Just as Great Lakes fishermen and boaters were wondering if the lake levels could get any lower, Mother Nature steps in and saves the day.
More snow in the northern reaches of the watershed and a wet spring throughout the region helped boost the water levels over the summer by more than just a little bit. Lake Superior, which typically rises by a foot during the spring and summer, came up 20 inches, as did lakes Michigan and Huron. Lakes St. Clair and Erie came up nearly two feet.
It’s more than good news for just boaters. The increase also means improved and expanded habitat for wildlife – especially waterfowl – and better spawning/rearing habitat for many species of fish. Late this summer, fishermen were noting the deeper water, and waterfowlers, when duck season opened in the north recently, were getting their boats into places they hadn’t floated in several years.
While lake levels typically decline during the autumn months, it will be interesting to see what happens this year if the rain continues to fall as it has in recent weeks.
Nearly 30 years ago, when the lakes were seeing record high levels, waterfront property owners were asking the Corps of Engineers and other government organizations to do something to help keep the water from claiming their properties. During the past 10 years, they’ve asked those same groups to do things as radical as installing the equivalent of speed bumps in the St. Clair River to hold more water back in the upper lakes. In both cases, Mother Nature had the last word.
The lakes are still below long-term averages. A representative of the Lake Carriers Association, which represents shipping interests on the lakes, was quoted recently as saying, “this is not a case of ‘happy days are here again,’” and noted that dredging projects around the lakes should continue.
If we know one thing for sure, it’s that lake levels – high or low – are temporary conditions. But if you ask a fishermen or duck hunter right now, they’d probably tell you that happy days are here again.