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Can a regulation plan be designed to perform better than Plan 1977A?

During its 100-year history, the IJC has progressively evolved its management approach for the Great Lakes in response to changing economic, environmental and social needs across the basin. Throughout this evolution, a core set of management principles has developed through a series of updated regulation plans for Lake Superior and the Great Lakes system in general. These principles are embodied in the form of official Orders of Approval and Supplementary Orders from the IJC. Each iteration of Orders has reflected a specific need (e.g., hydropower or commercial navigation) or addressed a particular problem of either high lake levels or low water conditions. As a result, when the IJC establishes a new study to develop a new set of regulation plans that seek to improve the effectiveness of lake level management, there already exists a substantive hierarchy of management principles that can be transformed into a set of planning guidelines, plan performance objectives and evaluation criteria. In this sense, the existing plan, 1977A, in effect since 1990, represents the culmination of nearly 75 years of lake level management experience. Several important factors have emerged since 1977A was implemented in 1990. Taken together, these factors provide a sound rationale for reviewing the current regulation plan. First, there is considerable uncertainty about future water supplies and corresponding water levels in the Great Lakes basin as a result of natural climate variability and human-induced climate change, as well as the compounding effects of glacial isostatic adjustment. Second, there is much better information available today about the hydrology and hydraulics of the Great Lakes, and as a result, researchers have more confidence in the current models that describe how the system performs under a variety of conditions, and this can be factored into the development of a new regulation plan. Finally, there is a much better information base about the different water-using sectors and public interest concerns that any new regulation plan must address, including those given order of preference specifically under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, i.e., domestic and sanitary water uses, navigation, and hydropower and irrigation, as well as those whose needs the Treaty also requires be taken into account, such as ecosystems, coastal zone uses and recreational boating and tourism. Therefore, the central challenge to the IUGLS was to identify a regulation plan that performed better than Plan 1977A, as measured by its impact on the various interest groups, and under both historical and a wide range of uncertain future conditions.
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