Low water leaves vessels stuck in muck in Lake Erie marinas
By Kristina Smith Horn
Published November 15, 2007
PORT CLINTON -- The few boats still moored at Drawbridge Marina sat in a bed of mud this week.
"There was absolutely no water in our lagoon," marina owner Steve Krynock said. "I couldn't pull a boat out if I wanted to."
"I've been here for 30 years, and every year it does the same thing," Krynock said.
Other local marinas are experiencing the same problem. But it's nothing new.
In October and November, Lake Erie water levels along the north coast drop dramatically, marina owners and officials who study Lake Erie said.
Krynock blames southwest winds that often blow water away from the Ohio shoreline toward Canada every fall. Geologist Connie Livchak and Fred Snyder, extension specialist for Ohio State University Sea Grant, said a lack of precipitation on the upper Great Lakes also greatly affects Lake Erie water levels.
"Eighty-five percent of Lake Erie's water comes from upstream," Snyder said. "The upper Great Lakes are way below average (precipitation). Usually they'd get a very heavy snow pack -- 10 to 12 inches of snow."
Water trickles down from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, through Lake St. Clair and into the Detroit River before it reaches Lake Erie, said Livchak, geology supervisor of Lake Erie geology for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey.
The current Lake Erie level is two feet above the lowest on record, which was in 1936, Snyder said.
However, the lake also is at the average level for November, said Livchak, citing ODNR records dating back to 1918.
"In the past, it's gone considerably lower," she said. "Right now, there's no cause for alarm."
Lake Erie will remain shallow until spring and peak in height during August and September, Snyder said. The Great Lakes go through cycles -- one lasting 33 years and the other 160 years -- that are driven by climate changes, he said, citing research done on Lake Michigan by the Indiana Geological Survey.
"Right now, we're in a period where both of those are going down," he said. "It does appear that we will likely, in the next few years, see lower lake levels."
Depending on climate changes, the levels could rebound, as they have in the past, he said. Climates, however, are difficult to forecast, he said.
Meanwhile, Krynock and other marina operators are trying to get their customers' boats out and into winter storage. If the boats stay in shallow water, their hulls and rudders could be damaged, Krynock said.
Some boat owners are still taking advantage of the year's good walleye and perch fishing, he said.
"You're playing Russian Roulette right now," he said. "In October, it was still 65 and gorgeous weather for two weeks in a row. It's already a short season, so you can't blame people for wanting to keep them in as late as possible."
Joe Ihnat, owner of Anchor's Away Marina in Danbury Township, took out the last boat at his docks Wednesday. He said he has one of the deeper marinas in the area with 7 to 8 feet of water.
That level had fallen to about 5 feet Wednesday, he said.
"We get concerned about it just like everyone else," he said.
E-mail Kristina Smith Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org.