Editorial: The lakes' greatness is in danger
All of this is bad news for the tourism industry and for consumers of products shipped through the Great Lakes.
The Sault Star (Opsrey Media)
May 10, 2007
How low's the water mama? Folks living along the shores of Lake Superior could be singing this parody of the Johnny Cash song as they watch water levels fall. It hasn't been lower since 1926. It has fallen 46 centimetres below its long-term average and 32 cm lower than just a year ago, reports the International Lake Superior Board of Control.
Who cares, you may ask?
The answer is we all should.
In the short term, dropping water levels negatively impacts recreational and commercial boaters. The Duluth News Tribune reported recently that "low water levels are restricting access to Lake Superior for big recreational boats, especially sailboats that have 6- to 8-foot keels." The shipping industry is also affected because it could be forced to lessen loads. Low water levels also pose a hazard to animal habitats. It may become difficult for fish like walleye and northern pike to spawn.
The long-term issue is one that is in the forefront of today's public discussion - global warming.
A group of University of Minnesota scientists last month said global warming over the past three decades has brought change faster to Lake Superior than to its surroundings.
Less winter ice cover means Superior loses more water to evaporation and gets more sun, contributing to the overall warming of the lake. The situation has gone beyond a statistical blip. There's a trend developing here.
The levels have been below average now for almost nine years, which is the longest stretch below average on Lake Superior since we started keeping records in the early 1900s.
What can we do to fight back?
First, we should take the issue of global warming seriously.
Second, Canadians and Americans should once again stress opposition to any grand plans for water diversion and taking water from the Great Lakes.
Water levels naturally go up and down, but throw human interference into the mix and nobody is certain what will happen. When human interference happens on a grand scale, over a long period of time, the results are often not good.
Let's be careful that we don't take the "Great" out of our wonderful Great Lakes.