Mike Shantz

Photo of Mike Shantz - Presenter at 2013 Sources of Knowledge Forum

Mike Shantz

Mike Shantz joined the Boundary Waters Issues Unit of Environment Canada in 2004 and has spent the majority of his time supporting studies related to Great Lakes water level management and vulnerability assessments of coastal resources. He was involved with the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River water regulation study with his main focus related to the flooding and coastal process components of the Plan Formulation and Evaluation Group efforts. More recently, he was the Canadian Co-lead for the Coastal Zone Technical Working Group of the IJC’s International Upper Great Lakes Study which finished in March 2012. Mike is currently supporting the work of the IJC’s Adaptive Management Task Team as they consider alternative frameworks for responding to extreme water level conditions on the Great Lakes. Prior to joining Environment Canada, he completed a Master’s degree in Geography at the University of Waterloo with research focused on evaluating hydrological changes associated with wetland restoration efforts.

Professional Affiliation

Environmental Resource Analyst
Environment Canada

2013 Changing Lakes Forum Topic

Understanding Changes in Lake Huron Water Levels

Water levels on Lake Huron, which includes Georgian Bay, are always changing and result in dynamic shoreline conditions by influencing natural processes such as erosion and dune development. Natural shoreline habitats such as wetlands also change over time in response to fluctuating water levels. Water level changes occur over a variety of time scales including short-period (less than an hour to several days), seasonal (one year), and long-term (multi-year). Seasonal and long-term changes in Lake Huron water levels reflect a balance between the amount of water entering and leaving the lake. Water enters the lake from precipitation falling directly on the Lake Huron surface, inflow from Lake Superior through the St. Marys River, and runoff from the surrounding watershed. Water primarily leaves the lake through evaporation from the Lake Huron surface and outflows through the St. Clair River. The Chicago diversion also makes up a small portion of the water leaving the lake. Natural variability and human-induced changes influence the individual water balance components and contribute to the timing and magnitude of fluctuations in lake levels that are observed.

Current low water level conditions on Lake Huron will be discussed in the context of historical observations and recent water balance conditions. General findings from recently completed water level studies will be used to illustrate the difficulty in predicting future water level conditions on Lake Huron. Particular emphasis will be placed on the expectation of an uncertain future for Lake Huron water levels and the need to accommodate the full range of water levels that have been observed in the past and potentially a wider range that could be experienced in the future when managing shoreline resources within the system. The concept of adaptive management will be discussed as a potential framework to inform decisions and actions to address extreme water levels.

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