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Lake Levels
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doug miller
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 3:22 pm    Post subject: Lake Levels Reply with quote

An interesting article in the August 14, 2007, NYTimes newspaper re Great Lakes water levels. The link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/14/us/14lakes.html

The text of the article is also copied here--that is because in a few days the NYTimes article will no longer be accessible unless you are a paid subscriber.

"Water levels in the three upper Great Lakes are wavering far below normal, and experts expect Lake Superior, the northernmost lake, to reach a record low in the next two months, according to data from the international bodies that monitor the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater reservoir.

Although the cause of the falling levels is in dispute, the effects in Lakes Michigan and Huron are visible everywhere. Ship channels are overdue for dredging. Wetlands in some areas like Georgian Bay, east of Lake Huron in Ontario, have dried up, leaving fish and birds without accustomed places to reproduce.

Beaches around Saginaw Bay in Michigan have reverted to marshes as shorefront reverts to wetlands. One-third of the Michigan boat ramps are unusable.

Although the drop in levels in all three lakes is variously ascribed to climate change or new rainfall patterns, evidence is growing that people caused some losses in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Gravel mining early in the 20th century by private companies and dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers, particularly in the mid-1960s, may have widened and deepened the St. Clair River, through which those two lakes drain into Lake Erie.

The flow may be eroding the riverbed. The erosion may in turn result in increased outflow, more than can be replenished by rain or snowmelt, according to a study by a group of Canadian coastal engineers.
Data being released this week by a group of Canadian homeowners, supplementing an engineering study from 2005 by W. F. Baird and Associates, a Canadian business, indicates that the outflow is undiminished and may be significantly greater than earlier estimates.
If the new estimates are correct, 2.5 billion gallons a year are being lost through the expanded parts of the St. Clair, roughly the equivalent of the amount diverted annually for Chicago’s needs.

Robert B. Nairn, a coastal and river engineer who is a principal at Baird, said in an interview Monday, “I was surprised that something of this magnitude could be happening.” Although Mr. Nairn said the man-made changes were consequential, he was cautious about speculating whether they had played a greater role in the water loss than other factors, like climate change.

“I think we found that all of those contributed to some degree,” he said. “The big question that remains is how much is each contributing.”

Those questions are a central focus of a new study begun under the auspices of the International Joint Commission, a binational group whose members are appointed by the governments in Washington and Ottawa to monitor the boundaries and water quality of the Great Lakes.

Eugene Stakhiv, an official of the Army Corps of Engineers on loan to the commission, said the Baird group had raised significant questions. “They raised concerns and came to conclusions that make sense within the information and models they used,” Mr. Stakhiv said. “But I think there are still many uncertainties.”

That the water levels in the upper lakes are falling is certain. Data from the corps’s Web site indicates that Lake Superior has almost reached its record low, set in 1926.

Roger Gauthier, a project manager at the Great Lakes Commission, an intergovernmental body representing eight states and two Canadian provinces, said water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron had dropped three feet since 1999 and were about seven inches above the record low set in 1964.

The persistence of low water in Lakes Huron and Michigan has been out of keeping with the larger cycles of high and low water in the basin.
The level of Lakes St. Clair and Erie, more southerly lakes, has been slightly above average. These lakes receive the Huron and Michigan outflow. Intake of abnormally high amounts of water could raise their levels. But so could unusually high rainfalls.

Mr. Stakhiv said he would not prejudge the cause of these changing water levels before new measurements were taken.

But the Georgian Bay Association, the homeowners’ group that hired Baird, says it believes that its study has identified the problem, and its members are impatient for a solution.

“We obviously believe that the river is eroding,” said Bill Bialkowski, a homeowner who is an engineer and took the new measurements. “It would be nice to stabilize it where it’s occurring.”

Representative Candice S. Miller, Republican of Michigan’s 10th District, which includes shoreline of Lakes Huron and St. Clair, said she had tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain a $3 million to $5 million Congressional appropriation to pay for an Army Corps of Engineers study of the crucial waterways.

If the Baird hypothesis is correct, Ms. Miller said, “you’re diverting millions of gallons into the Atlantic Ocean.”
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Rich
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be nice to see that get fixed. I wonder how much lower do they suspect the lakes could become due to this problem?
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:35 am    Post subject: The government will probably repeat History Reply with quote

The government will probably repeat history on this, deny the problem. Here is familiar talk from 1891.

--------------------------------------------------
LOW WATER IN THE LAKES -Great Scheme to Keep Up the Surface Level

A year ago John C. Blanchard of Ionia, Who has an estate on Bois Blanc Island, started a discussion regarding the low water in the lakes by protesting against deepening of channels of the straits between the lakes, particularly St. Clair flats and the Soo River alleging that it would drain off the water and leave the water lower, hence doing no good. The discussion was taken up by others, and finally resulted in Gen. Poe, of Detroit, who has charge of government improvements, taking a hand. He protested that such improvements could not result in draining the lakes, but if they did, a slight dam at the Soo would save enough water to even the matter up. [long article stopped at this point]
---------------------------------------------------

When this article was written a drought had been going on for five years. We may now be experiancing something similar. Here is a picture of Catosh Marsh near Catosh Point Section 13. I have looked at this marsh quite a few times, but haven't ever seen it dry. You can walk all over it and not get your feet wet.

http://www.bois-blanc.com/phpBB2/album_page.php?pic_id=1762
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Conis
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is a complicated problem for sure. I did quite a bit of reading on the subject a year or so ago and am working from what I recall.

Some investigation was initiated by the The Canadian Govt to see of they couldn't pin point the source of the problems... which it seems they did. Next step is getting the Army Corp of engineers to take notice and correct some of their misguded engineering. I will get back to this.

Many of the formerly navigable channels in the North Channel (north and east of Manitoulin Island) are now closed and impassible which, I believe, is what initiated this investigation to begin with.

The fact that we are in a major dought cycle isn't argueable.

Lake Superior is approaching a record low. Part of this is due to the 10/s millions of acres of hydro electric dam impoundments above Superior. After spring run off, there is no surplus water which would normally overflow into Superior. Lake superior is higher than Lakes Michigan and Huron and supplies them via St Marys River. Likewise the overflow defecit is passed along.

These Hydro Electric dams supply most of the electricity of South Western Ontario. Windsor, London, Toronto and east. Ok. Lets blame Canada for green power? Insist they go back to buring fossil fuel to generate power, pull the drain plugs on the hydro dams so Superior will replenish and so on down the chain? Yeah right.

(side note). Can't remember the name of the river in Ontario. North of Thesalon about 75 miles. Walked in to a tourist lookout point to view what we were told was a "gorgeous waterfall" worth seeing. So we went to have a look. Being below a hydro dam and off tourist season, they had it "shut off". Thats right. During peak tourist season, they "run it" for 5 minutes on the hour so as not to "waste" water in the resevoir. Sort of like a man made waterfall version of "old faithful". To me, it is sad... Seeing that river gorge and ex waterfall sitting there dry as a bone... How spectacular it must have been before the impoundment was created. Oh well. Got to have power for the cities. Irreplaceable natural beauty be dammed...

Moving on: Great lakes water usage from has exponentially increased in Urban Areas. Chicago and Milwaukee. (note I didn't include Detroit which is lower). This increased usage may be masked in high water years but in low water years, contribute to the defecit.

Dredging: I am not sure of the exact location. Somewhere between Port Huron and Lake St Clair, The ACE has been dredging for decades to permit larger freighters into the great lakes. In the process, they cut through a clay belt into sand and "pulled the plug" on the lakes with huge underwater erosion. This has been documented. How to fix it remains unresolved.

Being that lakes St Clair and Erie are fed by the three lakes higher, and are at normal or higher than normal levels when Michigan, Huron are 3' low, It wouldn't take an ACE engineer to figure things out?

We have a bad situation made even worse by trying to manipulate water levels to favor commerce. Whoops.

Stop and think about the environmental impact, ??? miles of shoreline real estate value, recreational value lost... It is staggering .

There isn't much we can do about drought cycles even within the bigger picture of Global warming. I suppose it is more about lack of foresight and messing with things better left to natural control.

Translate this to local. See the highwater mark on the breakwall at the BBI ferry dock? Huron is already about as low as it can get and still let the ferry in . That or more dredging? As I was informed, because the the way the the dock structure was built, more dredging would undermine it, so that would all have to be shored up to the tune of millions. Out of who's pocket? What will we eventually have? A canal from the ferry dock out to Lake Huron?

Food for thought, isn't it? Our water resources are more valuable than oil yet so exploited and grossly mismanaged.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Conis - You mentioning that waterfall makes me wonder how long this has been going on - I remember going to Kacabecca Falls "spelling?" up around Thunder Bay - this was back in the mid to late 80's - At that time, around the 4th of July it was only running about 10% -
We are getting more than enough rain - Live on a fairly sandy acreage and have been mowing twice a week all summer!
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Conis
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ron,

Many moons ago on the switch on-off waterfall, I could pick it out on a map. I do know it is near Lake Wakamata, which is a resevoir of about "800 billion acres". River backed up 70x 25 miles.

My point being that all these hydro electric resevoirs are recent in comparison to the previous lowest recorded level in superior, which predated the resevoirs.

We are in a major dought. The spring run off fills the resevoirs without surplus (maybe) with no overflow to superior, which means no overflow to the lower lakes Michigan and Huron. Meanwhile The lower lakes are dumping water faster than "natural" due to over dredging.

The Army Corp Of Engineers... "hey lets dredge deeper to let bigger ships in" without "gee what would happen if the water supply dries up?"

Nothing much we can do about the drought. Canada wants the rest of the problem FIXED. Michigan doesn't solely own the Great Lakes.

A fubar of unparallelled magnitude. Just look and you will see our Gov't and ACE in in-action. Now, do a study about how to fix it?

News flash: Drought aside, without the reservoirs in Ontario and the overdredging , Michigan/Huron migh be low a foot rather then 3+' and falling. Cumulative oversight and mismanagement sums it up.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:32 am    Post subject: Glacial Rebound Reply with quote

Conis, you missed one factor that is causing the lakes to be lower, that we can't do much about. Peoples eyes glaze over when I bring this up.

Glacial rebound is reducing the lake levels. A good analogy is to fill a cookie sheet with water and call it Lakes Michigan and Huron. Call one corner the St. Clair River. Tip the cookie sheet up so water spills over that corner. At the opposite end, the high side, call that the Straits of Mackinac and notice that the water is disappearing. This is happening at a slow rate, but over time it has an effect.

The flow of water is completely controlled at the Soo. The water flow is uncontrolled at the St. Clair River. The St. Clair River is where, with a billon or two dollars, the problem can be solved by not dredging, but instead building locks that would raise and lower ships a few feet. There would need to be a dam also and spillway to control the flow. Build everything as though it was expected to last forever.

The expense would be shared with Canada and the problem solved. People would then have control over the level of Lakes Michigan & Huron, like they do Lake Superior.

The only drawback to all this is that whatever man makes - breaks. At sometime in the distant future, something will fail.

Another problem is that they should, but they probably wouldn't, allow the lakes to rise and fall, like nature did, so that the lake shores would not be impacted.
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Conis
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The only drawback to all this is that whatever man makes - breaks. At sometime in the distant future, something will fail.

Another problem is that they should, but they probably wouldn't, allow the lakes to rise and fall, like nature did, so that the lake shores would not be impacted.


Thats what happens when you try to improve on mama nature. Dredge the channels to let bigger ships in? Ok... that lets more water out? Especially when it is over done to the point it creates erosion. Like scratching a channel with a stick to drain a mud puddle. Pretty soon that little channel has eroded into a BIG channel.

A Dam and a lock would be a solution and probably the most likely fix. If they can build the panama canal, they could pull this off. I just wonder how bad things will have to get before the word "urgent" comes into focus?

Another variable I neglected: Evaporation. With less and less of the lakes frozen in the winter, winter evaporation is a large contributor to water loss. Nothing we cah do about that.

I believe this summers drought is worse than any in recent memory. My pond at home is as low as It has ever been, zero water in or out. Our rain defecit over the last 10 years is not inches, but feet.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In reality----nothing lasts forever...... Darn.....
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What year did they dredge the Saint Clair River?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was the st clair river dredge lately? I just don't remember. I was wondering because there is a lot of electric lines and pipe lines crossing the river in different places. I have worked on inspection of these lines. There is also a tunnel in the detroit river. I don't know how you would ever dredge this river. I do know the river current is about 4-6 knots depending what time of year. It is the worse under the Blue Water bridge where the mouth to lake huron is. Now there is an channel in the bottom of lake huron which connects to the st clair river mouth which has been dredged off and on. That is because it is on the bottom of lake huron and all the sand and debree ends up caught right there in that bottle neck. It gets full of sand right in that area if not dredged out. But I don't think that they make it any deeper then normal. Over the years they even made a dog leg in there so there wasn't a straight shot from lake huron. The shallowest part of the river chain is lake st clair so if any thing needs dredging it would be that.
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Conis
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kevin,

Been a year or so since I read much about this. I remember that there were several shallow problem areas, dredged on rotation.

One of the areas was around Port Huron which is where they ran into problems. Water levels started dropping, the the dredging went deeper. They cut through a clay strata into sand, and the underwater erosion problem really took off... 4-5 years ago, maybe?

At least thats what I recall reading.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I might be wrong because I don't know for sure but I would bet it is in the lake on the north side of the blue water bridge. On the south side there is a lot of under water cables electric. They can't dredge through them. The river south of the bridge is always deeper then the flats north of the bridge. In the flats which is about a mile or two whide there is a channel for large vessel through there which has got to be dredge off and on. I don't no if this is letting more water out then normal or not. But if you did put a dam there you could control lake michigan and lake huron easly. The down side besides money, you sure would bottle up boat traffic both comm and private.
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Conis
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you are right, the area coming in from Huron, north of the bridge, is what I remember.

Building a dam and Lock might be the only solution if the problem has become as serious as the experts now say it is. I am sure it is doable, expense beyond that. If they can do it at the soo and panama, I am sure they could pull this off to raise the level back up 3' where it belongs.

When you think about a couple billion to build a lock? Chump change compared to costs of having Michigan and Huron as low as they are. Canadians aren't real happy about it either (even though they are with holding water from coming into Superior, which partly contributes to low levels in lower lakes).

At some point, they are going to have to quit doing studies about it and fix the problem. It doesn't appear that it is going to fix itself.
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doug miller
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

FYI, the free press website today has an article about lake levels--focus is on Superior but touches on Huron and Michigan. Go to www.freep.com.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doug
This is what I expect to be the problem. We have been in many years with below average snow fall and rain fall & evaporation of the lakes winter and summer do to not much freezing up of the lakes. We have been in a drought for a long time. It has to effect the lakes. If I remember right in the 70's we had real high water. It was right up to the road on the south shore. And that went into the 80's. Where is all that water going? I don't berlieve that it is all going out the st clair river although I do believe that we could control the lakes with a dam there. Just mich and huron. There is alredy a dam for lake superior. Then Erie and Onterio will get low. Looks like a double edged sword.
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doug miller
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kevin:

On a related--and of more personal interest to me, matter, do you have any recollection of how high the water got back then on the far west end? I built my cottage up pretty high but still wonder how high it got.

Doug
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doug
Can't answer you on that one. But I bet Joe Kompsi could. I think you know him being that you live on the west end. I would talk to him. What side of the point are you on? I know one side is sand and the other is rock. I remember when there was a dock on the point and my dad used to come in there with a tug and barge and haul a barge load of logs to Mackinaw city I believe it was for michigan maple block.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOW Kevin ..are you THAT OLD ????

LOL

Now really I do not remember seeing it but heard about it ....

hEY HOW IS JOE ??? TELL HIM HELLO FOR ME ..

hE WORKED WHERE MY DAD FEELEY WORKED ON MACKINC ISLAND ..
i MET HIM WHEN I WAS ABOUT 8 YEARS OLD ....
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 10:05 am    Post subject: A record Reply with quote

Nothing posted since last August on this subject.

I noticed that there has been underwater pictures taken and other investigations started to counter (or confirm) the talk of erosion occurring in the bottom of the St. Clair River.

Also, there is now talk that water levels have gone up. I haven't noticed it, but I had no marker to use as a reference point.

I pounded a pipe into the sand at the edge of the lake today, 3/27/08. I can now measure what is happening. I wish that I had put one in last fall.

I think Officer Whipple keeps some sort of record. Also Plaunt will let us all know if it is safe for his boat.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 10:12 am    Post subject: Measurement of Lake level Reply with quote

Since I pounded a pipe in at the edge of the lake, I have watched the lake first go down a few inches, then yesterday it came back up to the starting point. Today, I found the water level had gone up 2 inches. Rich Goodin has a 4 inch well with an overflow pipe on the side. Yesterday it was not flowing, but,coincidentally, today it is. So, It appears that, this spring, the lake started to rise on 4/5/08.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:21 pm    Post subject: Measured Reply with quote

I measured today and found that the lake level has gone up 5 inches since the beginning of April.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is good news--hope it keeps going up.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Found an interesting website re Great Lakes water levels and forecast-prediction.

http://www.lre.usace.army.mil/greatlakes/hh/greatlakeswaterlevels/waterlevelforecasts/weeklygreatlakeswaterlevels/

From the charts, it looks like Michigan/Huron have come up 8" since March 18th and forcasted to come up another 4 by May 18th with overall level higher than last summer. Lake Superior is also substantially up which will contribute to Michigan and Huron,

Graphs
http://www.lre.usace.army.mil/greatlakes/hh/datalinks/PrinterFriendly/DailyLevelsEnglish.pdf

Further reviewing some of the projections. It looks like levels may come up to within a foot of average.

Lots of info, charts, graphs projections. Very informative
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey MIKE how are the lake levels looking? Is there much water coming out of the creeks?
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