American Society of Civil Engineers

Using Coping Zones in the Development of Lake Superior Outflow Regulation Alternatives

by Anthony J. Eberhardt, (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources, 7701 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22315-3868. E-mail:
Section: International, pp. 2656-2664, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2011: Bearing Knowledge for Sustainability
Abstract: A major study is being conducted for the International Joint Commission (IJC) which may shape the way the water levels of the Great Lakes are managed for decades to come. The International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS) was begun in 2007 to investigate the possible factors responsible for recent declining upper Great Lakes levels and to formulate alternative plans for Lake Superior outflow regulation with the goal of providing benefits to existing and emerging interests. Recognizing that improvements to the existing plan for Lake Superior regulation, Plan 1977-A, would be small considering a historic database and that in the upper Great Lakes, the outflow control is at the outlet of the upper most lake in the system, the Study Board has decided to consider an approach to develop alternatives around zones related to an interest’s acceptance of a water level range, considering its charge to address climate change and the uncertainties surrounding such hydroclimatic conditions. Each of the Study’s six technical work groups is defining coping zones related to a range of levels. Zone A includes water levels within which an interest can thrive, Zone B represents a range within which an interest will begin to experience difficulties, and Zone C levels are those that would result in long-term catastrophic impacts which may result in, for example, the elimination of a species or major disruption of an industry. Alternatives are being formulated with these zones in mind from plans similar in framework to Plan 1977-A to those which involve the placement of additional control structures in Great Lakes connecting channels progressively implemented as conditions transition from one zone to the next. If implemented, this would become part of the fundamental management plan for the upper Great Lakes representing a unique approach and providing a dynamic model dealing with uncertainty for long-term water level management and adaptation. The Study Board will provide its results to the IJC for its consideration at the end of 2011 with final completion of the Study in March 2012.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Great Lakes
Water levels