If you love Georgian Bay, as I do, I have good news for you.
We might be getting more water soon. Or, more aptly: we might stop losing as much water as we have been these past 14 years.
After years of cheerleading the “do-nothing” approach to the frightening drop in water levels on Lakes Huron and Michigan, the binational referee of water levels, the International Joint Commission, did a stunning about-face last Friday.
It instructed the Canadian and American governments to do something. In particular, research putting an adjustable plug in the St. Clair River, which drains water from Lakes Huron and Michigan down toward Lake Erie.
Let me take a step back for those readers who from misfortune or folly have not yet set bare foot on a hot granite rock of Georgian Bay. The bay is a large lobe of Lake Huron, which is actually joined to Lake Michigan by the Straits of Mackinac.
You can get there in 1.5 hours, if you drive fast out of Toronto, up Highway 400, preferably at dawn. When the wall of trees on your left opens up to a tableau of rocky islands, fainting red pines and blue water, you have arrived.
It is a place I go every summer to confide my city troubles to the ducks and snapping turtles.
It is paradise. It’s in trouble.
Lakes Huron and Michigan, and therefore Georgian Bay, hit a record low water level (175.57 metres) this past January. That’s the lowest the water has been since the 1860s. Plus, it came during a record slump in lake levels. We are in year 14 of a lower than average water levels.
Some context: as a kid, I could dive off the end of the dock at my family cottage. If I’d tried that last October, I’d be crippled. The water barely reached my knees.
Since its high point in 1997, we’ve lost two metres of water.
Most of that is natural — the Great Lakes oscillate between wet and dry spells. But a healthy amount of that water will never come back, because we’ve been dredging the St. Clair River for years, to make way for bigger ships.
Some 150 years ago, the St. Clair River was only six metres deep. Now, it’s 8.2 metres deep. Put a bigger hose on your water tank and you’d expect to spurt out water quicker (at least until the pool it was spurting into was so full, it had more pressure than the water in the tank).
After the last major dredging in the early 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers was supposed to put speed bumps on the river floor to damper the drain. But that never happened.
For years, it seemed like it never would, despite the screams of cottagers, marina operators, environmentalists, freight operators and the mayors of 96 cities around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
But on Friday, that all changed.
“The middle lakes need some relief,” explained IJC science and engineering director Ted Yuzyk during a follow-up teleconference Monday.
The recommendation: restore 13 to 25 centimetres of water to Lakes Huron and Michigan, likely through flexible structures in the St. Clair River. But do an environmental assessment and cost-benefit analysis — both of which could take three to five years, Yuzyk estimated.
In the latest IJC study on the subject, experts suggested the cost of putting things like underwater sills or turbines into the St. Clair River could range from $30 million to $170 million. They also flagged environmental concerns, including the precious spawning grounds of sturgeon in the river.
Finally, they said it would take 30 years to fully restore that amount of water to Lakes Huron and Michigan. On Monday, Yuzyk said it would likely be eight to 10 years.
We are in for a long process, either way. But, at least we are on the way.
Catherine Porter’s column usually appears on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I think she's just fucking with everyone at this point.
Is Kate Middleton’s baby a boy or a girl? We’re not sure, but the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge reportedly dropped a big hint.
Kate recently let it slip that she bought a blue Bugaboo buggy, although a spokesperson declined to comment, according to the Daily Mail.
The royal couple have said they don’t know the sex of their baby, due in July, although Kate previously remarked that she would prefer a boy while Prince William wanted a girl. Perhaps the blue stroller is just Kate’s wishful thinking?
Either way, we’re not 100 per cent convinced Kate’s baby will be a boy. Remember when the Duchess was rumoured to have spilled the beans earlier this year about expecting a baby girl?
Surely Kate will keep us guessing!
More: Royals' Harry Potter Tour Gets Super Silly
Don’t call it a board game. Scrabble is serious business. So much so that there are high-stakes tournaments around the world and a National Scrabble Day—that's today, April 13th—created in honor of the 75-year-old spelling extravaganza, which was invented by American architect Alfred Mosher Butts.
Whether you consider winning at Scrabble a case of extreme luck or supreme spelling ability, here are 10 words that—if conditions are right—will help you trump any opponent.
Definition: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis and bursitis.
Conditions: The theoretically highest-possible scoring word under American Scrabble play—as calculated by Dan Stock of Ohio—has never actually been played … and probably never will (unless you’re really, really lucky). That’s because it has to be played across three triple word score squares and build on eight already-played (and perfectly positioned) tiles.
Definition: To quiz or question.
Conditions: Not only will you need to draw the game’s only Q and Z tiles (there’s only one of each), but a blank tile, too (in place of the second Z). Play this verb as your first word across two triple word squares with the Z on a double letter score square and you’ve got the game’s most valuable eight-letter bingo.
Definition: An anti-anxiety drug.
Conditions: All that stress will melt away if you can build on one existing letter, play across two triple word score squares, place one of the most valuable tiles (i.e. X or Z) on a double letter score square and net a 50-point bingo.
Definition: The national bird of Guatemala as well as one of its monetary units.
Conditions: Placement is everything to score this whopper of a word: Building on one letter, use all seven letters on your rack for a 50-point bingo, with Q and S on triple word score square and Z on a double letter score space.
Definition: A romantic or quixotic idea or action.
Conditions: In 2007, Michael Cresta used an already-played R and all seven of his tiles across two triple word score squares to earn the most points ever on a single turn, which aided in a second record for the full-time carpenter: the highest-ever individual game score (830 points).
Definition: A small pickle, made from an immature cucumber.
Conditions: In 1985, Robert Kahn paid tribute to the pickle at the National Scrabble Championship in Boston—using an E and R already on the board—to set a record for a non-bingo word score.
Definition: Resembling quartz.
Conditions: “Quartzy” held the record for highest-ever single turn score until “Quixotry” nearly doubled its total in 2007. Play it across a triple word score square with Z as a double letter score, with a 50-point bingo for using all seven letters on your rack.
Definition: A Russian peasant.
Conditions: On its own (with no bonuses or extra points), “muzjiks” is worth an impressive 29 points. But exhaust all of your tiles on your first turn to spell it, and you’ll earn more than four times that—which is what player Jesse Inman did at the National Scrabble Championship in Orlando in 2008 to earn the record for highest opening score.
Definition: An alignment of three celestial bodies.
Conditions: Forget trying to pronounce it (though, for the record, it’s “SIZ-i-jee”). Instead, just remember how to spell it—and that it’s worth 21 points au naturel. You’ll need one blank tile to make up for the lack of Ys (there are only two in the game). For a higher total, land the Z on a double letter score square and the final Y on a triple word score square.
Definition: Slang term for pizza.
Conditions: Big words are great and all, but two-letter words can also score big. And be especially annoying to your opponent. Build on two As—one directly below, the other directly to the right of a triple letter square—to spell this two-letter delectable across and down.