: Could a Man-Made fix bring up Great Lakes Water Levels?
03-25-2003, 09:52 AM
With the lake levels being such a pain in the arse Lo these last 7 years, I was wondering about whether a man-made fix would/could help us. And just what kind of fix it would take to exhibit this change. The Core of Engineers have done some amazing things with waterways over the years. Of course not all being good as some would comment but rarley admit to.
Wouldn't putting Wing Dams, Lock's or such other devises on the St.Claire or Detroit Rivers work to hold back the water from at least flowing out so fast? I wonder if anybody has really taken a look at or explored any of these possibilities or any choices at all, given we're in what seems to be a very long cycle of low water. Think I'm going to post this for Fred Snyder to have a crack at on the Ohio answer page.
03-25-2003, 10:31 AM
I would weigh in on nature winning this battle. My understanding is that evaportation is the biggest draw in Lake Michigan. Certainly, outflows can make a difference, but, that of course has impact downstream. If we could seed those clouds and produce a bit more H2O, we may get back to the higher water cylces faster than nature seems to be directing.
03-25-2003, 10:33 AM
I think you would be fiddling with mother nature too much, it could upset spawning and migration patterns, as well as natural marsh areas.
Im sure you are well aware that the great lakes are on a roughly 10 year cycle as far as water levels go. Some people built lakefront homes and the like when the water was at its peak, now they are high and dry.
And say if it was feasible to do such a thing, who is going to pay for it? The cost would be astronomical.
03-25-2003, 11:00 AM
Well, shut the welland canal down and stop making power at the falls, but then the level would drop in Ontario. Hey, don't mess with the water from Huron as Erie would drop even more :)
03-25-2003, 12:55 PM
Every boat should be allowed 4 times as much beer, and no porta potty.
03-25-2003, 01:17 PM
Good point Brian.
Seems though, that if each State at certain pinch points, did just a little to slow the drain, the other things you mentioned wouldn't be as effected. After all, we did at one point have an additional 4 feet of water in the Great Lakes not so very long ago. So we would have some generous leeway to play with. And the cost would also be spread out, versus putting the onis on one state.
03-25-2003, 01:31 PM
Actually I don't think the lakes are on any real cycles Perchjerker. I can't remember the exact answer I got on that one but at one time I did question Fred Snyder from Ohio Sea Grant about the cycles and he said something like he has studied Erie since the 70s and he has never really seen a cycle. I do know that Erie is actually very near normal right now but seems extremely low because we just came off about 30 years of above normal water levels!!!!! If you can find the graph of Erie's water levels (I can't remember where it's at right now) you can see that we did have about 30 years of high water levels.....
PS All my observations of the Army Corp of Eng. work makes me want to make it ABSOLUTELY ILLEGAL for them to ever touch the Great Lakes .. I think they ##### near destroyed the Everglades....?????
03-25-2003, 01:37 PM
I'll take your word for it, Bob. Im sure Fred knows more than the oldtimers at the marina I used to stay at. (Im serious, I dont want you to think I am being sarcastic).
Thats how you learn.
Anyway, I think the public would better be served if they could do more dredging to the access areas than trying to do something like control the water levels.
03-25-2003, 01:37 PM
Though the water level has been low the pass 5-7 years on the big scale of things it's actual closer to normal water heights. I believe the records went back about a 100 years and it showed the cycle of high and low water periods. But on average were very close to it. The hard part is the past 30 years we have had above average rain fall which raised the levels to were everybody thinks they should be. All marina's and ramps have adjusted there heights for this high water times in years past only to see the water levels lowering each year. I think one of the amazing things to see is on rt 2 going from cleveland to sandusky, when you pass over the huron river the house on the far west use to have his own boat dock. Below the bridge was all water deep enough for a good size boat to dock there. In the past 5 years I saw how each year this guy was losing more and more water to a point that he just pulled the dock out. Now when you go over it you can see an island with grass going on it, kinda another marshland.
03-25-2003, 01:58 PM
I agree and I know you weren't being sarcastic, I've heard all the old men stories (hey, I am an old man :-) Take a look at this it tells it pretty good:
When Erie water levels were at a peak some 25 or 30 yrs ago I can remember articles about waterfront homeowners losing their yards during storms and some fearing for their houses.
Some sort of plan was evaluated to try to drain more water from erie. I don't really remember but I think it involved a canal to a river maybe NE OH?? or reversing the flow of a NE OH river? Had to get it into the next drainage basin/watershed?? Anyway, I do remember they determined it would take either 10 or 20 yrs to have any impact.
If someone was willing to pay and there was a way to raise water levels, what happens if/when mother nature decides to fill her back up? Would we end up bailing out those fortunate enough to have waterfront homes since it wouldn't entirely be an act of nature? I'd support dredging necessary to maintain recreational activities and commerce.
03-25-2003, 07:16 PM
I guess the real bad part of all this is that the Core of Engineers are the ones who you have to go through to get a dredging permit in our area. And by the time they do their impact study, permit criteria and then put you on the waiting list, either your business, marina or boat sales are gone down the tube. The small marina I keep my boat at pay's big time money for a guy to come in and blow a layer of the river channel out every year with his tug.
Yet all who launch there or at the public State launch on the other side of the river benefit from his cost effort. He's been trying for 5 years to get a dredging permit but has been stifiled by the red tape. And our water depth right now is indeed at the historic average, correct water level datum. Meaning it may well indeed stay there for years and only fluctuate either way a few inches every few seasons. So why the stalling on the dredging permits?
03-25-2003, 08:07 PM
This Great Lakes are thought to be on a 30 year cycle, not 10 as far as water levels. Back in the late 80's water levels were at their highest. Waves were actually crashing across Lake Shore Drive in Chicago during some storms. So we are about half way through that 30 year cycle.
I wonder what if any affect keeping the shipping lanes open during winter have in the water level. As opposed to allowing the lakes to freeze which would help alleviate evaporation.
03-25-2003, 08:18 PM
I thought the beaches looked bigger when I was a kid!
03-25-2003, 09:17 PM
Your absolutley right. The beaches were bigger, a lot more sand before you hit the water. And the cattail marshes were more vast back then as well.
But I sure hate the anal pucker I get while heading out that 20 foot wide channel at full speed the last few years. :-)
03-27-2003, 08:31 AM
Fred Snyders answer.
By Fred Snyder, Sea Grant Extension. (18.104.22.168 - 22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 01:54 pm:
This is basically the other side of the question asked during high water, which then was, whether or not the Corps of Engineers could lower the lake level through some engineering feat.
The answer then was yes, structures could be built to lower it, but it would cost $billions and only have a very few inches of effect. It's a very similar situation now.
Consider the economic losses being suffered by the Great Lakes shipping industry - low water requires lighter loads for ships and is costing them millions of dollars monthly. Then imagine the pressure they would put on the Corps to somehow raise lake levels - if they thought it could be done.
The real problem is that we've been in a drier climate period since about 1997, following 30 years of wetter climate conditions that led to all those years of high water. While today's lake levels are shockingly low compared to the past 30 years, it's interesting to compare today's levels with the 140-year average, extending back to 1860. Todays levels are barely under the 140-year average!
I can send you and other interested readers a photo image of this long-term trend - just send a request to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
03-27-2003, 09:31 AM
I was at a convention 2yrs ago and met one of the CoE who worked the Ohio area. Of course I had to discuss this issue. They said they know they get blamed every year but it really has more to do with the winter, amount of snow, not just freezing but how fast the thaw affecting run off. Bob oh, that is a good site you gave as it tracks the facts. The observations of the CoE by Dan appear to be on track.
Like anything, they do make mistakes but Mother Nature is the biggest element.
What I do not see around Erie is the erosion you have seen for years around Lake Michigan at their dunes. That is Mother Nature at its most and constant and worse. Living between the two lakes, I have always been impressed by the rock build ups around Erie. I am sure many of you know the history.
03-27-2003, 10:36 AM
Great site huh Capt. Dan :-)
03-27-2003, 10:52 AM
Yupper Bob Oh.
I especially like the fact that Fred just answers the questions without the political twists or inuendo often directed at the poster as well as the posters question. I fallowed up Freds answer with another question about the C.O.E. Rather he knows why they set on their hands in most cases, when the requests for dredgeing permits have been overwhelming these last few years.
Heres my question and his recent answer.
By Capt: Dan. (126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52) on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 10:21 am:
Thanks Dave and Fred.
One more question. If we are indeed doomed to have these low water levels for maybe the rest of my life and beyond, why, in your humble opinion, does/is the Core draging their feet for dredging permits/requests? Now, I realize you guys don't work for the Core, just wondering what you think.
Even though I've heard they've speeded up their review and permit process, many small local marinas located on small rivers, drainages and cuts are running into major road blocks and red tape for a permit. Even when they are willing to have it done with their own moneys and not use the Cores resources.
By Fred Snyder, Sea Grant Ext. (184.108.40.206 - 220.127.116.11) on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 11:39 am:
I'm afraid that's a question that will have to be directed to the Corps. They say that the permit process has been sped up, but there may be individual problems with some applications. I can't really speak for another agency.
04-04-2003, 09:36 PM
One easy fix would be to stop the pumping of Lake Michigan water down the Illinois river. It used to flow into the lake, and the Corps has reversed the flow to support barge traffic on the rivers. Vast amounts of water are lost that way. No man made object is going to slow the flow in the St. Clair or Detroit rivers.