A wet spring has meant higher water levels across the Great Lakes — and frighteningly high levels for Lake Ontario.
On Lake Michigan, the Muskegon Yacht Club may soon need to raise its fixed docks to keep them above the water line, at a cost of about $15,000.
"We're not there yet, but we are looking at that," said Larry Taunt, commodore for the yacht club, which features an 85-slip marina, mostly on floating docks, in Muskegon Lake, one short channel away from the Great Lake on the Muskegon River. The lake's water levels fluctuate with Lake Michigan.
"As little as five years ago, we were dredging," Taunt said, referring to the removal of lake bottom to deepen the marina as water levels reached a record low-point on connected lakes Michigan and Huron in 2013.
"It's amazing how quickly it's turned around."
As of Sunday, Lake Ontario is up nearly 3 feet from the level it was at this point last year, and was exceeding its highest elevation ever for June, set in 1952. Year-round Great Lakes water-level records have been kept since 1918.
Waves already have destroyed public and private break-walls along the shores of both Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, countless structures have been flooded and roads have been closed at times. Homeowners near the lake will receive $7 million in help from the state and boulders from the federal government, according to New York's governor.
Lake Ontario is at the end of the five Great Lakes, and a dam near Massena, N.Y., regulates its flow into the St. Lawrence, where Great Lakes water makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Officials can't open the dam's gates all the way because extremely strong currents affect shipping, and could damage turbines in two hydroelectric plants along the river and could create flooding in the Montreal area.
Experts say it likely will be several months before Lake Ontario's level drops appreciably.
No similar flooding is expected around Michigan. But rising lakes can bring increased shoreline erosion.
Lake Erie is up more than 8½ inches over this time last year. Lake St. Clair, which is not a Great Lake but part of the Great Lakes watershed, is up nearly 3¾ inches from last year.
The deepest Great Lake, Superior, is up more than an 1½ inches from June 2016, and connected lakes Michigan and Huron are up more than a half-inch.
"Above-average precipitation on the Great Lakes, and very wet conditions in the months of April and May, pushed levels higher than originally forecast," said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of Watershed Hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit District.
Year-round recording of Great Lakes levels has occurred since 1918.
Due to wetter conditions, the six-month water level forecast has changed, resulting in higher forecasts for peak water levels this summer. The forecast for summer water levels on lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron, St. Clair and Erie will be at their highest levels since 1996-1998, Army Corps officials said.
"It would be great for us if water levels stayed stable, but that never seems to happen," Taunt said.
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