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Lake levels show importance of protecting natural resources

October 18, 2012
The Alpena News

The old childhood ditty "water, water everywhere ..." still holds true for Northeast Michigan, but residents are left scratching their heads these days at the level of that water in lakes, rivers and streams.

Nowhere is the lack of water more evident than the Lake Huron shoreline. While the low water assists metal detector historians in search of lost treasures, it concerns the rest of us who suddenly see the shoreline extended several hundred yards in some instances further into the lake.

And, this lack of water isn't unique to Lake Huron, but rather is systematic to the entire Great Lakes basin. The Traverse Bay area is equally as low, if not more so, on the Lake Michigan side of the state.

While the low water is a concern for all of us, for shippers the situation creates serious obstacles and financial worries. Shippers are forced to lighten their loads in order to not "bottom out" as they come in and out of many ports. Thus, there is less cargo being carried on each shipment, making each journey less profitable for the shipper and less cost efficient for the consumer.

According to a story earlier this week by Jordan Travis, boats are loading today about 2,000 tons less than they were at the start of the season. Boats are drafting about a foot lower because of the water level.

While residents may not be thrilled with all the rain this week, certainly it helps to again saturate the ground, helping to replenish water tables. And, every little bit helps, even if its effect on the big lake will be minimal at first.

While some might not want to hear this, the greatest impact to water levels next summer would be a cold winter, with the lakes freezing over early and remaining frozen through the winter. This would prevent evaporation - one of the main forms of water loss in the lakes.

The Great Lakes ecosystem is sensitive, fragile, and fluctuates quickly as evidence of the water levels. For that reason all of us need to work together to protect and preserve this important natural resource.



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