winter could spell even lower levels on the Great Lakes
Daily Telegram 01/31/2003
In much of our region and around the Great Lakes as a whole,
this season is turning out to be another relatively mild
and dry winter. Thatís bad news for the local and regional
economies that depend on tourism; itís also bad news for
the many residents who love snow and relish the outdoor
activities. Itís also bad news for that majestic treasure
outside our doors, Lake Superior, and for all the Great
After falling to their lowest water levels in 35 years in
2001, there was improvement last year when levels of all
the Lakes except Superior rose some, according to the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers. And yet they remained below normal.
Now, the Corps is reporting the water levels are dropping
again because of months of dry conditions. Lake Superior
and Lake St. Clair are down 2 inches, Erie is down 1 inch,
Lake Ontario 8 inches and Huron and Michigan are both down
7 inches compared with a year ago. The declining lake levels,
like the lack of snow, also has an economic impact, in part
because freighters have to carry lighter loads and pleasure
boats face more risk of damage.
The dry weather leads to evaporation, although ice forming
on the Lakes has slowed that process. So there is some good
news. The experts say that evaporation can mean a decline
in lake levels of 1 to 2 inches a week during fall and winter,
with water thatís warmer than the air. We can only hope
that the next couple of months will bring lots of snow because
the best relief for falling water levels is heavy snow and
Other news has been much more positive for the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Senate has wisely extended the current ban on new
oil and gas drilling under the Lakes for another two years.
The measure is specifically meant to keep Michigan from
giving a green light to more directional drilling from the
stateís shoreline. The Great Lakes states do not allow drilling
from rigs on the Lakes, and so far only Michigan has permitted
directional drilling. The Senate measure still needs House
approval and must be signed into law.
Oil and gas industry officials say directional drilling
is safe; it poses little environmental risk. But the recent
oil spill in the Nemadji River shows that such accidents
can happen even to pipeline companies like Enbridge Energy
Partners that take care to prevent them. Drilling under
the Great Lakes would be foolish, risky and unnecessary,
and ought to be permanently banned.
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