Area water levels are down but not out of the woods

Out of sight, out of mind. It’s so much our rule, not the exception, that history often repeats itself.

And when it does, memory comes flooding back — flooding being the operative word when it comes to our regional water levels.

Not too long ago, historic and beloved family cottages were torn down to avoid tumbling into Lake Michigan.

The Boardman River and its tributaries were uninvited guests into basements and boiler rooms, making chumps of sump pumps. Roads and parking lots fell into the water.

Traverse City found its limits in its sewer and wastewater systems and not-blue lagoons formed. State regulatory agencies softened their stances on shoreline hardening projects, as the lake bit into the eroding land.

Today’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers numbers are hopeful — Lake Michigan and Huron hit 577.5 feet recently — 2 feet less than where they were in June 2020 and about 5 feet shallower than the eight-month peak of 582.2 feet — but long-term prospects are less sunny.

Even with the water levels receding, they’re still high in terms of the long-term averages, and experts predict that levels will continue to fluctuate dramatically and more frequently than in the past, as indicated by historical Army Corps data.

Keith Kompoltowicz, the Great Lakes Watershed Hydrology chief for the Army Corps, cited the chance for “more extreme conditions.”

Even the dramatic drop-off, though welcome, is noteworthy, as it could be part of a trend of quicker transitions from highs to lows, Kompoltowicz said.

Now new days bring new issues, and those of yesterday get bumped to the back.

But one constant we can rely on about water levels is change.

We would do well to remember that.


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