Loving the lake levels
Bay City Times
Lake Huron water levels are reaching their seasonal
peak, and are up 14 inches from a year ago. "Ain't it
great?" said Don Lindenberg, owner of Lindy's Landing,
an 80-slip marina on the Quanicassee River near the Saginaw
Bay in Tuscola County. The 14-inch climb is the largest
on the Great Lakes, and bodes well for the near future,
Lakes Michigan and Huron are considered one lake by forecasters.
Lindenberg said boaters' spirits have risen with water
levels. "We don't hear any more complaints from customers,"
he said. "Nobody's having trouble. Anybody that's hitting
bottom right now is going somewhere that might have been
dirt two years ago."
The latest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forecast says
all five Great Lakes are up since July 2003. Lakes Erie
and Superior are up 5 inches, and Lake Ontario is up 2
inches. The 14-inch rise on Lakes Michigan-Huron is still
9 inches below average for this time of year, but 2 feet
above a low point in 1964, the Corps says. Lake Erie is
at its long-term monthly average, and Lake Ontario is
2 inches above average.
Cynthia E. Sellinger, a hydrologist at the Great Lakes
Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, said the 14-inch increase
on Lake Huron is significant because it was driven by
heavy rain in May. "What normally raises water levels
is in the spring, when we have really nice spring runoff
from snow melt," Sellinger said. But the spring runoff
was below-average this year, she said. The Bay area saw
8 inches of rain in May. Sellinger said boaters should
enjoy the water while they can, because Lake Huron will
begin its seasonal decline in coming months. A six-month
forecast shows a drop of 6-8 inches, Sellinger said.
Still, the lake will likely remain about 14 inches above
what it was last winter, she said. Lindenberg, of Lindy's
Landing, said the change in lake levels has made a huge
difference for boaters. "Nobody's hitting bottom in the
normal, run-of-the-mill operations," he said. A year ago,
his shop was fixing boats with busted props and other
damage all the time.
In recent years, some people have lamented that they
couldn't launch their boats anywhere between Bay City
and Caseville to the east, Lindenberg said, and others
gave up boating altogether, waiting for higher water.
Sellinger said it's too early to say if Lake Huron will
keep edging up in coming years.
Forecasters are able to accurately predict only six months'
worth of levels now. She said lake levels started declining
in 1998, and reached their low point in 2003, but that
doesn't mean the lakes are on a five-year cycle. She said
one good sign is that Lake Superior has risen 5 inches
from a year ago, and is projected to increase another
inch by next month. "Michigan and Huron receives water
from Lake Superior, so if Superior is higher, it's good
for lakes Michigan and Huron."
Sellinger said researchers are working to identify long-term
trends, to give people a 10-year outlook, for instance.
That would help marina owners decide whether the cost
of dredging is worth it, and help commercial shippers
better manage their loads, she explained.