Board talks possible solutions for rising waters

Rising Waters

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Since August 2018, Lake Michigan has risen exactly 1.3 feet.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says this is the first time in the recorded history of lake levels that a single lake has gone from record lows to near record highs. 

The Great Lakes Coalition believes this was partially due to ice cover, which led to an incredibly wet spring.

Officials say 2018 was the wettest year on record in the state of Michigan since the 1800s.

In addition, April and May of 2018 were the fourth and fifth-highest supply months to Lake Michigan on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ron Wilson of the Great Lakes Coalition board believes a changing climate is inevitably to blame.

“Climate change has impacted the Great Lakes levels,” Wilson said. “There’s been more rainfall as a result of the climate changes and that’s causing us to have more water in the Great Lakes.”

More water has shrunken beaches, damaged infrastructure and threatened lakefront homes for months.

In the board’s annual meeting in Holland, they set to address concerned members of the public and explain five theoretical options that could immediately lower the rising water.

“We’re hoping that all of the options will be explored further,” Wilson said. “The recommendations have been made, and we want to have Congress and/or the Army Corp of Engineers act to take these up.

The possibilities exist nearly one for each lake. Each could divert water away from the other and send most of the excess water into the Atlantic Ocean or down the Mississippi River by way of Chicago. 

In Lake Superior, the coalition argues, flow from the Longlac and Osaki rivers could be reinstated. The rivers were reversed years ago to make a hydroelectric plant that is, as Wilson says, “out of date.”

Lakes Huron and Michigan, connected through the Straits of Mackinac, act as one, and flow to the Chicago wastewater diversion could be increased, which would immediately make an impact.

In Lake Erie where it flows into Lake Ontario, the coalition believes the reopening of Black Rock Lock and increased flow to the Welland Canal would also help. 

“These were all recommendations by a task force that were set forth about six years ago to research this,” Wilson said. “We want to see these things implemented because for those people who need action now, they’re running out of luck.”

Any action would first have to be approved and ordered by the International Joint Commission, operated by Canadian and U.S. board members.

The commission was invited to Saturday’s panel but declined.

A member from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office was also on hand at the meeting, along with a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Both representatives assured concerned individuals that action was being taken but urged anyone with strong opinions to write to the IJC for further action.

“It takes three months for anyone to get a permit processed by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Wilson said. “For anyone trying to build a sea wall or other water retention, someone who cannot wait on the federal government to do something, that is far too long.”

Scientists within the coalition believe that Lake Michigan will continue to lower throughout August.

Beyond that, scientists say they can’t guess accurately.

**Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Lake Erie flows into Lake Huron. Lake Erie doesn’t flow into Lake Huron. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario do connect to each other. We regret the error.

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