Thursday, October 8, 2009

A not-so-grand idea reappears

You may or may not have heard of the GRAND Canal proposal. If nothing else, it deserves credit for its audacity. It was proposed by a chap named Tom Kierans, an engineer from Newfoundland who figures he knows how to solve the water problems faced by the American southwest and the Canadian prairies.

The idea is this: Kierans thinks that water could be drawn from Lake Michigan to supply the southwestern US, and from Lake Superior to supply the Prairies. To make up for this, though, we'd need to add more water to the Great Lakes, otherwise they'd eventually be drained. This is where Kierans' proposal gets... uh, interesting. He proposes building a gigantic dam to wall off James Bay from Hudson Bay, so that water from the rivers in northern Ontario and Quebec would be retained. Some outflow would be allowed at first, but no inflow from Hudson Bay, resulting in James Bay being turned into a giant freshwater reservoir. From there, the water would be diverted (and at some points pumped) into Lake Huron via the Harricana River, Lake Timiskaming, the Ottawa River, and the French River. Got that?

Of course, this sounds like utter madness. Even setting aside the environmental concerns (mixing watersheds is generally not good for biodiversity, and some have suggested that the resulting changes to marine currents in Hudson Bay could be harmful as well) the amount of effort, expense, and energy that would be required to do this is staggering. The idea has been floated a few times since Kierans proposed it in 1959, and was studied approvingly by some politicians, including Quebec premier Robert Bourassa and some guy named Brian Mulroney (remember him?) but fortunately these proposals haven't gone very far.

However, the idea is now being discussed again, in the mainstream media no less. Are they trying to soften us up for the idea? Certainly some, such as Gwynne Dyer, are saying that if we don't sell our water to the Yanks they'll just take it. But what if we don't build the GRAND Canal? Would the Great Lakes states stand for the lakes getting drained so that the southwest can keep their golf courses green and their pools full? I'd like to think not.

Of course, if it comes to that the US might resort to other means to get us to cooperate...


Fat Arse said...

"utter madness" indeed! One can only shake their head in amazement at such proposals - by its very nature it is an affront to the very idea of "water stewardship". Any pol who even tries to entertain this scenario should:

a.) have his head examined forthwith;

b.) admit he/she has a problem with the basic tenets of sound ecological management;

c.) be defeated at the polls at the earliest date possible!

nitroglycol said...

Yeah, that about sums it up. One might give Kierans the benefit of the doubt given that he proposed it in 1959, at a time when few people considered the broad environmental picture, until one reads the Globe and Mail article linked to above and realizes that he still believes in it. And he thinks that if environmentalists would just understand what he's talking about they'd all support it too. From the article:

"I don't want to fight Maude Barlow," he says, mentioning the best known of those who are against such grandiose water schemes, "I want to convert her!"

Well good luck with that, Tom. For that matter, good luck converting me, Fat Arse, and most of the Canadian public.