December 21, 2014

Lake Michigan drops to record low levels

Lake Michigan’s water level is at an all-time low and the US Army Corps of Engineers says that the Great Lake on Wisconsin’s eastern shore is lower now than its previous record-low set in 1964. It’s also six feet below the all-time high level from 1986.

A report from the Corps shows measurements taken in January show Lake Michigan and Lake Huron were 29 inches below the long-term average. Both had also dropped 17 inches since January of 2012. Officials started tracking water levels on the Great Lakes in 1918.

The persistent drought in the state is a factor in the dropping levels, although officials say the water has also been brought down by a major dredging and river-bed mining project at the Saint Clair River on the eastern Great Lakes. The federal government has said that the project dropped Lake Michigan by about 16 inches. A recent US-Canadian government study also blamed the dredging for an additional drop of three to five inches.

Great Lakes mayors and conservation groups have asked both countries’ governments to consider a remediation project at the Saint Clair, which they say is needed to raise Lake Michigan to normal levels. However, critics say the project could cause more erosion problems at the Saint Clair.

The International Joint Commission, which deals with joint US-Canadian water issues, says it’s reviewing numerous public comments on what should be done. A recommendation could come in the next few weeks.