News Story

Great Lakes Water Levels Too High? Too Low? For 60 Years Newspapers Answer: Yes

Variation appears the norm

A recent Detroit Free Press story highlighted the focus on the Great Lakes in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state budget plan for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“Between the high water levels gobbling up beaches, roadways and homes along the Great Lakes ... the environment was sure to be a big-ticket item,” the Free Press reported.

The newspaper describes Whitmer’s proposal to spend $40 million on what the budget calls “Local Climate Resilient Infrastructure Grants” as a response to “the negative impacts of Michigan’s changing climate conditions.”

The Free Press adds that this is what has caused record high water levels.

Around the region, newspapers are reporting that water levels are high and are causing damage. Over the past six decades, regional newspapers have had a lot to stay about Great Lakes’ water levels. Here are some examples:

July 29, 1964

Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois)
Headline: Great Lakes Water Levels Big Problem

“The conference was prompted by record low levels of the lakes which have been falling steadily since 1960 – due primarily to a lack of rainfall in the Great Lakes basin.”

May 21, 1975

Lansing State Journal
Headline: After 10 Years, Joint Lakes Study Incomplete

“When the IJC [International Joint Commission, US – Canada] study began nearly a decade ago, he noted, the Great Lakes were plagued by low-water levels and as it comes to a completion, high waters have become the chief concern.”

Dec 16, 1986

Petoskey News-Review
Headline: High Water May Be The Norm, Not Exception

“We would all do better to learn a lesson from this increasing tide, a lesson teaching that Mother Nature is consistently inconsistent. Today’s extreme may be tomorrow’s norm and the reverse is certainly true, also.”

Jan. 26, 1987

News Herald (Port Clinton, Ohio)
Headline: Michigan Wants Lake Level Controls

“All the Great Lakes are either at or near their highest levels on record, with erosion and flooding causing millions of dollars in damage to coastal properties and erasing huge sections of the shoreline.”

“The Great Lakes began reaching record highs in 1984, with the rising levels blamed on a 15-year period of unusually high precipitation in the Great Lakes basin.”

April 11, 1996

The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)
Headline: Great Lakes Water Levels Continue 10-Year Decline

“Water levels in the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair have declined steadily over the last decade, Environment Canada statistics indicate.”

May 17, 2000

Battle Creek Enquirer
Headline: Great Lakes Water Levels Drop To Record Low

“What makes the dropoff particularly remarkable is that it comes only three years after lake levels reached near-record highs. Then, beaches and even houses were swept away.”

July 19, 2009

The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois)
Headline: Great Lakes Water Levels Rebound After Long Slump

“During the mid-1980s, levels got so high that houses, businesses and even sections of roads were swept away along Lake Michigan’s southeastern shoreline.

Then a sudden deep dropoff began in the late 1990s. ... But if grim computer modeling proves accurate, global warming will cause the lakes to recede up to 3 feet this century.

“‘Climate projections say the lakes will go up and down around a decreasing average,’ said Don Scavia, director of the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute. ‘The lows will be lower than in the past and the highs will be lower than in the past.’”

Oct. 13, 2019

The Times Herald
Headline: Great Lakes Water Levels Could Be Even Higher In 2020

“It appears 2020 won’t bring relief from high Great Lakes water levels – and they could be even higher than this past record-shattering spring and summer.”