my little slice of heaven

my little slice of heaven
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Down The Drain; More Thoughts On Less Water

The water the first week of January 2013, has dropped even further.

Extremely low water this fall on Michigan's Upper Peninsula
As you've read in previous posts,  my family has been spending summers on Michigan's UP for generations. But only once in all those years has the water level of the "middle" Great Lakes, Huron and Michigan, approached the frighteningly low levels it has reached today. Joined at the Straits of Mackinac, these lakes, along with Canada's Georgian Bay, are one system. There a number of factors responsible for what's been happening. We have been experiencing several years of lighter than normal precipitation in the upper MId-West. The Mississippi River has been in the news recently for the same reasons. In addition, we've had a period of milder than normal winters, which allow greater than usual evaporation from the lakes. When the lakes freeze over, the evaporative process shuts down, when they don't, the dry winter air takes it's toll, sucking moisture out of the lakes which falls, down wind, as "lake effect" snow. Interestingly, the water levels of Lakes Superior, Erie and Ontario are mandated by treaties with Canada to be kept within certain parameters to ensure international trade is not deleteriously effected. These three lakes also have engineered controls in place enabling management of the water levels (read "dams & locks") 
Unsurprisingly, the biggest impact on the increasingly lower water in Lakes Michigan and Huron appears to be of man- made origin. Within the past three decades, the St. Clair River which leads from the bottom of Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair and which is the main egress point for the water of the middle lakes, has been over-dredged, in a misguided effort to allow ever larger ocean-going shipping traffic to enter Lake Huron. This has allowed hundreds of millions of acre feet of fresh water to drain out, through Erie, Ontario, the St. Lawrence finally to the Atlantic. For those of us who've been  watching this happen, hoping it was a natural cycle that would soon reverse itself, it has become painfully clear that it won't. Not without help from the federal government and that of Canada.
I've started a petition on the Obama administration's web site, "WE THE PEOPLE" to get the issue to his desk. Even if you have no vested interest in the region, please take a moment to sign the petition and spread the word. We need 25,000 signatures before January 10, 2013.