Great Lakes Water Levels At Lowest in 35 Years
DETROIT (AP) — Great Lakes water levels are at their
lowest point in 35 years, and there's no relief in sight.
Lake Ontario's water level has dropped about 25 centimetres
Low water means deep trouble for U.S. and Canadian tourism,
commercial fishing, shipping and recreational boating industries.
U.S. scientists had hoped lake levels would rise significantly
this spring. But that isn't likely to happen because snowfall
in some areas is only half the winter average and a protective
ice cap hasn't formed over parts of the lakes.
"It's going to be quite similar to last summer," Roger Gauthier,
a hydrologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit,
told the Detroit News today. "If they didn't like it then,
they won't like this summer."
Rainfall in 2001 was just above average, and average precipitation
is expected this spring. Below-average snowfall, and the
lack of an ice layer that curtails evaporation, have prevented
the lakes from being replenished.
Water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron have dropped more
than 102 centimetres since 1997 and are now 35 centimetres
below average. Lake Superior is 10 centimetres below the
norm; lakes Erie and St. Clair, 13 centimetres. Lake Ontario's
water level is mechanically regulated at Massena, N.Y.
Low lake levels are a critical issue in Michigan, which
has more than 5,000 kilometres of coastline and 825,000
registered boats, more than any other state. More than 30,000
jobs depend on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence water transportation
Some state and federal political leaders want the government
to help those being hurt by seemingly uncontrollable forces
The Michigan Legislature in 2000 passed a bill allowing
marinas to obtain up to $75,000 in low-interest state loans
to dredge around their docks. So far, eight marinas have
received loans totalling $369,000.
Predicting a change in the water level cycle is difficult,
Gauthier said earlier this month.
"It could go either way," Gauthier said. But even if temperatures
dropped radically for the rest of the winter and spring
was very wet, lake levels wouldn't return to average depths
by summer, he said.