Tag Archives: United States Army Corps of Engineers

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.

Low Water at 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



Great Lakes Icing Is Earliest On Record

November 26, 2014 – Satellite image shows ice formation occurring on Saginaw Bay. This is on the western edge of Michigan’s thumb between Sebewaing and Port Austin. Thus the outlook for another winter similar to 2013-14 looks promising. This could result in higher lake levels  and less evaporation as the ice covers and protects the lakes. It also means a potential for more sun shine and bitter cold this winter.


Great Lakes Ice Cover Developing; Earliest In Over 40 Years


” Ice is already starting to develop on Michigan’s Great Lakes. This is the earliest ice on some of the Great Lakes in at least 40 years.

  According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, on November 20, 2014, three of Michigan’s Great Lakes had ice starting to form. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan were one-half percent ice covered, while Lake Huron had one percent ice. Lake Erie was not reporting any ice as of Nov. 20, 2014.

  Decent early season ice coverage records date back to 1973. Last Friday was the earliest date that all three Great Lakes already had ice since the better reporting of early season ice began.

  Lake Superior actually had ice forming on November 15th of this year. That is the earliest ice on Lake Superior in the good data set.

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2013 Great Lakes Water Levels Continue Recovery

Lakes Improve in 2013

 The final forecast of the year for the Great Lakes water levels were published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on December 6th. The report shows Lake Superior forecasted to be near its long term mean and improvements in Huron-Michigan.

Lake Superior Water Level 2013Huron-Michigan Water Leverl 2013

For the first time in two years forecast show the Lake Superior levels nudging toward the long term mean. Lakes Michigan and Huron improve from record setting lows recorded in January 2013

The End of Drought Conditions in the Upper Midwest.

 This improvement mirrors the progress with respect to drought conditions across the U.S. When compared to conditions going into 2012, drought conditions in the Great Lakes region have stabilized and improved.  

Drought 2011-2012 U.S.
Drought 2011-2012 U.S.
Drought 2012-2013 U.S.
Drought 2012-2013 U.S.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL

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.