A recent five-year study completed by the International Joint Commission showed a significant decrease in the lake levels in the Great Lakes region, particularly in lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior.
The current water level in Lake Superior is almost a foot below average.
Despite the large amount of snowmelt over the past few months, the water levels have been consistently lower over the past four decades due to a longer climate trend of low precipitation and high evaporation.
Michigan Tech researchers say the hydroelectric plant on the St. Maryâ??s River can only do so much to regulate the water.
â??Through the operation of that system, they have some control over it,â?? said Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech, David Watkins. â??They control the discharge, so they ultimately have some control over the long-term lake levels, but they canâ??t affect them very quickly because theyâ??re such large lakes.â??
The drop may seem menial, but researchers say it affects shipping, hydroelectric power generation, property interest around the lakes, and recreation.
The IJC recently proposed a recommendation to the problem, which includes investigating structural options for restoring the water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron by almost a foot.
â??This is what makes regulation of the Great Lakes complicated because itâ??s all one big system,â?? Watkins explained. â??The recent study completed by the International Joint Commission looked at this, and they came up with a new regulation plan for Lake Superior that hedges against these uncertainties.â??
Watkins says it is expected that the water levels will increase over the summer as usual, but as for the long-term, things are a little more uncertain.
â??Regulating the Great Lakes is really a balancing act, regulating the levels, balancing the different lakes, and balancing the interests among the different stakeholder groups,â?? Watkins said.To read more on the IJCâ??s proposal, visit the document here.