lake levels are still a big concern for sportsmen
By Jim Barta
I don't know about you, but I'm still scratching my head
wondering what's happened to all the water in the Great
I've heard all the statements from the so-called experts
about how this is just a natural swing of water levels,
but we seem to have been swinging downward for an awful
long time now.
And it's not like the news gets any better!
From the look of things, the last couple seasons gave
us just a taste of what we may have to deal with yet again
Low water levels across Michigan continue to produce
more than a few boating problems.
Damage to lower units on boats caused by rocks and other
bottom-hugging structure cost boat owners and insurance
companies tens of thousands of dollars.
Depending on who you talk to, theories on why we're facing
these problems change slightly.
Researchers claim that the series of warm winters that
we experienced a few years ago coupled with a lack of
heavy summer rain is a primary contributor.
According to them, when temperatures stay above freezing,
ice fails to form over the Great Lakes and without a blanket
of ice to cover such large bodies of water, huge volumes
evaporate and are lost.
Occasionally, some of this water is recovered in the
form of snow, but even then, much of it falls inland and
is lost as it's absorbed into the ground.
Even though we continue to receive snow each winter,
there's yet another reason why little of it directly benefits
Much of what has fallen is the result of evaporation
from the Great Lakes.
This moisture is referred to as "lake effect"
precipitation and simply won't replenish our waterways.
What will be required to raise water levels are large
amounts of snow derived from moisture located outside
of our region.
Lately, our state's annual snowfall has been on a steady
In recent years, accumulations of snow have averaged
15 percent to 40 percent below Michigan's 30-year average.
Now I'm not a big fan of shoveling deep drifts of the
stuff, but then I hate having a boat out of commission
Another theory that may contribute in part to our recent
water depths deals with the reversal of water that once
flowed into our Great Lakes, but now flows out.
For example, at one time the Chicago River flowed into
Lake Michigan. Today, due to efforts by the Army Corps
of Engineers, the water's course has been reversed.
Water now flows from the lake and winds its way into
Canada has also reversed the tide of water that once
flowed into our system.
Several tributaries that, at one time, found their way
into the St. Lawrence Seaway have been reconstructed by
Canada's equivalent to our Army Corps of Engineers and
Personally, I doubt if this theory is much more than
lip service because these reversal plans started taking
place the late 1920s and early '30s. Since that time,
we've experienced periods of varied water levels, some
of which reached record highs.
Conditions today are a far cry from those experienced
by residents with waterfront homes or those located along
canals in 1975.
At that time water depths were 40 inches above their
Homeowners banded together to protect their property
from ensuing floods, even if it meant eliminating scenic
beaches in front of their homes by building unsightly
dikes and barriers.
Sandbag dams and expensive breakwalls were constructed
anywhere necessary to stop rising water conditions.
Residents assumed this work and danger as simply the
price of living near the water.
The cost of living there has certainly changed!
Today, many of these same homeowners can't even get their
boats to float in areas that once threatened their homes
But, just as when water conditions were high, few of
these residents would live anywhere else.
It's nice to be able to walk out your back door and view
the boat as it sits at your own dock. Even if this year
you may be able to plant a garden around it, it's still