Lake Levels Rebounding - WBAY

Great Lakes Levels Rebounding

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says water levels on Lake Michigan have risen dramatically, and will continue to rise this spring and summer.

It was just over a year ago, in January 2013, lake levels fell to an all-time record 28-inches below normal.

Today though, Lake Michigan is just 13 inches below normal and it's projected to gain up to another four inches in the months to come.  

A number of factors play in to the water level rebound.

After revealing beaches never seen before, Lake Michigan received some good fortune, starting last year with a wet and cool spring.

What followed is a winter for the ages.

Record cold left Lake Michigan 92-percent ice covered, preventing evaporation, and there's an above average snow pack waiting to melt.

And according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while its forecast released today calls for a seasonal rise just a few inches above average, lake levels this summer could approach normal for the first time in 15 years.

"Now if we were to see very wet conditions over the next six months, maybe similar to the conditions we saw during the spring a year ago, a much larger seasonal rise isn't out of the question," says Keith Kompoltowicz, a hydrologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Despite the sudden surge in lake levels though, experts warn boaters and ship captains shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security.

"Levels are still expected to remain below average so that will affect navigation maybe by reducing load size and requiring more trips, it just really depends on the specific location that that navigation is occurring in," says Kompoltowicz.

The news is even better to the north, where later this month, water levels on Lake Superior are expected to rise above normal for the first time since 1998.

In the boat business, water is money.  So Lake Michigan's rise of more than a foot, is a big deal for Captain Nick Nault.

"That's a lot! In one year? Absolutely, that's huge,"says Nault owner of the Salmon Depot Charter Fishing.

Navigating through last year's record low lake levels was challenging.

"Keeping our boats and equipment in deep enough water to get in and out of our slips every day," says Nault.

The increased levels this year will make the upcoming season much safer for his boat and his customers.

"There's some times where the water is so low, you could have two feet where you gotta jump up to the docks," says Nault.

"The benefits to having more water is everything.  All the beaches, the people, all the property owners," says Tom Knauer at Bay Marine.

Local businesses like Bay Marine hope to benefit from the ripple effect.

"It's gonna help tourism, it's gonna help people save some cash, they won't have to invest in dredging this year," says Knauer.

Thanks to our long cold winter freezing over more than 90% of the Great Lakes and dropping more than 50 inches of snow, when temperatures rise Lake Michigan could too.

"With all the lakes being froze over there's not much evaporation and we have so much snow! So it's gotta go somewhere, so ... hopefully into Lake Michigan," says Nault with a laugh.

This summer, water levels are expected to reach above normal for the first time in 15 years.

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