If you walk along Presque Isle shorelines, whether it be lake, lagoon or bay, you might ask, “Where did all the water go?” No, it’s not just bad eyesight. Water levels on the Great Lakes are nearing their all-time historic lows and are now having a negative effect on recreational boating and fishing.
In some respects, we are lucky here on Lake Erie because our water levels are not as low as the levels on Lakes Huron and Michigan. I have seen pictures from Lake Michigan Marinas that show boats tied to fixed docks that are six or seven feet above their gunwales. Over the past year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that the entire Great Lakes basin had received below average rainfall. In fact, the area had an abnormally dry winter and spring plus a summer-long drought. The result has been the plunging of water levels on all the lakes.
While most Federal and State agencies offer little comment on how this drop in the water levels will affect
boating and fishing, I believe it is safe to say that in some cases, marina boat slips will no longer be usable. Of course, fishing areas will be changing, as well as much of the general ecosystem of fish species and aquatic invasive species. For example, Lake Erie perch might be in entirely different locations over the next few years due to these changes.
Finally, when cruising, sailing and fishing in the bay and lake boaters will need to be more vigilant for sandbars, rocks and other obstructions that were formerly under much deeper water and out of harm’s way. Again, we are a bit luckier here in Erie, yet we still will encounter some problems. According to Michigan Sea Grant officials, there have been reports that water levels in Lake Michigan have fluctuated six feet since 1986, and are at the all-time low currently.
If you have walked around or near Marina Lake on Presque Isle, you will notice that there exists currently nearly 24 feet of new shoreline that just two years ago covered with two feet or more of water. (See Pictures) At the western entrance to Marina Lake on the Bay, there is now 15 feet of new bay shoreline. (See Picture) In the Presque Isle lagoons, the low water level is creating whole new areas where land replaces wetlands and invasive plants are gaining a significant foothold.
I have noticed that now the water level at the slip where I keep my boat at the Erie Yavht Club is down 2 ½ to 3 feet from the time I put the boat in the water in May. The club’s new floating docks have been almost level with the roadway for a good part of the summer of 2012. From August until now, the entry ramp onto my dock is at almost a 45 degree angle. Late this fall, some of the clubs sail-boaters found that they were getting stunk in their stalls. I can see this happening in the spring at Presque Isle Marina unless we get snow and rain to move the levels up a little.
The obvious solution to the current low water levels is dredging of ports, harbors and marinas. But the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers only has a limited budget for such things. This looks like it is a long-term problem, so Federal and State legislatures need to work together to develop a long term fix. Boaters and fishermen need to write their legislators and request that more funds be devoted to dredging harbors and marinas, or soon our boats and many other water-related activities will be dry-docked.
See you and Santa on the park!!
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