Lowest recorded water levels in Lakes Michigan-Huron basis for repeat Great Lakes Levels 101 program

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension will host a free public program to inform interested citizens on Lake Michigan water level with representatives from US Army Corp of Engineers and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Visitors and residents to the shoreline of any parts of Lakes Michigan and Huron have noticed the significantly low level of the water and the vast amount of exposed bottomland, formerly covered by water. Since the late 1800s, lake level records have been recorded for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and since 1918, the US Army Corps of Engineers has maintained lake level records on a number of gaging stations. Because wind and pressure can set up daily movements of the water, the gage records are averaged to even out for such fluctuations. Each month of the year, then, has a “lake level average”. The level of 576.02 recorded during January 2013 was the lowest monthly average ever recorded on Lake Michigan—besting the previous monthly record low recorded in March 1964 of 576.05 and the previous January record low of 576.12. February 2013 levels are actually higher so far than the January levels, indicating the system may have possibly bottomed-out and may not go lower as earlier models predicted for February and March, 2013.

To explain lake level variations, hydrologic system inputs and outputs, and historical lake level records, Michigan Sea Grant Extension and Michigan State University Extension are hosting a repeat of a free public seminar on Great Lakes Levels 101 on April 8, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Ottawa Co. Fillmore Complex Conference Room, 12220 Fillmore St., West Olive, MI 49460. This program has been scheduled due to strong demand and tremendous interest from the first Great Lake Levels 101 program held in Traverse City on February 4, 2013. The Traverse City program had over 150 citizens from a multi-county region attend and had questions answered on great lakes hydrology, coastal processes and permitting issues on bottomlands of the Great Lakes. The Ottawa County program will include ample time for moderated questions and answers on similar issues from state and federal representatives.

The Levels 101 program is co-sponsored by the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Facilitators and speakers for the event include:

  • Dan O’Keefe, Educator, Michigan Sea Grant Extension/MSU Extension, Grand Haven
  • Mark Breederland, Educator, Michigan Sea Grant Extension/MSU Extension, Traverse City
  • Keith Kompoltowicz, Chief of Watershed Hydrology, US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit
  • Luis Saldiva, Michigan DEQ Water Resources Division, Grand Rapids
  • Jeff Fritsma, US Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory, Grand Haven

State and federal laws and regulations apply to bottomlands below the “ordinary high water mark” and personnel who deal with these issues for the Southwestern Lower Michigan region (from both the US Army Corps of Engineers and the MDEQ) will be on hand to answer regulatory issue questions.

Speakers will also discuss observations from the long-term data set that exists for lake levels information on the Great Lakes. For instance, just four years after the lowest monthly record low in March 1964 and the lowest yearly low in 1964, the lake levels bounced above the long-term yearly average in 1968.  Currently, however, the yearly average of Michigan-Huron has not been above the long-term average since 1998, making this a string of 14 consecutive years below average. 

For more information about the Great Lakes Level 101 program or lake levels, contact Mark Breederland at 231-922-4628, Dan O Keefe at 616-994-4572,  or Kelly Goward, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council at 616-395-2688.

Great Lakes 101 - Ottawa County Program Announcement

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