International 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 to go.

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 representative.

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?

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