Two of the Great Lakes have reached record low water levels — at least since record-keeping began in 1918.
The water levels are the result of below-normal rain and snowfall, as well as higher temperatures that boost evaporation over the past decade.
There is a possibility that the two lakes could set additional records over the next few months.
Both lakes were 29 inches below their average. Their water levels declined 17 inches since January of 2012. Lakes Superior, Erie, and Ontario also showed below average levels.
Along with setting records, the low water levels are responsible for economic losses. They have forced cargo ships to carry lighter loads. The low water level has also left boat docks high and dry, as well as damaged fish-spawning areas.
CBS News notes that Keith Kompoltoqicz, the watershed hydrology chief for the corps district office in Detroit, stated, “We’re in an extreme situation.”
James Weakley, president of the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers’ Association, added, “Plunging water levels are beyond anyone’s control, but the dredging crisis is man-made.”
Shippers in the Great Lakes are pleading with Congress for more money to dredge the ever-shallower harbors and channels. Shippers are currently taxed to support a harbor maintenance fund. However, currently only about 50 percent of the revenue is going toward dredging.
The remainder of the money is given to the treasury for other purposes. The Army corps is considering an option to place structures in a river to stop the flow of water away from Lakes Huron and Michigan, which are connected.