Lakes' water levels rise
TORONTO (CP) -- Last summer, cottager Mark Daugherty had
to give up canoeing in one of his favourite spots because
Lake Erie's water levels were too low. This summer, he's
preparing to paddle through those areas easily.
"Last year there were sections that I used to be able
to canoe through that just got too shallow," said Daugherty,
43, whose family has had the same cottage in Erieau, Ont.,
for the past 39 years. "This year it shouldn't be a problem."
After three years of enduring bone-dry conditions, dragging
their hulls along the bottom of lakes or not leaving harbours
at all, cottagers and boaters in southern Ontario can
expect some relief this Victoria Day weekend -- Environment
Canada says the Great Lakes have risen to more normal
And the better news is that the water levels, which Environment
Canada says are a result of an unusually rainy spring,
should remain as high as they are until at least the end
of the summer.
"It's quite a bit up from last year -- more than we anticipated,"
said Ralph Moulton, manager of Environment Canada's water
level information office in Burlington, Ont.
"For this summer, it looks like the situation will be
better than it was last year."
Lakes Michigan and Huron, which have seen particularly
low levels since 1998, are still 35 centimetres lower
than average, but have risen 25 centimetres from this
time last year.
Lake Ontario, on the other hand, rose 25 centimetres from
last year and is now about 20 centimetres above normal.
Moulton credited higher-than-normal precipitation for
the rise in the fresh-water lakes. Since September 2001,
the Great Lakes basin has seen 19 per cent more precipitation
But John Birnbaum, executive director of the Georgian
Bay Association, warned the rise is just "short term."
"The modest increases this year are modest. It's certainly
a relief but in our view it's short term," said Birnbaum,
whose association represents more than 4,400 families
on the eastern and northern shores of Georgian Bay.
"The decreases that we've experienced over the past few
years have been substantial. Consequently, there's still
a long way to go."
Birnbaum said his association, which is an umbrella organization
of 23 other associations, plans to lobby various levels
of government to become more involved in protecting the
lakes and their water levels.
"We think it's time for the government to pay attention
to global warming," he said.
Environment Canada's Moulton said climate change is believed
to be forcing lake levels down. This past winter was the
warmest on record in southern Ontario, where temperatures
between December and February were 4.8C above average.
It's also feared that lakes Michigan and Huron, considered
to be the most at risk, may drop by as much as 100 centimetres
over the next 20 to 40 years.
But David Barnier, president of the Ontario Marine Operators
Association, said he's relieved even with the modest increases
"Last year, people didn't put their boats in the water
because the levels were so low," said Barnier, whose association
represents about 500 members. "The levels right now are
quite livable for marine operators."
Shippers were forced last year to lighten their loads
to accommodate the dropping lake levels. For every two
centimetres the lakes went down, shippers had to drop
about 100 tonnes. This year, freighters transporting heavy
materials across the lakes can expect to carry more goods.
"Almost no one is complaining about water levels this
year," Barnier added.
The remaining lakes also saw improvements, with Lake Erie
rising 20 centimetres back to its normal level. Lake St.
Clair rose 20 centimetres, remaining 12 centimetres below
average, while Lake Superior grew four centimetres, remaining
11 centimetres below average.