High water levels cause damage on Great Lakes
Madison, Wis. – High water levels on some of the Great Lakes have been causing trouble for some shoreline communities in recent years.
Lauren Fry is the lead water levels forecaster with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in the Detroit District office. She estimates water levels on Lake Superior will remain about 4 inches (10 centimeters) above average over the next six months.
Water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are expected to reach 17 inches above average over the next six months. Water levels were about 18 inches above average on the lakes in the beginning of the month. It’s the highest for July since 1997, according to the International Lake Superior Board of Control.
The increase in water levels has caused beaches to erode and is threatening roads and properties near the lakefronts, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
“High water level impacts that people are experiencing now are more related to property,” said Fry. “While erosion always occurs, it’s occurring closer to people’s infrastructure, so the impacts are related to property damage.”
High water levels also caused significant erosion about three years ago that affected residents on Bark Point and crept up near the road that provides access Lake Superior, said Beverly Steele, chairwoman of the Town of Clover.
Steele said a storm damaged the road late last fall. The total cost to repair the road is estimated to cost nearly $300,000.
“When we first had the little erosion that was threatening the road, the old timers said, ‘Well, just let nature take its course because it always heals itself,’” she said. “This time it didn’t heal itself.”
Erosion makes bluffs steeper and more prone to small-or medium-scale landslides, said Luke Zoet, an assistant professor of geoscience with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We’re seeing the general steepening of bluff all up and down the coastline,” he said.
Zoet said the university is using instruments called extensometers to gather data on the movement of bluffs experiencing erosion.