Sunday, October 14, 2012


Scene at Kap's Marina Friday, Oct. 12.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The Army Corps of Engineers report from the internet (which they update weekly due to general interest) shows that we are "zero" difference from the all-time recorded low water of 1964.   In other words, we're at the bottom of the recorded lake level curve, a statistic that took almost another fifty years to reach once again.

I stated in yesterday's blog that we had dropped approximately 8 inches in the several weeks I was away, and I believe that to be true, although it was based on casual observation rather than accurate readings from known benchmarks.   According to Hoyt, who used a line painted on sheet piling, the loss since September 1 has been 16 inches.   During northerly winds, which we have had of late, the levels drop more noticeably, what might be referred to as a "basin effect," where pressure of wind forces water from bays and shallows in the direction of the wind's flow (lower Michigan).

This fluctuation is serious for us, but it is all relative, of course.   If we lived where there were daily tidal movements of several feet, we would be equipped to deal with such phenomena, or would locate essential water services where there was less chance of being adversely influenced by the tides.  (Floating stages for loading are common on rivers and coasts, especially for boarding passengers;  more elaborate, longer sections of ramps are used for boarding vehicles.)

At the dinner table on our trip we visited with a man from a large inland lake in Texas, an area hit hard by drought of the last year, where cattle have been shipped to northern feedlots due to lack of hay, and where his lakefront has seen an 80-foot drop.   He laughed when we said we had experienced a drop of several feet in recent years, and that the historic fluctuation between high and low was in the range of six feet of lake level.

Hard to get sympathy and understanding with those figures, and we didn't even try.

Access to the marina's slips and launching ramp may be for
canoes only, given reduced depths.
But the real difference, I think, is that he could still exit his front door, on the highway side of his house, and drive to work with no real impact from his dried up lake frontage.   Here, that's not an option.

And, there is the matter of our getting used to a routine, one that was based on stable lake levels, where use of harbors and other natural shoreline features led to the development of both shoreline and upland properties.  There is no law that says today's level couldn't be the new normal lake level, but we happen to have faith that precipitation will sooner or later cause a net gain in lake storage over the next few years as has happened in the past.

The immediate future, though, will cause us to examine how we operate ferries, and what contingencies we will adopt during the interim.

-  Dick Purinton

No comments: