International Upper Great Lakes Study Board

Completed in 2012, The International Upper Great Lakes Study was launched in 2007 to address a recurring challenge in the upper Great Lakes system: how to manage fluctuating lake levels in the face of uncertainty over future water supplies to the basin while seeking to balance the needs of those interests served by the system.

The first phase of the Study addressed changes in the St. Clair River. The final St. Clair River report was submitted to the International Joint Commission in December 2009. The information from that report generated a critical new understanding of the St. Clair flow regime and the implications for upper Great Lakes water levels. 

The second phase of the Study focused on the formulation and evaluation of options for a new regulation plan for Lake Superior outflows.  It also addressed restoration and multi-lake regulation as alternative approaches for dealing with extreme water levels beyond those addressed by Lake Superior regulation alone, and considered the important role that adaptive management can play to help all parties better anticipate and respond to extreme water levels in the future.  The Lake Superior final report was submitted to the IJC in March 2012.

The Study reflects the best of what the International Joint Commission does: it has brought together some 200 scientists, engineers, planners and technical experts from both the United States and Canada for nearly five years of rigorous planning and scientific investigations; it has produced more than 100 separate technical reports that stand as a true legacy for future researchers; it has involved a strong commitment to public engagement at virtually every step; and, it has benefited from an unprecedented level of independent expert peer review.

The result is a set of pragmatic but pivotal recommendations to more effectively address the uncertainties associated with a changing climate and extreme water levels. They are the outcome of careful consideration of all the scientific information as well as extensive deliberations on how to incorporate climate uncertainty into the regulation plan evaluation process.