Groups representing shoreline property owners, primarily in Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, have demanded action to slow the Lake Huron and Michigan outflow to make up for losses that resulted from dredging, which they contend are even greater than officials have acknowledged.
Although the Army corps produced a list of water-slowing options in 1972, including miniature dams and sills that resemble speed bumps along the river bottom, nothing was done because the lakes were in a period of above-average levels that lasted nearly three decades, Kompoltowicz said.
The corps has congressional authorization to take action but would need money for an updated study as a first step, he said. The Detroit office is considering a funding request, but it would have to compete with other projects nationwide and couldn't get into the budget before 2015.
“It's no guarantee that we're going to get it, especially in this budget climate,” Kompoltowicz said. “But there are serious impacts to navigation and shoreline property owners from this extreme event. It's time to revisit this.”
Scientists and engineers convened by the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency that deals with shared waterways, issued reports in 2009 and last year that opposed trying to regulate the Great Lakes by placing structures at choke points such as the St. Clair River. The commission has conducted public hearings and will issue a statement in about a month, spokesman John Nevin said.
Roger Gauthier, a retired staff hydrologist with the Army corps, said a series of “speed bumps” could be put in the river at a reasonable cost within a few years. Without such measures, he warned, “it would take years of consistent rain” to return Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to normal.