Lake Levels in Free Fall but Cause Unknown

Do Not Tie Lines by Andy McFarlane

The staff of the Leelanau Enterprise identified three significant trends that emerged during 2007 in Leelanau County. The slumping housing market’s effect on Leelanau developments and how township emergency services are changing were two, with low water levels in Lake Michigan and Leelanau’s inland lakes.

Recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports indicate that a new record low for Lake Michigan is a likely prospect and the Enterprise talked with a couple folks including Inland Seas Captain Tom Kelly about it:

Unlike 22 years ago when news stories simply attributed high water levels to their most visible culprit — lots of rain — the low levels of today have been blamed on a number of factors. Three have stood out: effects from global warming, a massive dredging effort by the Army Corps in the 1960s to improve shipping lanes in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, and a simple explanation that the latest fluctuation is part of the natural rise and fall of the Great Lakes.

Kelly, a scientist with a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, has the personal history to believe the simple explanation and the scientific background to give credence to a global climate change theory. But he doesn’t believe the dredging project more than 40 years ago is the reason as a recent underground mapping showed no signs of an eroding lake bottom, and the lakes reached all-time highs after the project.

Read Steady decline in lake levels: Sad fact of life in the Enterprise.

Photo: Do Not Tie Lines by Andy McFarlane

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