Some relief from record high Great Lakes levels

by Jeff Helsdon | September 2, 2020
Lake Ontario under review for water levels

Boaters and anglers are seeing some relief from the record high lake levels that have plagued the Great Lakes over the last two years.

All of the Great Lakes are down from record highs last year, except for Lake Huron. It sat near record high level in June. Only October 1986 was higher. 

Frank Seglenieks, water resources engineer with Environment and Climate Change Canada, explained Huron went up average amounts this year, but it started so high from 2019 that this pushed it into record territory.

Managing water levels

As of the end of June, Lake Superior was 15 centimetres below its record and Lake Erie was its second highest ever, behind last year. Lake Ontario, the lake with the greatest ability to control its levels, was able through a concerted management effort to increase outflows and is now closer to average levels than record levels.

The other major control on the Great Lakes is the St. Mary’s River, which flows between Lakes Superior and Huron. Seglenieks said less water is being let out of Superior to provide relief for Lake Huron.

At the beginning of July, Superior was 24 cm above average, Michigan-Huron 88 cm, St. Clair 85 cm, Erie 77 cm and Ontario 16 cm. (Huron and Michigan are considered one hydrologically.)

“We could be pulled down from the records in the next year but getting down to average – especially in Huron-Michigan – could take two to three drier years,” Seglenieks said.

Reduced issues at some launches, marinas

For boaters, this has helped somewhat reduce issues caused by high water levels at launches and marinas. On Lake Erie, Sandboy Marina experienced their launch ramp under water and water out to the road several times in 2019. With water levels down four inches from last July 10, manager Robyn Hanson has seen an improvement.

“It’s been more welcoming this year without the water to the road as often,” she said.

On Lake Huron, where water levels were still at a record, there are still problems in places.

“We’re having to dig our ramp out with the water pushing sand up on the ramp because vehicles are getting stuck,” said Leah Nanibush-Salt, at Wasauksing Marina in Parry Sound.

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