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Great Lakes Article:

Water levels rise on lakes
Huron, Michigan are up 4 inches from Nov.rainfall; St. Clair has been holding its own
By Gene Schabath
The Detroit News
12/07/03

HARRISON TOWNSHIP -- There are few boaters on the Great Lakes this time of year, but there is good news for area sailors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After six years of propeller-bending low water levels in the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, boaters may finally have smoother sailing next spring and summer.

Water levels in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan rose during November, while Lakes St. Clair and Erie held their own, and that could translate into an increase in water depths next year for frustrated boaters, said Marie Strum, chief of the watershed hydrology branch of the Army Corps.

Water levels historically drop during the fall, but unusually high amounts of rainfall in November reversed that trend and sent water levels up 4 inches in lakes Huron and Michigan from October's readings. Some 4.54 inches of rain doused the region. A normal rainfall in November in the Lake Huron-Michigan watershed is 2.78 inches.

Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are regarded as one lake by the Army Corps because they are joined by the Straits of Mackinac.

Levels in Lake St. Clair were up 2 1/2 inches at one point during the month because of the 4.06 inches of rain that pelted the area during November -- 1.15 inches above normal precipitation for the month.

Lake St. Clair's level ended up Nov. 30 where it started Nov. 1, but that's still good news, Strum said.

"This is helpful in terms of water levels on Lake St. Clair because they didn't have a decline," Strum said. Lake St. Clair is the state's most heavily used waterway.

This could be the start of a long-term rise in water levels after the six-year decline that left boaters high and dry and scraping the bottom.

Richard Rittenhause, a Lake St. Clair boater, hopes the low water cycle is over.

Rittenhause, who used to dredge canals and do other nautical jobs for a living, had a difficult time moving his 26-foot-long Trophy cruiser last month from his home in Harrison Township to its winter berth in St. Clair Shores because of low water.

"There's a bay behind my house, and I had to literally push the boat" to get it out into deeper water, Rittenhause said. And once out in the lake, the water was so shallow at Metropolitan Beach he had to sail out more than a mile and a half to reach safe, navigable water.

"I hit bottom a mile and a half out," Rittenhause said. "I was shocked."

Strum said whether the low water marks are a thing of the past depends on two things this winter: heavy snows in the Lake Superior and Lake Huron-Michigan watersheds and a good covering of ice on the Great Lakes to prevent evaporation.

"A month like this helps, but we need a number of sustained months like this" to start on a high water cycle, Strum said.

"It has taken a number of years to get this low water period, and it will likely take a number of years to climb out," she said. "This is a good start."

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