After a few storm systems and precipitation, the Great Lakes are above long-term monthly average water levels as of Friday, Jan. 31, and levels are expected to rise.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts water levels will be as much as a foot higher in the spring, according to Nick Assendelft, a representative from the media relations and public information department at the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“Great Lakes water levels have been rising for the past six years. During that time, Michigan has had record-breaking amounts of precipitation. As a result, we are seeing record or near-record water elevations on all of Michigan’s Great Lakes,” he said. “This is a problem all across Michigan.”
As of Friday, Feb. 7, Lake Superior is approximately three inches higher than Feb. 7, 2019 and 15 inches higher than long-term monthly averages for February. Lakes Michigan and Huron are approximately 18 inches higher than Feb. 7, 2019 and 39 inches higher for long-term monthly averages for February.
Shorelines of Lake Michigan have been experiencing erosion significant enough to pull down houses near the water. In early January, a small home in Muskegon County fell down a sandy area that’s been eroding due to the high water levels, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
These high water levels, especially on Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior, have caused erosion, flooding and damage to seawalls and roads. The International Lake Superior Board of
Control reported in early January that Lake Superior was 1 inch below the record for this time of year, set in 1986.
Lake Erie is 14 inches higher than Feb. 7, 2019 and 37 inches higher than long-term monthly averages for February. Lake Ontario is 7 inches higher than Feb. 7, 2019 and 20 inches higher than long-term monthly averages for February.
This causes submerged beaches, inundated docks, and threatens homes and municipal infrastructure everywhere. Assendelft said EGLE is working with agencies such as Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan State Police and others to protect residents and state resources from the impact of high water.
Communities around the state have been affected.
“Grand Haven is seeing inundated neighborhoods; Holland has seen damage to seawalls, boat launches and boardwalks; Petoskey is making repairs to docks at the city marina and relocating sewers; Ontonagon in the U.P. has to repair inundated sanitary sewers and repair river bank erosion along critical roads,” he said, adding that Marquette is working with MDOT to relocate a stretch of road along Lake Superior that’s being washed out by waves.
Assendelft said they’re also seeing high water levels on inland lakes, which could cause flooding and issues for drinking wells and septic systems.
Assendelft said the levels will continue to affect homes, public health, critical infrastructure, state resources, roads, parks, and more. He urges shoreline residents to act now in moving buildings back from the water. EGLE has been expediting permits for contracting work.
“High water levels and potentially record high water levels are expected to persist for at least the next six months, so flood prone areas are expected to remain vulnerable,” according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Ron Olson, parks chief at the Michigan DNR, said the high water levels have caused “issues” along Harrisville State Park on the shore of Lake Huron, but overall it’s too early to tell what will happen by spring.
“It depends on how much rain we get,” he said.