Great Lakes levels surge, some record highs predicted

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GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — Federal officials predict water levels will surge to record highs in some areas of the Great Lakes over the next six months.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report released Monday says the lakes have been rising steadily for several years and are getting an extra boost as winter’s melting snow mingles with recent heavy rainfall.

The Corps’ Detroit district office says levels on Lake Superior and Lake Erie are expected to break records set decades ago.

Records are not predicted for Lakes Michigan, Huron and Ontario, but they’re still expected to rise significantly. And Lake Michigan’s high water level is already causing problems. 

Charter Capt. Brian Butts to maneuver his boat into a temporary slip this spring because his usual parking spot needed some work, thanks to rising channel waters.  

“Because the water levels have come up so fast, the water to the dock and the electrical has all been damaged and they had to redo all that,” said Butts of Sea Flea Charters. 

While winter is finally gone, the aftermath is still being felt along the lakeshore. 

The snowmelt from Canada has made its way south, and all the ice on Lake Michigan this winter kept evaporation to a minimum. 

“We haven’t seen levels at this point since like 1986, which was our all-time high recorded,” said Chris Schropp with the Army Corp of Engineers in Grand Haven. “It probably will be anywhere from 6 to 10 inches lower than that.  But they’re still high and they’ll still have their own issues associated with those levels.”

Among those issues is beach erosion. Some places have already added sand to create more beach.

The Army Corp of Engineers has been fielding calls from concerned homeowners looking for ways to keep their beach intact, and in some places, their homes from going in to the lake.  

“Unfortunately, there’s probably not inexpensive methods to protect your property,” said Schropp.

But as recent history has shown, if you’re worried about lake levels, just wait a few seasons. 

“January of ‘13, we were near record lows,” said Schropp of the dry winter’s effect. “The lakes rebounded. Mother Nature said, ‘I’m going to add some water,’ and now we’re here.”

For a map of high risk erosion areas, visit the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s website.

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