Tag Archives: Great Lake

A Look Back – 2012 Marina’s Scramble as Water Levels Dropped

We tend to focus on the here and now. However its great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation and lake shipping was facing hard times.  There was serious concern on how far it would go and what would happen next.  Some credit the winter of 2014 with turning things around. With the lakes frozen over evaporation was minimized and the levels rebounded.  Here is a post from September 2012.

I got a voice mail early Monday morning from Hoy’s Saginaw Bay Marina in Caseville, “Mike, the wind was really blowing last night and we would like to get your sailboat out. It’s bouncing on the bottom.”  It was the last week in September and we usually try to squeeze one or two of the last day-sails in early October. However I had been monitoring the MichiganHuron lake levels an knew that we had a good chance of seeing a record low last seen in 1964. With a four foot draft we had already settled in the thick muck in our slip in August. I imagined our Catalina 27 hung fast and listing in the shallows. I called back, and Pete told me that they were looking to get all the sailboats out. I told him to go ahead and pull her out. I would see him on the weekend.

Caseville Harbor

Pulling into the marina Melissa and I were shocked to see the boat yard full of boats on hard dock in late September. Over the week the Hoy’s crew managed to get all of the big Trawlers out and most of the “Sticks”. (Sailboats)  When we rolled in, there were two boats idling in what was left of the narrow channel waiting to be hauled out. We took a walk up toward the break wall of Caseville harbor and noticed the inner most red can channel buoy hard aground just outside the Huron Yacht Club. This is the mark where I drop our speed in order to not make a wake as we enter the inner harbor. We took shots around the break wall and back just outside the HYC which you can see here.

Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor
Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor

Caseville Harbor

The Official Account

The US Army Corps of Engineers noted that Lake Michigan-Huron is 12 inches lower than its level of a year ago. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are down 14, 15, and 10 inches, respectively, lower than their levels of a year ago. Over the next month, Lake Superior is forecast to drop another 1 inch from its current level, while Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to fall another 2 inches. The Corps noted that as of now Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are below chart datum. They are in record low territory. At this point we are wondering if we will be able to get “Trillium” back into the water next Spring.

Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor
Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor



Lies and Half Truths about Great Lakes Water Use

The blogosphere and news sites have been bristling that Barack Obama  allowed water from Great Lakes region to be pumped and sold to China.  It’s a Lie. What’s worse is that none of these blog authors are checking the facts. Their lazy practice is to re-blog poorly written posts from  inflammatory sites. Here is the Truth.

Lie #1 – Obama Allowed Great Lakes Water to Be Sold To China as Half the U.S. Faces Extreme Water Crisis

This common inflammPort Cresent State Park Beach South IIatory headline refers to the ability for companies to bottle water within the Great Lakes watershed. Quotes such as, “Why are we allowing foreign corporations such as Nestle to make millions upon millions of dollars pumping water out of the Great Lakes and selling it overseas?” This is not new news. Pepsi, Coca-Cola,  Avita and Nestle have been operating in Michigan and surrounding states for over 15 years. At least now, Nestle and other companies are operating under the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact enacted by the 110th United States Congress effective December 8, 2008 before Obama took office.  This Public Law 110-342 was introduced in the Senate by Carl Levin (D – Michigan) on July 23, 2008 passed the Senate on August 1, 2008 by unanimous consent, passed the House of Representatives on September 23, 2008 and finally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.

Half-Lie #2 – Companies are pumping millions of gallons of water out of the Great Lakes and selling it to China.

There is bit of truth to this. Companies can collect and bottle water in the Great Lakes region but only in containers of 5.7 gallons or less. nestle_waterHowever the collection of water is not directly from the lakes but from the aquifers in the region.  Since 2000, Nestle Waters North America sell bottled “Spring Water” marketed with the Ice Mountain label. It’s bottling centers are located in Mecosta County, Michigan and Guelph, Ontario. Each plant supposedly bottles 700,000 gallons a day. However a a 2000 report by the International Joint Commission noted that the Great Lakes basin imports 14 times the amount of bottled water that is withdrawn and shipped elsewhere.

Lie #3 – Obama allowed container ships to come into the Great Lakes, fill up and export our water to Asia.

Back in 1998 the Nova Group obtained a permit from Canada’s Ontario Ministry of the Environment to export approximately 160 million gallons per year of water from Lake Superior for export to Asia in bulk containers. The permit is revoked due to objections of Great Lakes governors and citizens.

Lie #4 – Foreign companies are pumping water out of the Great LakesBottled Water without limits.

Nestle has been operating a water bottling plant in Michigan since 2000. In 2009 the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestle Waters North America/Ice Mountain. A final, out-of-court settlement was reached in 2009, whereby Nestle/Ice Mountain’s water pumping permit was reduced by almost half. Nestlé agreed to lower its spring pumping in Michigan earlier in the spring during fish spawning and continue low pumping during the summer months to protect the already stressed stream and lake. Other companies that bottle water from the Great Lakes region include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Avita.

The Waukesha Solution

great lakes watershedThe newst threat comes from right nearby. The Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, with a dangerous levels of radium in their ground water has been approved  to “borrow” up to 8.4 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day (or 3 billion gallons every year). Waukesha is 17 miles west of Lake Michigan and resides on the custsp of being outside what is considered the Great Lakes Water basin. Normally water from that area would flow into the Mississippi.

The city of Waukesha in June 2016 was given approval to divert water from Lake Michigan for its drinking water supply after eight representatives from the states that border the Great Lakes voted unanimously to allow the diversion. A single no vote would have scuttled the city’s plan. Per the rules of the compact, Waukesha would have to return the same amount of water it takes from Lake Michigan back into the lake. The water would be treated at a Waukesha water plant and dumped into the Root River, where it would flow into Lake Michigan by way of Racine, Wisconsin.

Waukesha is the first city to apply for a diversion of Great Lakes water since a ban on such practices was enacted in 2008. Canada is reviewing the agreement and may interceede with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.

There Are Still Concerns

The largest, longest-standing and most controversial diversion from the Great Lakes is at Chicago, where the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, finished in 1900, reverses the Chicago River and connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. About 88% of all Great Lakes water diversion occurs in Illinois to the Mississippi.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1967 consent decree, limited the Lake Michigan water diversion through the Chicago canal to 3,200 cubic feet of water per second.

But there’s more water diverted into the Great Lakes than is diverted out; particularly at the Longlac and Ogoki diversions in Ontario. They take water bound for Hudson Bay and divert it to northern Lake Superior at 5,580 cubic feet per second. The diversions were initially created to bolster hydroelectric power generation to help wartime manufacturing in the U.S. during World War II, but then were maintained by mutual agreement between the U.S. and Canada after the war.

Lake Huron-Michigan Water Levels Recovering from Historic Lows

Lake Huron Levels 2013Recent observations by NOAA show that Great Lakes water levels seem to be recovering from their historic lows. Likewise the US Army Corps of Engineers reports that water levels in October for Michigan and Huron are about one inch higher than in 2012. The lakes hit a historic low in January 2012 tieing the record last set in 1965.

All of the Great Lakes basins received below average precipitation in September 2013, with the total precipitation ranging between 2.5 and 3 inches for all of the Great Lakes.  Over the past 12 months, though, the total precipitation received for all of the Great Lakes basins was above average.

Projections are that lakes Huron and Michigan will continue to hover below the mean water averages through mid 2014.

Climate Change, Technology and the Loss of Civility

Saturday Afternoon Musing

It’s December 1st and I’m listening to no less than 3 lawn mowers running in my neighborhood in the suburbs north of Detroit. I refuse to participate. I’ll admit it’s tempting to neaten things up a bit but somehow the idea of running a lawn mower in the same month as Christmas at this latitude strikes me as wrong. What is going on?

Great Lakes Water Levels

I read that up to 30 small harbors in Michigan may not be able to open next year due to low water level on the Great Lakes. The Caseville harbor is about 18

Channel Buoy Aground at Caseville Harbor
Channel Buoy Aground at Caseville Harbor

inches away from being worthless. When we were up for Thanksgiving I noticed a large crane at the Huron Yacht Club (HYC) staged for dredging. The water was below the break wall at the HYC and some portions of the wall at Hoys Marina are in danger of being undermined because the water is no longer holding up the wall. I seriously wonder if we will be able to get Trillium (A 27’ Catalina Sailboat with a 4’ keel) out in the spring.

Caseville Harbor The Detroit Army Corps of Engineers released a report yesterday that confirmed my worst fears. As of now we are matching the low water point in Lakes Huron-Michigan that was last set in 1964, 48 years ago. What are worse are the projections. If true, we are guaranteed to fall below the low water mark record through April 2013. If there continues too little rain and snow then the situation could easily get to the point where no boat drafting more than 3 feet will be able to use a slip in Caseville. I’m sure that the same situation is at Port Austin and Harbor Beach.

 Climate Change and Relationships

IIts the 1st of December and its 52F. When I was 10 years old in 1974 we had almost 2 feet of snow fall in Detroit on this date. That was the second-highest snowfall ever recorded. The dads in the neighborhood all piled into a Pontiac Bonneville to make a beer run and the moms made chili and toddy’s and gathered at the house at the end of the street to sled on their huge hilly driveway and otherwise goof off. Now-a-days the weather would never deliver such a break and I would still be expected to login remotely and do a day’s work via Internet and  cell phone. Have we lost some of the civility with climate change and technology?