Great Lakes on a comeback, thanks to
By Andrew Stern
Published August 22nd, 2004
CHICAGO - Great Lakes water levels have rebounded from
near-record lows thanks to months of heavy rain, providing
a boon to boat owners, swimmers and fish, scientists said
Rising a foot from 45-year lows last year, the five Great
Lakes have reversed a six-year, 3-foot drop that exposed
broad stretches of beaches, left marinas high and dry,
and bent propellers.
With 18 percent of the world's fresh water, the lakes
slake the thirst of 45 million North Americans and sustain
more commercial shipping than the Panama and Suez Canals
combined, but the low levels hampered ship traffic.
After several mild winters that increased winter evaporation
rates and reduced the snowpack, water levels rose following
heavy rains last fall and a once-in-a-century deluge in
May. But that rainfall was an anomaly.
"That's what's worrisome," said Cynthia Sellinger,
a hydrologist with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
"What made the lakes rise this year was we had an
extremely wet fall and a wet May. What usually gives us
a good rise in the lake is ice cover to prevent evaporation
in winter, and then a nice snowpack melting in the spring
thaw," she said.
Rebounding water levels give fish access to habitat enriched
by new plant growth from when water levels were lower,
said Joel Brammeier of the Lake Michigan Federation, an
The rise in lake levels helps swimmers by reducing the
number of placid, shoreline pools where bacteria tend
to multiply, Brammeier said. High bacteria counts have
led to numerous beach closures in recent summers.