Proposal 3 Defeat & Great Lakes Water Levels

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Michigan voters rejected Proposal 3 on Tuesday. The proposal would’ve required utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity sales from renewable sources by the year 2025.  It was controversial partly because it would’ve amended the state constitution.

Howard Edelson is the campaign manager for CARE for Michigan. The group worked to defeat the proposal on behalf of the state’s utilities.

“It just goes to show that Michigan voters didn’t want out-of-state special interests, billionaires from out of state, trying to hijack our constitution and put a costly energy mandate in the constitution.”

He says the state’s current renewable standard is working. Utilities have to meet a 10 percent standard by 2015.

But Mark Fisk argues we’re falling behind other states that have higher standards. He’s the spokesperson for Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs. It’s the group that backed the proposal.

“It’s very important that we not lose these jobs to other states and other countries. We believe Michigan should be a leader in renewable energy and we’re going to keep fighting until we make that happen.”

Fisk would not rule out the possibility of another ballot proposal in the future.

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This is the Environment Report.

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron could hit record low water levels in the next six months.  That’s according to a projection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

John Allis is the Chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office with the Army Corp’s Detroit District, and he joins me now to talk more about this. 

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are functionally one body of water – they’re connected at the Straits of Mackinac. They’ve been below their long-term average for more than a decade. What’s happening with Lakes Michigan and Huron?

Allis: Really, it’s just a product of Mother Nature. More often than not we’re seeing drier months and lower supplies of water than we are seeing those wetter months. Anytime we seem to make a gain against the long term average, we see another stretch of dry weather that brings the water levels back down.

Williams: What do we know about how climate change might affect Great Lakes water levels?

Allis: Very little, unfortunately. And that’s not for a lack of effort from a lot of scientists. There was recently an International Upper Great Lakes Study – that was a study commissioned by the International Joint Commission, and they spent a lot of effort looking at different climate change scenarios and seeing how that would impact water levels in the Great Lakes.  A lot of what they concluded was that it was still difficult to tell which way it could go.  I think previous studies suggested a higher chance of lower water levels in the Great Lakes, but their information seemed to suggest that it’s really up in the air.

Williams: There’s also been some controversy around dredging by the Army Corps in the St. Clair River in the 1960s. Are we still seeing effects from that dredging?

Allis: Certainly, yes. And those dredging projects and previous historical projects on the St. Clair River – they caused a permanent 10-16 inch drop on Michigan-Huron, and that’s always going to be there since the 1960s.  But it’s important to point out that since the 1960s, Michigan-Huron have both set record highs as well.  So, it’s not something that’s going to guarantee levels are always going to be low on Michigan-Huron.

Williams: What are the implications of these extremely low water levels?

Allis: Commercial navigation, recreational boating; those interests on the Great Lakes, with this low water, means especially for commercial shipping, that they have to light load their boats, they can’t carry as much in a load. Rec boaters we hear a lot from them as they’re having trouble getting in and out of some of the different harbors and marinas on the Great Lakes.  Certainly it’s impacted a lot of stakeholder groups, having water levels this low.

Williams: John Allis is the Chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office with the Army Corp’s Detroit District. Thank you for talking with me!

Allis: Great, thank you.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.