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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related) > Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low
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Topic Review (Newest First)
03-28-2013 08:20 PM
killarney_sailor
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

It is a very complicated issue to be sure. To me, if the dredging were the major culprit (rather than just the balance between input and loss of water including evaporation) then there should be more water downstream and that is not the case. Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Montreal harbour are also low, just not as low.

You can check the map here to see the amount of isostatic rebound that is occurring. Lake Huron is going up 2 to 3 mm per year. In contrast, the Lake Erie basin has already completed its rebound.
03-28-2013 04:48 PM
tomandchris
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

I think that certainly climate differences have caused some of our issues, however there seems to be a consensus that the ste. Claire dredging is also a factor. The theory that the dredging was the beginning and the current causing erosion from that point comes up often.
Certainly there are those that blame "climate change" for all of it, but too many factors say that is not so. The basin's climate has been fairly consistent. If that is so why does Superior, Michigan, and Huron have much more dramatic drops than Erie and Ontario. The water flows downhill until it goes over the falls and the big Northern lakes feed the bottom of the chain.

The big issue with the governor's signing of the funding for dredging is.....where are you going to get all those dredges and how fast can you get them working? The communities in the north are concerned about just that. Those that already have contracts to open their ports can hopefully add on, but those that did not have funds are going to be low on the list.

Those numbers for Frankfort are big, but I don't think they have managed to do much for quite a few years. Their fishery revenue is huge for the community and is probably the reason for the big number to open it up.

The whole funding issue is a mess. A good example is Leland, a harbor of refuge. The Feds and State funded a good share of the approximately $4.5 million to completely redo that marina. The marina, launch, and commercial fishing groups there make a dramatic difference to the revenue of the town .Without boats in Fishtown it would not be much of a draw.
Last year the village paid to have the entrance dredged or you would not have been able to get over 4' draw in there. They were going to fund a partial draw again this year to dredge the entrance. Bottom line, if they did not keep it open the $4.5 million in taxpayer dollars would have provided a great place for canoes and kayak's because nobody else would have been able to get in. Gotta love our elected officials.
03-28-2013 03:48 PM
Landcruiser
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

I tend to think there are alot of contributing factors, from less ice coverage, resulting in more evaporation in the winter months, much less rain last year, and to some extent outflow dredging of St Claire. This is not just a problem for recreational boating, but commercial shipping which has to run 30% or more less gross tonnage in their holds resulting in higher shipping costs, say for coal or iron.

CTL411(Terry): not sure why Frankfort is going to be getting so much, I do not think they are even a commercial port, I could be wrong, but nav. charts show some of the marinas only having 4' depth or so on the approaches..and even that data might be out of date. Maybe the Honorable Governor has a boat there??
03-28-2013 12:14 PM
flandria
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Thanks, MikeOReilly, for the more precise information you posted. Sometimes you get a better picture from a post like yours then some articles in the paper... So, if dredging is only a contributing factor, I guess we're off the hook. Now, if we get a wet summer, we will have different complaints...
03-28-2013 12:03 PM
MikeOReilly
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barquito View Post
I find this fascinating. If I understand correctly, the great lakes basin is slowly rebounding after being smashed down by mile thick ice in the last glaciation. It is hard to believe that after so long it still popped up 2 inches in 43 years.
Yup. We actually feel the occasional earthquake due to this effect. I think there has been at least one earthquake in the 4.5 range in the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes basin in the last few years. I recall feeling them every few years in Ottawa (due to the same effect) when growing up.
03-28-2013 12:00 PM
MikeOReilly
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailortjk1 View Post
Mother Nature is Queen of the Water. Nobody else.
That was my point in posting real information. This claim that the current low water is due to the St. Claire dredging is simply not borne out by research. There is a significant contribution, but it does not appear to be the largest cause. The single largest issue is changing weather patters (climate change), leading to drought conditions and greatly increased evaporation due to reduced winter ice coverage.
03-28-2013 11:53 AM
Barquito
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Quote:
- Glacial isostatic adjustment (the uneven shifts of the earthís crust since the last period of continental glaciations ended) accounts for about 4 to 5 cm (1.6 to 2.0 inches) of the fall.
I find this fascinating. If I understand correctly, the great lakes basin is slowly rebounding after being smashed down by mile thick ice in the last glaciation. It is hard to believe that after so long it still popped up 2 inches in 43 years.
03-28-2013 11:33 AM
sailortjk1
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Quote:
The "popular" sentiment, which resonates with me, is that the deepening of the St. Clair River has effectively increased the outflow from the lakes
Quote:
The difference in water levels between Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie has declined by about 23 centimetres (cm) (9 inches) between 1963 (following the last major navigational channel dredging in the St. Clair River)
It is very popular to blame a lot of the lower levels on the St Claire Dredging. I can't tell you how many times I have heard this. And yes, it has not helped.

My counter to this is the fact that the water levels were their highest in the mid 80's. twenty some years after the last dredging of the St Claire River.

If everybody wants to blame the dredging of the St Claire for the current low water levels, than how could we have had record high levels in the 1980's? Everybody was just as aroused back then because there was too much water, too much erosion, not enough beach, docks under water.

We are still feeling the affects of sever drought in 2012 and mild winter in 2012. This winter was mild for us as well in Chicago area, but the ice cap and snow fall up North seems to have been back to a normal pace, plus this winter does not want to seem to end.

Mother Nature is Queen of the Water. Nobody else.
03-28-2013 11:11 AM
MikeOReilly
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

Quote:
Originally Posted by flandria View Post
The U.S. and Canada have a Joint International Commission that deals with issues concerning the Great Lakes, including its water levels... It has not been able to come up with anything conclusive as to the causes of the decline in water levels over the past decade.
Actually, they looked into this exact question. Here's the study:

Report

"The Study Board concluded that:
1. The difference in water levels between Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie has declined by about 23 centimetres (cm) (9 inches) between 1963 (following the last major navigational channel dredging in the St. Clair River) and 2006.

2. Three key factors contributed to this 23 cm (9 inches) change:
- A change in the conveyance (water-carrying capacity) of the St. Clair River accounts for an estimated 7 to 14 cm (2.8 to 5.5 inches) of the decline.
- Glacial isostatic adjustment (the uneven shifts of the earthís crust since the last period of continental glaciations ended) accounts for about 4 to 5 cm (1.6 to 2.0 inches) of the fall.
- Changes in climatic patterns account for 9 to 17 cm (3.5 to 6.7 inches); this factor has become even more important in recent years, accounting for an estimated 58 to 76 percent of the decline between 1996 and 2005.

3. There has been no significant erosion of the channel along the length of the St. Clair River bed since at least 2000. Based on survey data collected in 1971, there appears to have been some enlargement of the channel between 1971 and 2000. However, the changes in the channel are within the error of the surveys. In addition, there are issues regarding the reliability of the 1971 data."
03-28-2013 10:54 AM
flandria
Re: Lake Michigan and Huron levels historic low

The U.S. and Canada have a Joint International Commission that deals with issues concerning the Great Lakes, including its water levels... It has not been able to come up with anything conclusive as to the causes of the decline in water levels over the past decade. Yes, there have been times when the levels have been this low since records have been kept, but the current "drought" seems to be extend well beyond the average span. The "popular" sentiment, which resonates with me, is that the deepening of the St. Clair River has effectively increased the outflow from the lakes and, so long as inputs of water within the Great Lakes Watershed from outside the watershed are stable, the water levels must, almost by definition, decline by the amount of new outflow allowed. Up here in Canada I think many boaters are beginning to accept the fact that neither the U.S. or Canadian government will take (joint) action. Least of all, they will not consider anything that would "complicate" shipping, such as putting a lock on the St. Clair River or reversing the dredging that has occurred there.

If weather patterns were to change consistently and divert "fresh input" in the form of moisture-laden weater systems moving up from the Gulf of Mexico, more trouble again. Example: the month of March has seen a Jet Stream that has been consistently further south than normal. The result has been weather systems, including unusually heavy snow, traveling across the central and central East Coast states, completely missing Southern Canada (as we may refer to our Great Lakes Region... This results in less precipitation in the watershed, and so on and on.

Dredging? Within reason, it is a solution. Expect higher marina fees if it keeps up!
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