Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 25, 2013

Scientists predict steady Mich., Huron lake levels

TRAVERSE CITY — Rickey McDowell added two sections to his dock that juts into the west arm of the Grand Traverse Bay last year because the water, reaching all-time lows, was just too shallow.

The water’s still low, McDowell said, but it’s in significantly better shape compared to last year.

“I think I’d like it a little higher so it’s a little deeper for the kids to play in,” he said.

Still, McDowell prefers lake levels on the lower side than the high side; when he moved to Peninsula Drive 20 years ago, the water was so high it flooded his basement.

Scientists predict that lake levels in lakes Michigan and Huron will be around a foot higher than last year, but still a good 16 inches below long-term averages for the next half-year.

“Even with very dry conditions, we don’t see any threat for any other lows over the next six months,” said Keith Kompoltowicz, the watershed hydrology branch chief of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer’s Detroit District.

Higher lake levels are a good thing, environmental groups said, because more water helps restore shoreline ecosystems that took a hit last year.

“With the water levels being low lately, there’s been a lot of issues with lower level marks and folks having emergent vegetation and losing the near-shore habitat, where there’s lots of opportunities for fish nurseries and plant growth,” said Christine Crissman, the executive director for The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. “That water levels are up is a good thing because there’s more habitat that’s available.”

Small mouth bass and other species targeted by anglers often inhabit the shoreline area, and blue herons enjoy the insects that live in the plants there, Crissman said. Bald eagles also like to eat the shoreline fish.

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