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SHORELINE COALITION BLASTS STUDY ON FLUCTUATING LEVELS OF LAKES INTERNATIONAL REPORT IS CRITICIZED AS 'INCOMPLETE'

A growing international coalition of Great Lakes shoreline homeowners already is criticizing a major report on fluctuating lake water levels as "incomplete and inconsistent" -- before the report is scheduled for release by the International Joint Commission.

"The biggest problem we see is a lack of consistency," said Hoover Beach resident E. David Rebmann, a delegate to a recent coalition meeting in Saugatuck, Mich. "We don't see any horses, we see a lot of carts."

Members of the International Great Lakes Coalition, an umbrella group for 20 regional coalitions entirely ringing the lakes, found that preliminary drafts of the commission's lake levels "Phase 1 status report" due out Wednesday include inconsistencies in data gathering and the findings of study groups sometimes working at cross purposes, Rebmann said.

"The May 31 date for us is important, but I'm afraid we're taking it more seriously than the IJC does," he added. "If the inconsistency is allowed in Phase 1, then by the time we get to the end of the report that inconsistency will continue."

The coalition has written to heads of the commission's study groups, hoping to erase some of the problems before the report is issued. "There are some strengths in it," Rebmann said. "But they've got to get their act together."

The May 31 report is an interim report in a 2-year-old, multi-million-dollar international study of fluctuating lakes levels. A final report is expected in 1991.

The commission is studying both high- and low-water problems, although most public attention in recent years has been centered on massive damages caused by storms when lake levels are high. Since 1950, a recent report to the commission indicates, shoreline damages can be estimated at $1 billion -- mostly during high water periods in 1950-51, 1972-76 and 1985-87.

Lake Erie damages during that period totaled an estimated $218 million, with $55.4 million of that during the most recent high water. The estimates are considered conservative -- shoreline land is valued at at least $15 billion, and more than $139 million worth of protective measures have been installed by residents and the governments.

Rebmann cautioned that there are low-water problems, too -- problems already drawing attention, although Lake Erie has now dropped only to just above normal levels. Low water in the mid-1960s left shoreline mud flats and hurt shipping and hydropower, he said.

"If you have total Great Lakes management, then you have high-level and low-level management too," he added. "You relieve the lows and the highs, and reach a level we all can live with."

Rebmann, who is co-chairman of the local South Shore Coalition with James Harrity of Hamburg, says the joint commission's report does seem to recognize problems with past practices in managing the levels of the two regulated lakes, Superior and Ontario.

But the international group, which backs a total management plan and the selection or creation of a "lead agency" instead of the 60 separate groups now managing parts of the system, wants to see more evidence of leadership and consistency.

"The fight now is to see that when they come up with conclusions, they can back them up," he added.

Rebmann said the coalition, with growing membership and two new regional groups forming, also was critical of proposed New York State legislation calling for the regulation of water diversion out of the lakes.

Laws that address only "outflow" diversions such as those at the Chicago canal link to the Mississippi system aren't enough, and "inflow" diversions such as those at the Canadian power projects on Superior's shore should also be included, Rebmann said.

The International Great Lakes Coalition, which estimates that at least 70,000 lakes homeowners receive mail from its affiliated shoreline groups, plans to meet again in Hamilton, Ont., during the International Joint Commission's biannual meeting there Oct. 12-14.

"We want to be there to confront the IJC on the entire project," Rebmann said.

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