Listen: Superior Watershed

MER’s Hugh Morgan reports that The International Joint Commission proposes using Lake Superior as a reservoir to control unusually high water in the other Great Lakes: Michigan, Erie and Huron.

Residents of Lake Superior have heard water might be allowed to rise by 22 inches, however the Corps of Engineers says water wouldn’t go higher than eight and a half inches. At a public meeting, the measure was opposed by Minnesota and Wisconsin state agencies and by residents of the Superior shoreline, with concerns about erosion and beaches.


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HUGH MORGAN: The International Joint Commission proposes using Lake Superior as a sort of reservoir to control unusually high water in lakes Michigan, Erie, and Huron. Residents of Superior's Western shore have heard in recent weeks that the water might be allowed to rise 22 inches. The Corps of Engineers says this morning, the water level would not go higher than 8 and 1/2 inches.

At the public meeting today, the level adjustment was uniformly opposed by Minnesota and Wisconsin State agencies and by a number of landowners and residents of the Superior shoreline. Most were concerned about erosion. In beach areas, a i-inch rise in Lake level brings an average 3 and 1/2 feet of water up on the beach, higher still during storms. On the red clay banks, the natural erosion process is speeded up by high water.

Testifying for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Dr. Charles Carson claimed high water wave patterns would wash red clay into the lake causing pollution that will kill fish. Another feeling expressed in private conversation today, and it comes in the form of a question, why does Lake Superior have to be used to bail out the lower lakes? And if Superior is to be used as a reservoir, how will people who lose property along the shore claim damage from other states?

The International Joint Commission has no answer for that one nor does it explain how the federal government can claim private shoreline property without just compensation. Spokesman for the commission says it is under pressure from legislators on lakes Michigan, Erie, and Huron to do something about the record-high water. And the proposal to allow Superior to rise 8 and 1/2 inches must be acted on by the 1st of July.

If damage results along the superior shoreline, the plan may go to court. Tomorrow, I'll have a more complete report on today's meeting with some illustrations and a rudimentary lesson in Great Lakes Plumbing. This is Hugh Morgan in Duluth.

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