GRAND HAVEN, MI -- Most of us probably recall two years ago in January 2013 that the Lake Michigan-Huron water level basin hit record low levels. It was at 576.02 feet. The overall long term average is about 578.81 feet. The current level of Lake Michigan is 579.04 feet. It may not sound like much...but it's plenty! A one inch increase in the height of Lake Michigan-Huron is equal to 790 billion gallons of water. We count both basins together since they are connected via the Mackinac Straits.
So we've seen levels increase three feet over the past two years, and 21 inches of that occurred within the last year. We are eight inches above the long term average for February which is 578.5 feet. It's clear this winter has not been as cold or as brutal precipitation-wise with snow and cold, and that has certainly made a difference. In February 2014 the combined total Great Lakes ice coverage was about 77 percent. Currently, we're at about 57 percent. See the map here.
The last time we saw Lake Michigan water levels close to being this high was back in 1998...17 years ago! That said...the Army Corps of Engineers in Grand Haven states there's no cause for concern. Yes...there are definitely pros and cons with the higher lake levels. First...beach area has slowly disappeared. You may notice a narrower beach next time you hit the sand in the summertime. Second, some home owners along the immediate lakeshore have lost some land back to Lake Michigan. Fishermen and pier-goers will also notice waves topping the pier and jetties easier than before. That means watch out for high winds and waves! Click here for the GLERL website regarding all the Great Lakes.
But it's not all bad news. Fishermen and charter services will be able to enter in to areas they couldn't previously get to like rivers and bayous. That may help step up their game and their catch. Secondly, cargo shipping on the Great Lakes may get easier as freighters won't need to worry as much about bottoming out. That means they can potentially carry a heavier load.
There is another thing we learned with a few more details from the Army Corps of Engineers. They just received emergency funding to recap the Grand Haven pier with new concrete. Anyone that has walked the pier knows there are many areas that are uneven, broken, and cracked and need repair. While design plans have not been finalized, the work could be completed as early as 2016.