Erosion seen in lake-level forecast

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Erosion at McLain State Park has led to significant shoreline loss and prompted the park to begin construction on a new camping area.

HANCOCK TOWNSHIP — The six-month Lake Superior water level forecast is out, bringing with it bad news for shoreline residents.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, projections released this month, the levels will likely remain higher-than-average into October. Lake Superior is currently 2 inches below its level last year, but that could easily change.

At the National Weather Service office in Neganuee, meteorologist Matt Zika is not seeing a clear signal, either toward a wet or dry pattern. With that and the dryer spring in mind, he sees an average level of precipitation as the best bet for expectations through the summer and into early fall.

Even if the U.P. sees lower levels of rainfall, it will take a while to bring the basin levels down, unless there was a major drought, he explained.

The only other significant switch would have to be due to a combination of cold air moving across the still-warm lake in late fall, resulting in significant evaporation.

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette A new six-month forecast of Lake Superior water levels by the National Weather Service sees levels hovering near record-highs, which indicates more lakeshore erosion like this photo at McLain State Park shows.

“It may not be as extreme as it’s been for the last two years…but we’re pretty far above-normal and not that far from overall record highs,” Zika said. “I think it’s going to take some time for those water levels to come down.”

With that in mind, lakeshore residents could be in for a few more years of higher-than-average levels. Shoreline residents have seen high levels of erosion damage in fall months in recent years, as high water levels combined with the large fall storms.

It has been more than 20 years since similar levels were observed.

The resulting high waves are causing issues for the shoreline. Particularly near McLain State Park in Hancock Township, and from Marquette to western Alger County, as well as Whitefish Point.

“Even if the water levels this fall are say 2 inches lower technically on the lake, any big storms are going to have the potential to be pretty impactful,” Zika said.

He urges caution for residents dealing with the elevated wave heights for now, but long-term he predicts the water levels will return to normal.

“This is probably one of those things where it’s tough to maintain that type of precipitation surplus year after year,” he said. “It’s probably more of a shorter-term trend.”

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