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 Michigan–Huron 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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
The US Army Corps of Engineers and Environment Canada are predicting Lake Michigan-Huron could hit historic lows in late Fall 2012 and early 2013. The Corps, recorded Michigan-Huron at 576.6 feet above sea level for October. That’s an inch-and-a-half above the lowest point for that month since the Corps began keeping records in 1918, and about 6 inches above the all-time low recorded in March 1964.
All of the Great Lakes are below their long-term averages and lower than a year ago because of an abnormal lack of snow in recent winters and the hot, dry summer. A wet October that included Superstorm Sandy has made only a slight difference to improve lake levels.
Recreational boaters might not have access to their launch locations due to low water and some marina operators might be unable to put boats into slips because there is not enough water, Army Corps officials said. Officials in Caseville are looking at a special assessment to land owners along the Pigeon river to pay for dredging in Caseville harbor.
Rep. Candice Miller asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether the Lake Michigan outflows in Chicago are partly responsible for the recent drop-off, although she acknowledged that experts say the biggest culprits are drought and evaporation. Man-made water diversion from Lake Michigan in the Chicago area dates to the mid-1800s. A massive engineering project completed in 1900 reversed the flow of the Chicago and Calumet rivers and constructed a shipping canal, sending the city’s sewage toward the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Miller said regardless of how big a role the Chicago diversion plays, it should cease. The shipping canal through which the water flows is also the focal point of a debate over invasive species, as scientists fear it may provide a pathway for Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. Michigan and four other states are suing in federal court to place barriers in the Chicago waterways, which business and government leaders in Illinois say would devastate the city’s economy.
The Army Corps is scheduled to release a six-month lake levels forecast November 5th.
This report was collected from various sources – Thumbwind