be taken to restore Michigan-Huron levels by stabilizing the St. Clair River and putting in some kind of flexible structures in there. I guess what really bothered me was around about 2001, on Georgian Bay we have the highest quality most extensive wetlands from anywhere on the Great Lakes. And when they dried up, I looked at them and thought where are the fish going to spawn? I guess that’s what really affected me the most. Our family fishes regularly and we fish from Georgian Bay all summer long at least once a week. So that’s my story.