State Looks to Dredging As Great Lakes Hit Record Low

6 Feb 2013

Earlier this week, Arthur blogged about the low lake levels in Michigan and mentioned that the Great Lakes have been at a lower than average level for the past 12 years.  Continuing the trend, the water levels of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron just set another record low.  According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the monthly mean water level was at 576.02 feet on January 31, 2013 – .03 feet lower than the previous record set in March 1964. 

The drop in lake levels significantly impacts harbors both big and small which, as Arthur pointed out, means commercial shipping and pleasure boaters suffer.  According to this article, Michigan has 56 harbors and channels that the federal government is responsible to maintain, but U.S. Army Corps of Engineers only plans to dredge only 6 of them this year and will focus on the large and medium-sized ports used by commercial vessels.

So what about the smaller harbors?  Well, next week, Governor Snyder is expected to call for spending $11 million this year to dredge Michigan harbors in danger of losing their connections to open water because of low Great Lakes levels.  In addition, the Michigan House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to include “the dredging of Great Lakes harbors for use by recreational watercraft” as part of “developing public recreation facilities,” thereby allowing money from the State Natural Resources Trust Fund to be diverted to harbor maintenance.

It will be interesting to see how these efforts pan out and while it is clear that something needs to be done in the short-term, dredging is still just a temporary fix to combat the effects of a much larger, long-term problem.

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