Joint Commission Shuts Out Boaters
By F. Ned Dikmen, Chairman, Great
Lakes Boating Federation
Of the 25 million people who
use the Great Lakes, it is estimated that six
million are boaters. According to the International
Joint Commission (IJC), however, they don’t
deserve to have their voices heard.
When the IJC recently assembled individuals to
participate on a critical five-year lake-level
study, the millions of Great Lakes boaters were
left out. This despite the $16 billion in economic
good those boaters contribute to local economies
and the direct effect their study will have on
this massive group of citizens.
The IJC, established by the Boundary Waters Treaty
of 1909, is a body comprised of representatives
from the United States and Canada to prevent and
resolve disputes over the use of waters shared
by the two nations. In response to the growing
concerns over dropping lake levels seen on the
Great Lakes, the IJC instituted a five-year International
Upper Great Lakes Study, which will, among other
objectives, “determine the factors that
affect water levels and flows in the upper lakes.”
The IJC also stated that it would “appoint
a Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) to assist
the Study Board” in order to make “sure
that the views of the public are given due consideration.”
Thus, one would assume the IJC, as it assembled
the PIAG, would have included a member of the
boating sector, someone to speak for six million
people who will be affected by their decisions.
After all, which user group on the Great Lakes
is more impacted by the dropping lake levels than
recreational boaters? Low lake levels can cause
marinas to close leaving boaters with no where
Why, then, did the IJC choose to exclude boaters?
The IJC appointed to the PIAG representatives
of seven conservation organizations, a representative
of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa, a representative
of a coastal landowner’s organization, a
representative from a Canadian shipping group,
and a self-described “private citizen.”
While these groups do deserve representation,
so do recreational boaters.
The IJC advised the Great Lakes Boating Federation
that the PIAG would be formed of 20 members and
asked that a name be provided for consideration.
The Federation replied to the IJC’s request
with a suitable nomination. That nomination was
rejected and the PIAG panel was formed with only
11 members, evidently with no place for a boating
There are six million boaters contributing billions
of dollars to the Great Lakes region. Shouldn’t
we hear how they are affected by lake levels?